IT major Infosys Technologies has recognised that the key to progress lies in partnership between business, government and society. Which is why it has come up with a plan of promoting social entrepreneurship.
The company recently launched a new initiative, Infosys Young Indians, through which it will support ideas on social entrepreneurship and convert them into workable business plans. Infosys YI chapter provides a platform for young social entrepreneurs across the country to contribute to areas impacting youth affairs, education, economy and healthcare.
This initiative is mentored by the company top brass, including Kris Gopalakrishnan, president, chief operating officer and member of the Infosys board.
In an email interview with Senior Associate Editor Indrani Roy Mitra, Infosys Technologies's associate vice president & head, corporate planning, Sanjay Purohit, talks about the role played by his company in encouraging social entrepreneurship in India and how this initiative is gaining momentum within the company.
Corporate social responsibility, it is said, goes far beyond just philanthropy in today's corporate world. Could you please elaborate?
Corporate social responsibility entails three things: one, identifying individuals who with innovative ideas want to make a difference; two, formulating a structured mechanism to help these individuals hone their skills, ideas and abilities; and, three, creating a self-supporting network of people or in other words, developing an eco system wherein entrepreneurs can achieve something will go on improving the society.
How does your programme promote business activities that effect social changes?
Our programme Infosys Young Indians (InfYi), which works in tandem with the Confederation of Indian Industry aims to do this by tapping the young Indians. At present, the project has a set of ideas in the pipeline. These ideas are being worked upon by a structured team of 90 Infoscions, based in Karnataka. Though the project is at the moment restricted to Karnataka, we do plan to take it to other parts of India as well in future.
The Infosys team helps the 'creators' of ideas with resources and guide them so that they are nurtured into self-sustaining business ideas.
How did the Infosys Young Indians programme evolve? Whose brainchild is it?
For some time, CII has been approaching us to evolve a corporate chapter. Our proposal was to have a chapter on social entrepreneurship instead. During one of the brainstorming sessions, our COO (Kris) Gopalakrishnan had a brainwave of launching a programme like this.
At Infosys, we have another programme for the youth as well -- Voice of the Youth -- wherein we choose 12 high performing individuals from among Infosys employees and make them a part of the management council.
How is this new programme gaining momentum within the company as also in India?
Ever since its formal launch on April 4, 2007, InfYi has received a very good response and is gaining momentum with time.
Cases, original social entrepreneurship ideas, are pouring in from every corner so much so that while we had only 13 ideas in the pipeline in the recent past, we have 25 ideas to deal with at present.
While shortlisting the ideas that come to us we have to keep the following criteria in mind:
- An idea to be approved should deal with any one of the following aspects: youth affairs, education, economy, healthcare and environment
- An idea should make an independent and profitable business case; it should not be dependent on funding alone;
- An idea should leverage technology;
- It should have scalable impact -- its effect should not be confined to three people working in one corner of a particular city, and
- The idea should be backed by a well-defined resource plan
If you are young and have an original entrepreneurial idea that you want to share with the InfYi team, log on to Infosys web site and send your ideas to the feedback section of the site or get in touch with the Infoscions or drop in a detailed mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
Once the programme reaches its optimum level of success, how do you plan to take it to the next level?
It is too early to think about the next level. For the time being, we are going ahead with our goals and aspirations. We have set for ourselves a scorecard -- how many ideas we should put to ground in a year etc.
Do you plan any foreign collaboration for the programme in future? If so, what?
It's too early to talk of foreign collaboration. Our programme has just taken off. However, if we come across any similar programmes in foreign countries, which will give us some scope for learning, we will explore them. But collaboration is not exactly what we have in our minds at the moment.
How does Infosys Chief Mentor N R Narayana Murthy view this programme? In what way does this programme carry forward his dreams?
The management of Infosys believes in democratising entrepreneurship. So the programme receives whole-hearted support from the entire Infosys management. In fact, Gopalakrishnan is a sponsor of this programme and I am its mentor.
Could you please share with some success stories of this programme?
It is too early to narrate success stories. The first idea will take about 12 to 18 months to take off. I would love to share the success stories with you then.
How does this initiative complement the role of the Infosys Foundation (the one overseen by Mrs Sudha Murthy) in bringing about corporate social responsibility?.
This programme does complement the role of Infosys Foundation. Through this initiative we plan to not only provide ingredients but to move on to the recipe part of it. It definitely adds a new dimension to the phenomenon of corporate social responsibility.
Why is corporate social responsibility suddenly becoming a buzz word these days... apart from Infosys, could you name a few Indian companies that are doing great work in this area?
At the moment, I don't have insights into other corporates doing work in this area.