Charitable Indians
Aradhika Sharma

The perception that Indians are not liberal in donating towards charity is changing. Millionaires and achievers have been the beacons in guiding people to emulate them. Many ordinary Indians too are realising that giving away billions to help society is as cool as earning those billions through enterprise. A beginning, howsoever small, is being made

When you walked into a Cafť Coffee Day outlet last year, the boy behind the counter would have politely asked if he might add Rs 5 to your bill. "Itís for an NGO called Akshay Patra that works for disadvantaged children," he would have told you. And you, most likely, would have agreed. It would have given you a nice feeling and whatís Rs 5 in a bill worth a couple of hundreds, anyway?

Shopping in Westside this Diwali, the buyers were directed to colourful packs of diyas. "If you buy these, the proceeds will help underprivileged children. Would you like to buy some?" This query from the billing people would touch a cord and people bought, some many packs, without blinking an eye.

If you step into Mac Donaldís and place your order, itís likely that you would be asked to buy a diary, which would benefit charity. You would get some consumerís benefit from Mac Donaldís and the money that you contribute will benefit a community.

The nice thing is that not too many people refuse to help. In fact, they willingly help out if they can. People raising money for charity have realised that if you ask for whatís easily given, people will not refuse. So, a small donation of Rs 5, per cup of coffee, multiplied by thousands of coffees sold, will add up to a fair amount of money and on top of that, it makes people feel good. Win-win. Yes!

Tradition of social responsibility

The general notion is that Indians, as compared to their Western counterparts, are not charitable people. On the contrary, in India, the idea of charity, or rather, social responsibility has been prevalent since the times of monarchy, when the concept of dharma prevailed. A monarchís dharma towards the welfare of his praja; a studentís dharma towards his guru and vice versa and peopleís dharma towards the environment. In later years, the idea of social responsibility got watered down, except when it came to religious charity, which has always been a rallying point.

However, in recent years, there has been a resurrection of the social conscience- thanks to the efforts of NGOs, the Government and corporates, who make an effort and let people know about it. Effective role models like Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffet, millionaires and achievers have been the beacons in guiding people to want to be like them ó to realise that giving away billions to help society is as cool as earning those billions through enterprise. Endeavour and philanthropy thus have got intertwined to some extent.

It may be a drop in the ocean, but slowly, people are readying to give back to the society, realising that the society is as much a stakeholder in the social and corporate lives, as any other important facet of successful living.

"I have no money to give, Iím still trying to earn some. But Iím more than happy to give my time to teach kids to learn photography." says amateur photographer, Rial Singh, who takes photography workshops for kids in a local NGO.

Who is charitable?

Charity and philanthropy take many forms. The Government is, of course, engaged in many welfare and rehabilitation activities. However, a successful society is where individuals, NGOs and corporates work together with the Government to make a better world. Student bodies in schools and colleges, Non-Government Organisations working at the local, national (Helpage India, Pratham, Smile Foundation) and International (Rotary Foundation, Foundation for Environmental Education, Amnesty International) levels ó are all working to sensitise people to give to charity. Corporates too support NGOs and government initiatives or initiate and espouse their own programmes.

Nitil, who worked as a trainee in a corporate for three months, gives one hour each day for football training to poor children in a village being supported by the company. He says, "Itís something I want to do because it makes me feel good."

People power

No organisation that does philanthropic work can work without the participation and the support of the people. Of course, there is the cheque-book philanthropy, but increasingly, many people voluntarily want to be involved in hands-on work. In schools and colleges, there are the kids working for the environment, the underprivileged, in recycling garbage or any other cause. NGOs try and garner the support of as many people as they can to make their programmes successful and corporates have their employees to bank upon. All together, these individuals and organisations, are doing their bit to develop the ecosystem. Not just that, they are increasingly talking about it with the help of the media, thereby increasing their visibility and viability.

"Itís important to highlight the work we do through the media. It increases participation and community awareness in our projects and causes," says Dr. Anuradha Sharma, who runs Hamari Kaksha, an NGO, involved in motivating underprivileged kids to study in in Chandigarh.

Employee participation

Employee participation in community work is encouraged by most companies. Among them are Xansa, Infosys and Quark, to name a few. The feeling of being able to give to the community, in any measure, big or small, under the umbrella of the company boosts the morale of the employee. These employees turn into vocal brand ambassadors of the company.

"We collected hundreds of chocolates for the NGO for underprivileged children that our company supports. This was to make their Diwali special. We all contributed, it was really nice and made us feel happy," smiles Diksha, who works for a local IT company.

A smiling employee, every corporate knows, is the best possible endorsement.

