Sunday, 15 September 2013

Eugenia Shares Three Key Lessons from her Internship with Innovaid and Mewsic

How does listening to online fans make for a successful social media campaign? 

How do you eat an Elephant? 

Why seek out people smarter than yourself?

Eugenia shares three key lessons she learnt during her time with Innovaid and Mewsic - A Brett Lee Foundation

This summer, I interned at Innovaid Advisory Services, as well as a non-profit that they set up and manage – Brett Lee’s Mewsic India Foundation. It was privilege learning about working in a corporate organization and a non-profit through this arrangement. Here are some thoughts and lessons about my time there :)

Listen. My core area of responsibility was in managing both Innovaid and Mewsic’s social media, on Facebook and Twitter. My personal project was to head an online publicity and fundraising campaign through the sale of limited edition Mewsic t-shirts. I enjoyed this very much as I had the space to experiment with the use of social media. More importantly, I had the opportunity to connect and connect with many Mewsicians (volunteers). This served as a feedback channel to gauge their response to the work we had been doing. The energy from Mewsicians was infectious, and that motivated me to brainstorm innovative ways for engagement.

How to eat an elephant. Setting up and managing foundations sounds like an enormous task at hand, it becomes much easier when you break it down into smaller, more manageable components. Namely, they are governance, human resources, fundraising, programs, marketing, and operations. As I worked on projects and prepared documents for clients, I learnt much about the specific systems in place that were used. On a personal level, this was also a useful tool and reminder for self-leadership and management – after dissection, the big things are less scary, and it’s easier to see what next to be done.

Seek people smarter than yourself. I had the privilege of sitting in the Mewsic Strategic Plan meeting and later, the Advisory Board meeting. In the Strategic Plan meeting, the Mewsic core team gathered to critically look at how Mewsic has been, decide where we want to go, and brainstorm possible pathways. However, there were also many questions that we were not able to resolve satisfactorily on our own. When Emily graciously let me sit in the Advisory Board meeting, I jumped at the chance! It was truly eye-opening, meeting experts in their respective fields who were incisive with their feedback and provided great advice on how Mewsic could be pushed to the next level.

All in all, I had a blast at Innovaid and Mewsic! One month on and back home, I miss India, the chai, but most of all the amazing people I got to meet.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Experiences with Innovaid from a Budding Entrepreneur


Hakeem from Singapore reflects on his time with Innovaid Advisory Services, taking our online strategy to a new level
At Innovaid, I was tasked with implementing measures to help take the company's overall online strategy to a new level. This included a fair bit of dabbling with Search Engine Optimization techniques, playing around with Google Trends, Adwords and also Word Press. The aim, of course, was to set the foundations to boost the online presence for Innovaid's Corporate Social Responsibility on Google. I saw this as a great opportunity to hone my online business development skills. This meant leveraging off the internet, be it social media or not, to increase the number of leads for Innovaid's CSR services. 
The team was a very diverse one comprising of individuals from Italy, Australia and India itself. It was great getting to know them and also about their backgrounds over the lunches that we had. Sharing horror stories about our respective commutes to work was rather common too. 
As an entrepreneur, I feel that the team that you have with you is one of the best assets that you can gain. Thus, ensuring the right kind of people join the team is one of the best things an entrepreneur can do for his company. It was nice of Emily to have shared some of her learnings when it came to hiring the right people. Emily also spoke of people building being one of the key things that you, as the head of the team are tasked with. 
One of the best experiences was that I got the opportunity to talk to the Emily on her past entrepreneurial experiences and upbringing. As it turns out, we both had our first shot at entrepreneurship rather early. She sold cute little magazine things and self-made toys at school and made a relatively huge fortune at that age. Having sold noodles at Secondary 1 and making a fortune from it, I was able to relate to her story well. Our first brush with entrepreneurship, as I found out, was to be an experience both of us would probably never forget. Besides that, gaining insights into the journey that she has been on so far, was rather interesting too. Nothing beats hearing an entrepreneurial experience right from the horse's mouth.
We also got the chance to sit in for two corporate pitches with a multinational corporation. This was really insightful as we were involved in this project from the research stage itself. We got to experience what happened in a corporate to ‘corporate pitch’. The biggest takeaway again, was to really listen to what your client wants. Once you have done that, you'd be in a better position to reconsider your pitch and project only the necessary bits that you feel would maximize your customer's benefit. True to Innovaid being a personalized boutique advisory service for CSR and celebrity philanthropy, we got to experience the customization process during the meetings as well.
In one of my conversations with Emily, we spoke about future plans and expansion and what she had in mind. We also spoke quite a fair bit about branding and the issues of branding for Innovaid as opposed to branding for Emily Harrison. Hearing her talk about such issues and putting myself in her shoes gave me insights into some of the challenges being faced by an entrepreneur at her stage too.

