Mamatha Esteves - Tech Mahindra Foundation , Head
Your views on CSR and Sustainability
CSR is not a new revolution. It has been charted by corporates all along according to each one’s policies, ideas and views of CSR. Now with the mandate, it has to be implemented in a project mode and in a continued and long term approach. Given this, the corporates now have to look at the implementation of their present CSR activities and modify according to the law.
My views on CSR – CSR cannot be a charity, once off/event based or according to the convenience of the corporates or more certainly not for branding! Though branding invariably happens. Any developmental program devised by the corporate has to have an inbuilt long term agenda and a component of sustainability similar to the ones they make for the benefit of the company to make larger profits.
The team appointed for CSR activities should go through the same process as the company appoints qualified people to ensure business continuity. People from the development background who understands the sector should be on board to be able to devise and implement efficient, effective and relevant development programs. The team should be able to make informed decisions. Be it law or not, if a company wants to give back to the society, CSR should not be considered just as a goodwill/feel good factor of the BoD. It should look at CSR in terms of ensuring larger and sustained social returns on their investment.
Clarity on the core areas of support is another important aspect of CSR. Whatever the areas of development that the company chooses, it should focus on them and not be all over the place, draw clear modalities of implementation, brainstorm with their teams, ensure clarity of programs and bring the whole team on to the same page.
CSR can be direct or indirect interventions. If it is an indirect intervention – the projects are implemented through an agency – NGO, government agencies, resource groups and or subject matter specialists. Then the team on CSR should be qualified to identify credible agencies they want to fund and support. When I say support, it should not end with funding. This means the team as a whole should have an understanding of the sector, to be able to have an in depth discussion with the partner, areas of funding and ensure that the agency is not a funder based organization but has very clear visions and goals in their core areas of development with a strong domain background. The CSR should be a partner in development and not just a funding agency!
Activities carried on by you on this front
They are according to the company CSR policy of Tech Mahindra. I am proud to have been part of TMF since its initiation in Bangalore and have had the privilege of the CEO’s confidence that I could head multi-cities. I have headed the programs under education, employment, women’s development and disability with a small team in each city.
Employee volunteering is an important part of CSR activity.
Activities carried on by your firm on this front.
The CSR arm of Tech Mahindra is Tech Mahindra Foundation (TMF), which has a dedicated team of development professionals which operates out of 10 cities in India. Each location is headed by a manager who would have a small support team with domain knowledge personnel. The team is headed by the CEO of TMF to whom the managers report directly to.
The core areas of support (not activities) have now been brought under 2 main verticals -Education and Employment where women’s development and persons with disability cuts across these 2 main verticals. We are focused on what areas within these 2 main verticals that we would support.
Under Education we support 1. primary education through our flagship program – All Round improvement in School education. A holistic approach to improve learning levels of children in the primary sections.2. Shikshaantar – a teacher professional development program. Under both, we mainly work with the system
Under Employment, our another flagship program – SMART – Skills for Market Training – we train unskilled, under educated, school/college dropped youths in various marketable skills for gainful employment. Our focus is very clear – employment and just employability. We have a remarkable 80% and above placement record. We started with basic entry level training for the service sector for youths, which has now grown into other technical courses and an Academy for Allied health courses in Delhi. This is a direct intervention. Two more are in the offing in Hyderabad and Vizag
Both these verticals are very well devised and planned for effective implementation. More than 95% of our interventions are indirect with over 150 projects pan India.
Your views on students acting as volunteers
Back in our days, we had NSS where all of us used to volunteer for a cause though once off.
My views on volunteering: with immense and exponential growth in technology, unit families, broken families and for many other reasons – especially competition to outperform in schools and colleges, personal growth and ambitions, and most importantly since most families have dual or more income, the young do not get to experience the ‘want or need’. Most core human values are lost in our fast life!
Children are provided with everything and they do not get a chance of experiencing poverty first hand! Not that they should. But it’s the whole fast life that they are in, peer pressure to do ‘in things’, they tend to ignore the suffering and the less privileged. I am sure they do not even have friends of that background. Given these dynamics, the need of the hour is to educate/sensitise them to the cause. And yes, volunteering helps to a certain extent. It’s the sustained volunteering that I would be interested in!
Why should students study CSR
Answered above. Also I am of the opinion that CSR should be a compulsory subject taught, irrespective of the learning streams. Social work should be part of their KRA
I presume I have included most points in the above. But would like to emphasise that CSR should not be a mere mandate for the companies. It should start looking at CSR as one of their main core areas of business!