Live and Let Live – Is CSR a myth?

By | Ramesh Ranjan | Editor

In 2013, the Government of India enacted Section 135 of the Indian Companies Act prescribing a mandatory “CSR spend of 2% of average net profits … during the three immediately preceding financial years” for all companies meeting specified financial thresholds. The Government ensured that duty is cast on the company to give back to the society. Through this clever move  the government shifts the onus of social welfare to the corporate its responsibility.

Corporates are now expected to not just carry out their business in an environment friendly and sustainable manner, but take initiatives to improve and enhance the lives of various strata of the society.

This was immediately lauded by all sections of the society and Corporate India welcomed it and lapped it.

Corporates have spent more than 28,000 Crores towards Social Welfare activities in nearly three years of the CSR Act being mandated.

The necessity of Corporate social responsibility is undisputed, though the mandating of CSR under the Companies Act, 2013 is. The government has prescribed a set of CSR activities which aims at the establishment of an equitable society.

However has it really met the desired social result of uplifting of the needy and the Corporate world truly sharing its resources.

Some companies are using charitable trusts /NGO to fabricate CSR spending,  Some others are using fake Trusts, Middlemen and using it for Money Laudering, turning white money into cash using the CSR Funding route

Many a corporates have used this opportunity to build a social brand and leverage it to their advantage rather than to the advantage of the poor.

One of a very reputed MNC uses the CSR Fund to set up Training Schools and train rural youths in becoming an Electrician and then they even fund them to set up their own Electrical Shop and then promote their products and services through them. Is it truly a CSR activity in letter and spirit or is it just marketing by the backdoor route to build goodwill, expand their rural network and promote their products and services.

Another reputed IT Major has set up a very large Educational Institution using the CSR route. However it has mandated that all of them use only their Product & Services in the Educational Institution. In fact the sales generated by selling their products & services to these Institutions far outweigh the CSR Fund provided by the company.

There are instances of Companies funding Social Activists, NGO’s to buy them or to silence them and also to lobby for their interests. There are reports as to how the CSR Funds are being used to further Political gains.

Often, CSR funds are directed at ventures that are directly beneficial to the company, either in terms of increased profits (branding exercises, creating false goodwill among the public, etc.) or an exchange of favours – a quid pro quo exercise.

In contrast to the hypocritical Corporate Social Responsibility programs, look at the unorganised sector.

There is a street vendor in Mumbai Worli Sea Link junction selling Health Juice to the early morning joggers & walkers. His famous drink is Wheat Grass juice and he sells a freshly made wheat –grass glass of juice for Rs.20/- He also offers to them a glass of Neem Juice for free. According to Captain Raghu Raman when asked why he doesn’t charge them for the Neem Juice, the vendor said that Neem is freely available and takes very little effort to make it and hence offers it for free. He could very well have charged another Rs.20/- for Neem juice but he CHOSE not to.

He is a CEO who does 50% CSR, not the 2% mandated by the Government. He is a standing example of a Leader who knows How much is Enough. He had another source of Revenue but he chose not to exercise it. That is the definition of enough

In another example as quoted in his talk India unInc: Management lessons from streets of India, Captain Raghu Raman quotes another example of Social Responsibility exhibited by the unorganised Street Vendors.

An old lady sells Khakra on the Tadoba Forest Reserve road in a roadside Shak. She sells it for Rs.15 per plate and is one of the best Khakra being served in Mumbai. A Social Media specialist was so impressed that he advised her that she should increase the price to Rs.30/- and also put up a Board so that people know about her offer. The next time he visited the place he found that the old lady did implement his suggestion and he found a board and also that she had increased her price to Rs.30. There were long line of cars and people waiting for the Khakra to be served. She had increased her Top Line and also the bottom line.  He then suggested to her another idea of why not serve Tea along with Khakra. It would help her to diversify, increase her product offers and her revenue.

She led him outside of the Shack and then pointed him to a neighbouring Tea Stall and said “what will happen to him. What will he do, if I stole his business and offered Tea”. She knew How much is Enough. She was not interested in being predatory trying to steal market share or brand extensions horizontally, vertically.

He was dumbfounded.

The unorganised Street vendors know that to co-exist that we need to fill every body’s plate. You don’t have to pile everyones food on your plate.

At a time when India is facing a Jobless Growth, its about time that the Corporate world, every Business Leader realises that we need to co-exist and ensure that every body’s plate is full rather than trying to maximise shareholders wealth (pile everyone’s food on your plate) . Its about time that We Live and Let others Live too, rather than trying to crush competition. The country is big enough to accommodate every one but not for ones greed.