"The thing is that employees do is to come forward to do their bit. You just have to make it possible for them to donate or to participate by creating a temperament and an affirmation. That is the job of the responsible company. That done, the rest will take care of itself," says Gunjan Sharma, who regularly conducts training for corporate clients.

It is said that the present generation is a selfish one. But this is the generation that is also learning the value of sharing, giving and recycling and preserving in some measure. There is the mood for change. Indians seem to be ready to be the vehicles of that change. The need is for everyone to realise the need and thereafter to work at social responsibility as if we were an organic whole ó everyone doing their bit, even if it is just nodding Ďyesí to giving the extra five rupees in your coffee bill. 

Naturally, we canít all be the Tataís or the Azim Premjiís who could be called the big organs of the social philanthropic body, but we could be the tiny cells that carry nutrition, or the slender artery that carries blood, canít we?

Cadbury India: In May 2011, with support from Induri Factory, a water scheme was inaugurated in Induri village. With a storage capacity of 1.5 lakh litres, the new water scheme will provide safe drinking water to over 11,000 villagers. Coca-Cola India: Got the prestigious Golden Peacock Award for CSR. It was given for contribution towards community development in India. The company supports schemes with a focus on education, health and water conservation.
Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd: Schools, educational programmes, environment, medical help, disaster relief, sports, culture, the Mahindra and Mahindra group runs several trusts as well as collaborates with NGOs and local government for charity. IBM India Private Ltd: Have initiated a host of CSR projects in India to increase computer literacy among the children. Corporate-community relation initiatives are ongoing campaigns. These are designed to impart education to lesser-privileged children across age groups.


Philanthropy @ India Inc

CSR, or Corporate Social Responsibility, is a relatively new concept, mandated by many governments. It has not yet been mandated by the Indian government but this initiative is being talked about. However, several companies have voluntarily undertaken many social tasks for themselves.

Azim Premji
The charitable billionaire

Azim Premji, Chairman and founder of Wipro, has lately joined the billionairesí philanthropy club. Premji, a well-known philanthropist, was the first Indian to sign up for the Giving Pledge, a campaign led by Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, to encourage the worldís wealthiest people to make a commitment to give most of their wealth to philanthropic causes.

Azim Premji I was deeply influenced by Gandhiís notion of holding oneís wealth in trusteeship, to be used for the betterment of society and not as if one owned it. ó Azim Premji

Premjiís contribution is significant in the field of education. The Azim Premji Foundation, founded in 2001, is a non-profit organisation. Its aim is to contribute towards achieving quality universal education that enables a sustainable, fair and equal society. Premji believes in building systems which are lasting and sustainable.

Premji has many "firsts" to his credit. In December 2010, he pledged to donate $2 billion for improving school education in India. This donation is the largest of its kind in India.

Birla Group initiatives
Not just cheque-book philanthropy

 Mrs Rajashree Birla Social and economic policies are becoming inextricably intertwined. Economic debates are increasingly influenced by societal issues such as health, education, and livelihood. ó Mrs Rajashree Birla

Transcending the cheque-book philanthropy, Aditya Birla Centre for Community Initiatives and Rural Development, is a 120-year-old organisation, rooted in history. Spearheaded by Padmabhushan, Rajashree Birla, The Birla social vision is integrated into their business vision. The business groupís focus areas are education, healthcare and family welfare and sustainable livelihood. Also encompasses agricultural and watershed development and women empowerment processes; infrastructure support and espousing social causes.

Tata Groupís CSR
The DNA of philanthropy

The Tatas are the absolute pioneers of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in India. It is embedded in the fabric and policy of the business and professional dealings of the Group. There are hardly any areas of social growth in which the Tatas have not involved themselves.

J R D Tata No success or achievement in material terms is worthwhile unless it serves the needs or interests of the country and its people.
 ó J R D Tata

As early as in 1892, the founder Mr. Jamshedji Tata used to grant scholarships for further studies abroad. He also supported GandhijiĎs campaign for racial equality in South Africa. Today, about two-thirds of the equity of the parent firm, Tata Sons Ltd., is held by charitable trusts endowed by Sir Dorabji Tata and Sir Ratan Tata. Through these trusts, Tata Sons Ltd. uses between 8 to 14 per cent of its net profit every year for various social causes.

Education, sustainability, responsible marketing (Tata Teaís Jaago Re! campaign), health, enabling underprivileged communities, sports academies and creating sportsmen, rural development, womenís programmes, relief programmes during natural and national calamities (relief measures and rehabilitation programmes), creating livelihoods, rehabilitating people with special needs, environment and promoting culture. The Tata Group fully believes in giving back to society.