Special Articles / Kalpana Sampath / Social Work Foot Prints, Vol.V, Issue.4
What makes Corporate Social Responsibility a hand in hand proposition with social development? Is social vision a derivative of business vision or is it otherwise? WIPRO is an excellent example of how there could be a strong connection, interdependence and contribution in both business and social responsibility without compromising on both. This article traces the history, orientation, and attitude that supports the CSR sustainability. It also gives a peek into the nature of programs run by WIPRO that makes it a nation building partner than merely a supporter of social development. The article brings out the truth that unless there is a personal orientation towards social responsibility a larger organizational interest cannot be generated. Premji’s life and vision makes an excellent case study to articulate on these foundational dimensions of CSR.
One of the organizations that have interestingly gone way beyond the mere financial commitment and are continuing to work on their social responsibility is WIPRO. An organization established on 29th December, 1945 in Mumbai by Mohamed Premji as ‘Western India Vegetable Products Limited’ was later called WIPRO. This article takes a journey of the background factors that have contributed to make CSR in WIPRO an excellent example for going beyond.
History and Background
Azim Premji took charge of the company at the young age of 21 and that was a turning point. From starting with packaging and branding Vanaspati oil, soon he diversified the company to produce baby soaps, oil, diapers, light bulbs and engineering components, producing hydraulic cylinders that powered construction vehicles such as cranes. This is no small shift or growth. Premji’s true business sense and action orientation came to light when he grabbed the opportunity and the technology company was started.
Over the years WIPRO has turned into a global information technology, consulting and outsourcing company with 158,217 employees. They have clients in 175 plus cities across six continents. Their revenue stands at $7.5 billion as at March end, 2015. WIPRO helps customers do business better by leveraging their industry–wide experience, deep technology expertise, comprehensive portfolio of services and vertically aligned business model. They have 55 plus dedicated emerging technologies one of which is ‘Centre of Excellence’ that enables them to harness the latest technology for delivering business capability to their clients.
WIPRO is globally recognized for its innovative approach towards delivering business value and its commitment to sustainability. Being one of the most customer friendly organizations, WIPRO is adaptive to their customer needs and is constantly in the process of changing themselves to satisfy the customer at most. WIPRO is well positioned to be a partner and co-innovator to businesses in their transformation journey, identify new growth opportunities and facilitate their foray into new sectors and markets.
WIPRO’s approach to sustainability is structured on enabling itself, as an organisation, and its customers to be more ecologically sustainable. WIPRO has been ranked 1st in the 2010 Asian Sustainability Rating (ASRTM) of Indian companies[disclosure 79] and is a member of the NASDAQ Global Sustainability Index as well as the Dow Jones Sustainability Index.
The CSR Initiative at WIPRO
CSR is not just a philanthropic or commercial or a legalised binding of the Corporate to be completed every year. Most of them treat this as a financial obligation. But WIPRO developed a social vision along with its business vision. They looked at sustainability in the social vision too. WIPRO’s initiatives in sustainable education is multi-stakeholder focused and long-term. The initiatives address diverse stakeholders ranging from colleges from which WIPRO recruits a large pool of its human resources to the larger society. It includes local educational institutions, engineering colleges, universities, educational and other civil society organizations, schools, teachers, students and parents. They have impacted more than a million students directly or indirectly through covering a significant span of over 1000s of schools.
In education WIPRO has two main initiatives
WIPRO Applying Thoughts in Schools
WIPRO Applying Thought in Schools works on building capacities in school education reform in India. They believed that education is a key enabler of social change and held a social vision of democracy where each citizen is not only capable in an individual sense but also sees the ethic of equity, the essentiality of diversity, the ethos of justice, and is thus driven by social sensitivity. The idea is that schools have to become spaces that nurture these principles, capabilities and values.
Their key strategy is to partner with civil society and other organizations across the country which would give them higher leverage, deeper connect with the place and also ensure higher sustainability of the initiatives. Over the years they have built a partner network of 30 of India’s foremost educational organizations. They have worked with around 2000 schools and 10,500 educators across 17 states reaching around 800,000 students. Currently, they are engaged in projects with around 700 schools across the country in partnership with 22 partners.
Mission 10X chose to enhance the Graduate Engineering Attributes Viz., Deeper Learning, Communication Skills and Team Work in students to achieve the key task of developing a sustainable model to enhance the quality of engineering education in India. Though students are the end beneficiaries, Mission10X adopted an innovative three-pronged approach on empowering faculty, developing transformative academic leaders and leveraging technology so that the efforts are at the cause level and rooted.
Empowering Faculty involved developing transformative academic empowering Faculty members to use Mission10X Learning Approach (MxLA). Engineering faculty workshop (EFW) is a defined 3 day experiential workshop for engineering faculties across the country that have more than 1 year of professional experience. Mission10X has also facilitated workshops on specific subjects, Faculty Forums, Conclaves as part of this program. Mission10X has reached out to over 1,200 engineering colleges across 25 States in India and has empowered over 23,000 engineering faculty members.
A variety of Group Discussions and Brainstorming activities are used. At the end of workshop the Engineering faculty would be able to:
Developing Transformative Leaders
This initiative involves equipping the leaders with leadership competencies through internationally benchmarked contents. It builds a perspective on engineering education in collaboration with peers and experts. Attempt is to build a learning culture in the colleges by encouraging leaders to be role models; provide an exposure to new technologies for learning and Facilitate implementation through action learning.
Mission10X is an entirely not-for-profit initiative aiming to improve employability of young Indian engineers. It is helping to move India forward towards global competitiveness by enhancing the quality of human capital in the country.
Since its launch, Mission10X has achieved tremendous recognition and momentum within the field of engineering education. The initiative has spread to over 1,200 engineering colleges across 25 states in India. Current Mission10X approach is aptly “Small and Deep”, where deeper engagement happens in restricted colleges only.