Can we truly build an inclusive economy by encouraging and taking along the unorganised sector and the marginalised section of the economy in our journey to the Future.

Its about time that all of us in the society give leg up to somebody who can make an orbit shift.

This is true Corporate Social Responsibility and not using Corporate Social Responsibilty as  crony capitalism or using it as a Brand Campaign or as a backdoor Marketing campaign.

It’s about time we understand that Rent seeking negates everything that it stands for. We need to work towards making Corporates not just SMART but lives with a HEART.





Mee Too, Hema Ravichandar, Anti Harassment, Harassment at Workplace

It’s time to develop an HR toolkit to respond to #MeToo moments

By | Hema Ravichandar | HR Consulting , Advisory Board Member & ex CHRO Infosys

It started with an innocuous-looking email. The attachment was graphic. It contained a complaint made by a young woman against her high-achieving, powerful boss. The CEO immediately initiated an inquiry. And it was then that the cookie started to crumble. Similar complaints kept coming in with unnerving speed against the said boss as well as some of his key team members, from across the globe. Three months on, the CEO was certain that there was a pattern to this behaviour, with a “class action suit” a distinct possibility. Was this his organization’s #MeToo moment? he wondered.

A solitary complaint filed against a powerful executive can be enough to open the floodgates. When a person in power is an abuser, there is often a real worry among victims about how to raise it. But just the knowledge that there has been a complaint and resultant investigation against the perpetrator (and however confidential, such news does tend to travel), gives courage to others who have either experienced abuse, or seen a hostile work environment, to raise their own concerns.

MeToo waves can also be triggered in organizations quite innocuously. I have seen, for example, a flurry of complaints just when an organization completes a proactive and healthy organization-wide training or sensitization programme on preventing sexual harassment at the workplace. Empowered with information and made freshly aware of the policy, employees could then take it upon themselves to report a complaint or a suspected hostile work environment. This is actually a healthy wave. Whatever the cause, and there could be many, organizations need to respond effectively.

The first thing is to not panic. Mature organizations recognize that such spurts in complaints do happen, and respond from that space. They acknowledge the problem, and unambiguously state the company’s intent to address it. This is a great time to reinforce the company’s zero-tolerance policy for workplace harassment. Zero tolerance is often confused with a target to get to zero harassment. These are not the same. A target of zero cases may be unrealistic in the workplace, and, if set, could end up with managers actually suppressing cases to get to the mythical zero.

On the ground, this will require sensitization training for leaders and first responders—policy custodians, HR, grievance cell members, every first-line manager. Call in the experts. And advise leaders to never be flippant or joke about the issue.

The need for swift, sensitive and fair handling of the investigation is, of course, a given. But it is also an absolute must to put in place strong measures to ensure that the victims and complainants don’t face retaliation, especially when the powerful are the accused.

And prepare for the media—organizations are often caught on the back foot in this regard, even though they may be doing all the right things. So, get your communication ammunition ready. It is better to be proactive and “MeToo Proof” your organization.

Carpet-bomb the anti-harassment policy across the organization. Knowledge itself is a deterrent. Employees must be conversant with how to report perceived harassment. Real-life case studies written by employees and managers are a great way to drive home the message, with senior leaders themselves standing up and delivering training. What better way to build faith among employees and reinforce to them that bona-fide complaints will be addressed.

While doing this, don’t neglect organizational outposts where leadership is delegated to a few. Also, ensure that the policy applies to the least franchised—the temps, the contractors and vendor partners who form part of the larger organizational ecosystem. Training in Indian languages is critical to reach this group. Revisit your whistleblower programme for robustness.

At the same time, the complaint system should not be used for frivolous or mischievous reasons. And to send home that message, the consequences of sending in mala-fide complaints should also be delivered in unequivocal terms.

Train HR and first-line managers to pick up the faintest of cues. The ability to pick up early signals of a “quid pro quo” or a hostile work environment form of sexual harassment is a great way to actually prevent a full-fledged MeToo wave. Not only should they be able to pick up the cues, they should be independent enough to report it or call out the problem. An HR executive who is actually reporting to a purported perpetrator of the crime is more often than not unlikely to “squeal” on his or her boss. So, to ensure independence, organizations should have strong dual-line reporting outside that business or location, and into the head office, for functions like HR.