All in all, my 2 months or so at Innovaid was certainly a great experience and a worthwhile journey that I would not have replaced for anything else. Opportunities to grow and challenge yourself at Innovaid are aplenty. The one most outstanding thing that I will always remember is the dynamic team and how each individual brings an exciting set of experiences and a different dimension to the team. 

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Social Leadership Initiative with Hutchinson Global Services: A Visit to Dharavi

The Hutchinson Global Services Social Leadership Team

On April 16, 2013, Cristiana Peruzzo and Ankur Shukla participated with GEM employees from Hutchinson Vodafone in a very special CSR initiative centered around the objective of generating compassion towards others and enhancing leadership skills among the company’s leaders of tomorrow. 

GEM leaders had a special occasion to interact with the people of Dharavi and see their homes, their work places, and their spirit while witnessing a small scale industry powerhouse in Mumbai..  The day started with a intensive classroom session to introduce Hutchinson Vodafone employees to the constraint and challenges of slum dwellers as well as the story of Dharavi. Then, the entire group reached Dharavi by local train and experienced a wide range of activities such as : recycling, pottery-making, embroidery, bakery, soap factory, leather tanning, papad-making as well as witnessing the typical day in the life of a family in the area. All the participants were impressed by the outstanding  sense of community and spirit that exists in Dharavi and left Mahim with an enlightened sense of the purpose and determination that exists among the amazing people of Dharavi.

The day was part of a Social Leadership initiative centered around three core activities with the aim to expose each Hutchinson Vodafone young leader to unique challenges in the social sphere in order to develop his/her critical thinking on how to tackle some of the most pressing social issues in Indian society in a professional, humane and caring way. Watch out for our next activity taking place in September 2013!

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

What's in a Corporate Foundation Name? An Indian Perspective

The topic of what name to give to a corporate foundation has great relevance in an Indian context since creating trusts and foundations still remains the favourite route to CSR practised by Indian companies. According to recent studies, 55 per cent of large Indian companies have established foundations working mainly in the areas of education, health and rural development. Their number has increased steadily in the last few decades and it is set to increase with the passing of the New Companies Act with its much discussed clause of 2% mandatory CSR spending.
Across the globe, there are two schools of thought in relation to foundation naming. On the one hand, there is a strong argument for keeping the name of the foundation ‘slightly separate’ from the core brand and name of the company, while others espouse the benefits of closely aligning the foundation brand with that of the company for branding and reputation benefits.
Many corporate foundations in India have been officially established with the intent to provide a more formal structure for a company’s charitable giving or to set out the founding family’s vision. Family businesses have always been an integral part of the Indian economy and they account for more than 85% of all businesses in the country. As a result naming a corporate trust or foundation after a family member allows for some sort of separation while giving increased ‘social responsibility’ recognition to the corporate counterpart.
With such a rich history of family business in India there is no better example than that of the Tata Trusts, holders of 66% of the shares of Tata Sons, the promoter holding company of one of the largest Indian conglomerates where all trusts have been named after different members of the Tata Family.
Such naming strategy has multiple advantages that go beyond the tax saving benefits, including the reputational benefits for the Tata brand which have been enormous. Throughout India, the Tata name has been synonymous with philanthropic giving for many decades, an association which has come in quite handy, particularly with the recent telecommunication graft scandals in which the group chairman was involved.
The drawback of such an approach is the fact that the majority of corporate trusts and foundations keep working at arm’s length from the company, allowing for underserved CSR co-branding, when in fact there is no formal interaction between the two entities and thus no mainstreaming of socially and environmentally responsible activities in core business processes.
Having a well-known brand as part of the charity’s name and using its logo can help to attract interest and allow for an increased amount of media exposure for the charity and its activities. However, there can be negative implications.
In sharing the parent company’s name, corporate foundations must be mindful of wider reputational risks that could arise from such close branding affiliation in the event of a corporate scandal, as in the case of the DLF company’s involvement in a much talked about controversy involving the concession of land at a very reduced price in exchange for political favour. The corporate reputational damage was so great that it also affected the DLF Foundation’s image in the eyes of many Indians. 
Cristiana Peruzzo is Head of CSR at Innovaid Advisory Services in Mumbai, India.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

