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The Way I Work
Anil Kumar doesn't believe businesses dry up because of unread e-mails.
|How I Did It
He took up teaching to make ends meet. Today, he runs a Rs 188 cr firm.
Chandrashekhar Hariharan's mantra? Hold on tight to the business.
A heady cocktail that's good for you
By Sunaina Sehgal
Illustration by Shigil N
Many people find it a mere window
dressing and say it's an easy gimmick to
up your brand image. There are several
arguments around corporate social
responsibility (CSR). But companies are
well-advised to really make an effort.
CSR doesn't have to be an eyewash.
A good CSR initiative is a smart way
for a company to show off its ethics
and establish its value system.
Bring employees into this mix and it
becomes a potent tool for a company to
get forces together. Which is why, more
and more employers are devising smart
programmes to do this. Several companies
have extended CSR to include
"employer supported volunteering" (ESV)
or "employee volunteering".
It's an upgraded, smarter version of
CSR. In ESV, a company integrates its
employees and the community through
in-house initiatives. It's a three-way partnership
where everybody benefits— the
employer, the employees and the community
(schools, NGOs, individuals, etc).
The volunteering can come in many
hues—sometimes as simple as collecting
financial aid from employees and
donating it to an NGO. But, it leads to
multiple benefits including a more
bonded work environment when
employees actually get their hands on
board by becoming volunteers.
"A volunteer is somebody who uses his
time, skill and knowledge to ea: nhance a
cause; benefiting another human life
without expecting a return," says Renu
Kakkar, vice president, technology and
corporate communications, Apeejay Surrendra
Group. Anything to do with the
community becomes a
part of the CSR programme
for a company,
She pinpoints a key
can be a volunteer on
his own. He can identify
a cause that speaks
to him and use his
skills to make a difference.
happens when his
employer steps in to
create those avenues for
him," she adds.
should try and
make sure they use an
employee's specialised skill set to really benefit the not-profit
or community organisation they are
"A company's board members can be
valuable in mentoring an NGO. Other
employees can participate in group activities,"
says Shalabh Sahai, co-founder and
director, of iVolunteer, an organisation
that helps facilitate partnerships between
corporates and non-profits.
Kakkar roots for such initiatives. "Nongovernment
organisations don't just need
money. Often, they don't have enough
hands. They need people who can do field
work, who are involved and who can contribute
by using their professional skills."
Harish Bijoor, a well-known brand
strategist says companies shouldn't stop
at merely facilitating employee involvement.
Smart bosses should actively
encourage it, in fact.
"Doing so leads to an energetic, fulfilled
work environment. That is a huge
plus for any organisation," says Bijoor.
Pune-based Persistent System, a leading
information technology services
company, certainly benefited from doing
this. Its in-house initiative, Semi-Colon,
not only encouraged software programmers
to bond as a community, it also
helped the company
contribute positively to
the society around it.
split into teams. Each
team drafted a software
programme or solution
to tackle a variety of
issues—such as an emergency
in case of a calamity that
could be used by municipal
The software developed
was auctioned for
charity and the company
raised about Rs 3.3
lakh, which it donated.
The event was a huge
success. It was the company's
way to show it
cared about its programmers—
the company's life force—and also show itself to be a
conscious corporate citizen. "Programmers
aren't considered to be at a par with
IT managers. We know that isn't true.
Programmers are the heart and soul of
this industry," says Dr Anand Deshpande,
founder CEO and MD of Persistent
Many of those who participated are
still basking in the glow. Laveena Bhora,
the company's training manager, and captain
of the winning Gurukul Team,
pitches in enthusiastically. "Of course,
winning felt great. But what truly excited
us was that we were participating and contributing
to a noble cause."
It's this "feel good" factor that Apeejay
Surrendra Group has used to create a
new HR policy called Individual Social
Responsibility (ISR). Employees can volunteer
during office hours. At the end of
the year, these efforts are included in the
overall performance appraisal.
"It's a great way to stand out, to demonstrate
leadership skills, team work and
problem solving ability. Merely being
cooped up in an office doesn't always
bring those qualities out," says Kakkar.
iVolunteer's Sahai agrees. "Working for a
cause with new people in unique environments
brings on new skills. It's a great platform
to learn human resource
management," adds Sahai.
Apeejay Surendra Group has also introduced
an annual award to honour individuals,
companies and not-for-profit
organisations that are leading best practices
in employee engagement programmes.
To many business owners, some of
these ideas might seem tough to implement
or difficult to design. Still, Bijoor
asserts that every smart company must
give employee volunteering a serious shot.
"It creates a positive brand image,
strengthens trust and loyalty among
consumers; enhances corporate image
and reputation; increases employee productivity
and loyalty, and provides an
effective vehicle to reach strategic goals.
These happy positive strokes are not
immediately quantifiable on a balance
sheet but they are there," he asserts.