Finally, impress upon employees that they must always report a complaint. No one does a favour to either the victim or the organization by brushing it under the carpet.

As the MeToo movement gains traction, quality time and mindshare being spent on gearing up their internal response systems may even seem burdensome to organizations and managers.

Jennifer Drobac, professor at the Indiana University School of Law, sums it up nicely when she says:

“People, especially men, may wonder if they even want to work with women now. Executives may hesitate to mentor female subordinates. Men may fear unfounded accusations, or that their own clueless behaviour could prompt a complaint. Are the battle lines being drawn? Yes, but let’s be clear. Those battle lines are between men and women against sexual predators. Co-workers are in this battle together. This #MeToo phenomenon could divide us or bring us together to cure a social evil: sexual predation.”

Organizational maturity lies in recognizing and addressing this.

Originally published @

Author Bio

Hema Ravichandar, MeTooHema Ravichandar is a strategic human resources consultant. She serves as an independent director and an advisory board member for several organizations. She was the former CHRO of Infosys.


Where is your Leader leading you to – Swarga, Kailasha or Vaikunta ?

By | Ramesh Ranjan | Editor

Every CEO is like the Prophet who promised to take his disciples to the Promised Land. But unlike the Prophet, modern day CEO takes different paths to take his organisation to the Promised Land.

While all of us agree that his disciples are the various stakeholders viz. Investors, Shareholders, employees, suppliers, government & the society, for most CEO taking the Investor /Shareholder to the promised land is number one priority. Many of them forget that there are other important stakeholders in an organisation. Why then will organisations lay off thousands of employees at the slightest downturn?

Every living being on this planet is primarily driven by the need to satiate their hunger to survive. The issue here how do you satiate your hunger and how much to?

In the animal kingdom hunger is predominantly food. Sex and need to procreate is next form of hunger. They don’t crave for anything else. At the most some of them might be territorial but don’t horde them.

Animals live by “Might is Right- Survival of the fittest “. However animals live by the day or for the moment. They don’t store food for days, weeks, years. They kill a prey eat out of it and after its done and their immediate hunger is satiated, do they prey for another.

In the Human Kingdom the need is hierarchical like Maslow said. There is a need for food, then shelter, clothes, sex for pleasure & procreation, belongingness, esteem, power…… and the list goes on. In todays world Human Kingdom is also driven by “Might is Right- Survival of the fittest “. However unlike animals Human needs are never satisfied. People tend to store for food (wealth) for tomorrow, next week, month, year and generations to come. Not satisfied with one house but with multiple houses, multiple cars, multiple partners and amass for generations to satisfy.

According to Devdutt Pattnaik, Chief Belief Officer of the Future Group, in the vedic Indian mythology there are three promised lands:

  • Swarga
  • Mount Kailash
  • Vaikunta


Swarga has the Kalpataru tree which gives you what you ask for. There is infinite return without investment. Indra, the king of heaven, is prosperous but Swarga is always under attack. Indra is always worried and insecure. In this world everything revolves around satisfying “My hunger”.

Mount Kailash

Shiva is the Lord of Mount Kailash. He has a Sheep, a lion, a snake, a rat, a peacock all around him. There are predators & prey around him co-existing peacefully because there is no hunger. But not everyone can be like Shiva, even his own wife Lord Parvati fought with him on this and said that while he may have overcome his need for hunger, she, her children and others still had a need for hunger. What about other peoples hunger. Hence while there is peace, there is no prosperity.


Vaikuntha is where Lord Vishnu prevails. For him satisfying others hunger is first and through that he is able to satiate his hunger. There fore his land is like a “rangabhoomy” a beautiful playground where there is prosperity coupled with peace.

For Indra, his own hunger matters most, Shiva believes he has outgrow hunger and Vishnu believes others hunger matters most.

Inevitably, to most Leaders, their own hunger comes first. The need to satisfy Business/Financial results comes first. It leads to a hostile environment in the Boardroom, workplace and the market place. There could be prosperity but without peace.

The ideal model would therefore be Vaikuntha where others (employees, suppliers, competitors, government & society) hunger matters first. This belief can lead to a playground as opposed to a battleground and finally to prosperity with peace.

Listen to Devdutt Pattnaik, Chief Belief Officer of the Future Group explain this.


What makes a great leader?

In the Army they decorate Leaders who are willing to sacrifice themselves so that others may gain, while in the Corporate world, they give hefty bonuses to Leaders who are willing to sacrifice others so that they may gain.

