Company News / 15.05.2014

From Casual Charity to Systematic Philanthropy: The Evolution of Indian CSR

The Evolution of Indian CSR

 

If you’re in the luckiest 1% of humanity, you owe it to the rest of humanity to think about the other 99%.
― Warren Buffett

Going back to the history, charity is a common practice in India and is an integral part of Indian culture. Sponsoring a child’s education, helping a poor girl’s parents in getting her married, donating eyes and feeding poor in religious ceremonies is something that we have seen from generations. And I must say that every class of the society participates in such activities in one way or the other just out of goodwill. We Indians are wired like that.

Moreover, big corporations have historically played a huge role in supporting the community and development in India. To create good will amongst communities, businesses often set up schools, free hospitals and charity funds. And this they did much before the term CSR came to India. So, the question is Why CSR? Why this law?

This reminds of an experience that’s worth mentioning here. Two weeks back, I met the MD of a renowned organization in Orissa. And he was a Jain. We were talking about CSR and this new companies law. He shared something very interesting about his corporate social responsibility. He mentioned that since inception of his company they give away 10% of their profits every year to charity and community development. However, they do not mention it on their website or public reports and they don’t like talking about it. It’s not a publicity stunt – but a personal obligation for him.

So, why should he be forced to comply with a CSR law? The simple explanation is: we need structure. We have so many companies voluntarily contributing funds as per their whims and priorities, collectively almost as much as the GDP of a small country. But do we really understand the nature of the programs being run, or how they impact communities? And how do we get out of the mode of individual projects to systematic priorities. If increased spending is to achieve results on the ground – which is the intent of the Act – then it needs to be done strategically, systematically and thoughtfully.

So, towards this end, what does the law ask us to do? It asks corporations to apply the same rigor and transparency used in traditional business operations to their CSR activities as well:

  1. Mandate three year strategy to do your initiatives. (Like you will do for any new product/service that you take to the market)
  2. Ongoing impact and monitoring program (Quarterly and half-yearly review)
  3. Impact measurement( aka. performance management)

If we look at it from a pragmatic point of view – It makes a lot of sense. And if it seems complicated, then don’t worry, we can help. Uniphore Consulting has worked with some of India’s largest organizations to align with the new CSR law, while simultaneously making their projects more transparent and their impact deeper. Write to us at punit@uniphore.com.

About Uniphore: Uniphore Software Systems is the leader in Multi lingual speech-based software solutions. Uniphore’s solutions allow any machine to understand and respond to natural human speech, thus enabling humans to use the most natural of communication modes, speech, to engage and instruct machines. Uniphore operates from its corporate headquarters at IIT Madras Research Park, Chennai, India and has sales offices in Middle East (Dubai, UAE) as well as in Manila, Philippines.