The Education sector initiatives took a huge leap with the setting up of Azim Premji Foundation (www.azimpremjifoundation.org). They have partnered with State governments and have done phenomenal work in developing School leadership development program. The organization currently functions across Karnataka, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh, Pondicherry, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh in close partnership with various state governments. Today the foundation employs 800 people with two bachelor’s degrees specializing in Physics or Biology, Economics, and Combined Humanities. They also have three master’s degree programs in Education, Development, Public Policy and Governance. They provide and support extensive research in developmental areas as well as at the grass root level.
This also led to the setting up of AzimPremji University (www.azimpremjiuniversity.edu.in). The social vision has moved to the extent of transformation in the way educationists have been prepared in the country. In 2015 nearly 250 students have graduated. Merely by infrastructure enhancement quality is not necessarily enhanced. When the calibre and competency of the teaching professionals is enhanced to a very high level, automatically quality of education is also enhanced. This is one of WIPRO’s contributions of high quality.
WIPRO social vision got extended to not just education but also to other spaces that require sustainability. Energy efficiency is one of them. Eco-eye focuses on that.
Ecology - Eco-eye
This initiative focuses on reducing ecological footprint of our business operations, engagement with employees and our supply chain, partners and customers to create a more sustainable society, and transparent reporting/disclosures. The key focus have been –
1. Energy and GHG efficiency
The vision of this programme is finding solutions to the sustainability issues like climate change, waters scarcity, rapid urbanization and bio-diversity loss. The programme was thus designed and implemented in the year 2011 where 1700 institutes across the country had participated and were volunteered by 50 employees of the organization to help them come up with economic and social issues prevailing and providing with suitable solutions.
The programme received more than 1000 abstracts from the students out of which 10 were found to be the best entries from the college and schools students. The students who were selected from their submitted abstracts were made a part of a 3-year Continuous Engagement Programme (CEP). This Continuous Engagement Programme was aiming at embedding a thinking and action towards the issues of sustainability in their schools as well as the communities. The Continuous Engagement Programme was offered by the partners of WIPRO which covered the workshops for the teachers in the first year along with campus environmental footprint measurement, biodiversity and theatre workshop. The next Earthian programme was launched in May, 2012 to continue this trend and bring sustainable growth to the society with the capabilities of the students being part of future policy makers.
WIPRO Cares deals with four initiatives in health care – Environment; Education; Disaster rehabilitation and Primary Health Care. WIPRO Cares reached out to around 51,000 people through its five health care projects and 39,226 people availed of its curative services. The services they provide include; primary health care, nutritional guidance, personal hygiene, community hygiene, and counselling. They work with NGOs who work with the communities to mobilize them, build awareness about various aspects of well-being and provide primary health care.
“WIPRO Cares” strives hard to address major issues responsibly. From community relief and rehabilitation in times of disasters to education opportunities, health and wellness programs for the needy.
Along with all these the notable health projects are –
Magic Bus,one of the interesting projects in Bengaluru enables some of the world’s poorest families to move out of poverty, through the use of a mentoring model and a sport-based curriculum. They are trained over an extended period of time to emerge as able Community Youth Leaders. They function then as Mentors for children in the community, with whom they conduct weekly sessions based on a well-researched, activity-based curriculum.
WIPRO believes that the affected people in disasters have the best knowledge of what they need to become independent again. WIPRO therefore, engages with them to understand their needs and then providing continuous sustaining support to help rebuild their lives. There have been participation in several calamity situations like Uttarakhand and Odisha Floods Project; Tsunami, Tamil Nadu, 2004; Bihar Floods, 2008; Karnataka Floods, 2009 and so on….
The Triumph Factor Sustaining CSR in WIPRO
The attitude and orientation towards fructifying WIPRO’s Social vision has as a foundation Premji’s practical and rational approach towards his business as well as his frugality and unyielding integrity. Premji has always believed in integrity is non-negotiable. It is because of this belief he spent 150 times the amount of a bribe which he was asked to pay for electricity supply to WIPRO’s facilities, to build a captive power plant. His commitment to transparency has made WIPRO a preferred technology partner in many defence and space contracts. His idea of WIPRO has been “To build an organization which was deeply committed to Values, with the firm belief that success in business would be its inevitable, eventual outcome”. Premji promised to provide $2 billion for making school education in our country better than what it was. He transferred shares amounting $213 million which is supposed to be the largest ever educational donation in the country. He participated in the Giving Pledge, a campaign of Bill Gates and Warren Buffet whose primary aim is to provide encouragement to rich people to commit a part of their wealth to philanthropic activities. As of 2013, Premji donated 25% of his personal wealth to the said charity and is the first Indian to have signed up for the programme.
This personal commitment; the commitment to work at root cause and sustainability of support differentiates him from all other Business men of India. There is a practical and serious approach to CSR as a nation building activity.
“Premji is one of those rare people who sincerely believe that philanthropy is not a hobby. Even 20 years ago he was a hard-core businessman, and he is not particularly religious. But this work has changed him spiritually; it has made him a better person.” —Narayan Vaghul, Close friend and associate, former chairman of ICICI Bank.
Recognitions Received by WIPRO
With awards galore, WIPRO is one of the most recognized companies in the Global Sustainability space. Their longstanding reputation is poised to continue with strong growth in the future. There is a lot that every organization can learn from WIPRO. The limitations are also the struggle that comes with size and number. The lengthy processes that needs to be followed to ensure optimization and accuracy. The patience to see through the ideas and result across the organization is a challenge by itself. In spite of all hurdles, WIPRO continues to edge both in business as well as social earning a significant place in both in the country.
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