Management theorist Simon Sinek suggests, a Great Leader is someone who makes their employees feel secure, who draws staffers into a circle of trust and by creating trust and safety — especially in an uneven economy.

A true Leader is one who puts his neck out there on the firing line, leads from the front, willing to sacrifice his interest to protect his flock out there. That’s why it is often said that “employees don’t leave companies, but leave managers”.

When employees and other stakeholders see these traits in their Leaders they tend to stay with them and that’s why we find that in many organisations, who are not the best pay masters and not as swanky as others, employees still tend to hang on for longer period of times, than in companies who are better pay masters and swankier.

Success, creating wealth, satiating hunger need not necessarily come at the cost of others, it can be achieved by creating an inclusive environment, where everyone’s need is met with. Great leaders can help convert a battle ground into a beautiful playground.

Why is it that at the slightest signs of trouble, financial pressure, downturn, companies tend to lay off scores of people. Look at what Steve Jobs had to say when faced with downturn

“We’ve had one of these before, when the dot-com bubble burst. What I told our company was that we were just going to invest our way through the downturn, that we weren’t going to lay off people, that we’d taken a tremendous amount of effort to get them into Apple in the first place — the last thing we were going to do is lay them off. And we were going to keep funding. In fact we were going to up our R&D budget so that we would be ahead of our competitors when the downturn was over. And that’s exactly what we did. And it worked. And that’s exactly what we’ll do this time.”

And if you ever had to downsize or layoff, look at what Tata Steel Offered to its severed employees. Downsizing minus the tears- The Sunhere Bhavishya ki Yojana scheme,  1.2times the current months salary till the date of notional retirement along with insurance benefits. Can there be a more largesse than this.

Look at the Tech Mahindra incident which went viral and ultimately Anand Mahindra had to come out and apologize for the insensitive behaviour of their HR Department.

Infosys is sitting on a pile of cash 5 Billion $ (30,000 Crores INR) and is still resorting to layoff. Even their founder Founder Chairman of Infosys N R Narayana Murthy on Friday expressed sadness over the IT companies laying off their employees as part of their cost cutting strategy. It’s the same with other major IT Companies. They have enough cash reserves but are still resorting to layoff in order to look good before their share holders.

When aspiration leads to greed, that’s where the rot sets in. There is no end to greed. Look at what happened to Enron, Arthur Anderson, Satyam Computers etc.

How much is Enough is a difficult decision. Many argue that “How much is enough” is relative. How much is ENOUGH is often led by the NEED of an individual. However I believe that we should not let the NEED become GREED. It is sometimes argued that the basis of greed is need. I feel that it’s not a real need, but a felt need. There is a thin line between GREED and NEED. How do we define it though? How do you know that you have ENOUGH? Only when you can know your “ENOUGH” then you are on the right track. Its important to know your ENOUGH. If you don’t know your ENOUGH, you will always want to fill that void, and its one of the hardest things to do, no matter who you are and how rich you are.

Cine Superstar Rajanikant has said “There is nothing wrong in dreaming a luxurious life. What needs to be taken care of, is to not let the NEED become the GREED. Because needs can always be be met..but greed can never be fulfilled”.

Even Mahatma Gandhi, rightly said “there is enough to meet the needs but not the greedy”.

Look at Lord Vishnu, Jesus Christ & Gautama Buddha or modern day leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela or Mother Teresa. They sacrificed their lives to help others lead a peaceful life. That is why they are legendary, remembered and followed for generations and centuries.

Can leaders take a leaf out of these GODs, Legendary Leaders and from  Devdas Patnaik, Simon Sinek – the Army, Steve Jobs (Apple) or the Tata Steel and build an organisation, a Leadership Style where we build a Vaikunta which allows all stakeholders to live and let live and help build prosperity for all and co-exist with peace. Can we start recognizing & decorating Leaders who sacrifice themselves at times of adversity, rather than sacrificing their team.

These Leaders, thought-Leaders & Organisation have shown that Might is Right or Survival of the Fittest is not the only way of survival or success.


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Dr APJ Kalam’s Top 10 Rules For Success

Source | YouTube | Evan Carmichael

He was the 11th President of India from 2002 to 2007. He was popularly known as the People’s President.

A career scientist turned politician, he studied physics and aerospace engineering. He was intimately involved in India’s civilian space program and military missile development efforts. He’s Late Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and here are his Top 10 Rules of Success.