The Global Conference on CSR

Cristiana Peruzzo participated as one of the panelists at “The Global Conference on CSR”, which took place at the Trident Hotel in Mumbai on April 17, 2013. 

The 2-day event was organized by the Samabhavana Society in partnership with the Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs (IICA) and with FICCI-Aditya Birla Centre for CSR Excellence and sponsored by IBM, HDFC Life and TATA. Its main objective was to bridge the gap between the Corporate world and Civil Society and to create a venue for concrete multi-sector collaboration. 

Cristiana was part of the ‘Project Connect Platform’ and in her presentation she outlined best practice examples of long-term partnerships between Multinational Companies and Indian NGOs.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Cristiana Peruzzo at the Sustainable Business Symposium India 2013

On 21st March 2013, our head of CSR, Cristiana Peruzzo was one of the speakers at the Sustainable Business Symposium (SGS) India 2013 organised by Innovaid partner SGS. The event was a crucial platform to discuss the current trends for achieving business sustainability and address the growing number of environmental issues.

It took place in Gurgaon, Delhi. Cristiana gave a presentation of Corporate Sustainability Reporting and how business can promote sustainable practices that can lead to increased profitability and responsibility. Other speakers were Mr. Wai Ho, VP, Sustainability Services, SGS, Mr. Shankar Das Mehta GM from Coca Cola, and Mr. Pranshu Singhal, Head Sustainability, Nokia India and Mr. Sanjay Bansal from Nestle’.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

The Benefits of Strategic Philanthropy

Most businesses are aware of community expectations to engage in some kind of philanthropy. As a start up, or just a company trying to run a sustainable model, this can seem like another hurdle that is best avoided, or put off for a time when business is running smoothly. What CSR becomes at this point is a strategy of reducing the negative impacts of the business upon stakeholders, and this is a hard selling point for customers as well as being a practice that appears too normalised within the market.

Strategic philanthropy presents itself as a more attractive, and often more effective, option to conventional CSR strategies. Strategic philanthropy involves targeting a particular social or environmental issue that holds strategic links with the operations and capacities of a company, so that the mission’s design and implementation can result in positive impact for sustainable solutions.

Rather than money, social impact becomes the deliverable that a firm engaging in strategic philanthropy is assessed on– effectively, outputs are prioritised over inputs. What results is perhaps the strongest point going for strategic philanthropy: it allows the focus of CSR to switch from money to meaningful social transformations. A focus on deliverables not only makes philanthropy a more intelligent and efficient activity, but it also naturally inclines towards a collaborative partnership with local communities – the kind of strategy that holds potential for wide-spread buy-in and is proving itself to be most successful.

The first step in the process of strategic philanthropy is to identify an appropriate cause with which the company can engage – one that is closely related to the core business of the firm will mean that partners and clients are either aware of, or a beneficiary of the firm’s positivity in its CSR practice. An example would be a sports team having an innate connection with the issues of youth development and health issues, or of an automotive retailer being connected to road safety awareness.

There is however, no limit to the applications and usefulness of strategic philanthropy by the size and type of firm engaging in it, as it is possible to visualise an effective strategy for any firm. An IT business, for example, would not appear to be imbued with an obvious CSR initiative outcome set, yet it could well make great leverage on a multitude of social issues. The IT business, the service provider, or the accountancy firm are given a special freedom in their strategic philanthropy, which can be very empowering. A case study in point is MTS Airtel’s involvement in a vaccination program, whereby Airtel provided awareness that immensely improved the reach of the on-ground effort.

After identifying a cause, a path of action must be outlined that is considerate of both a) the degrees of inputs the firm will be willing to make and b) the outcomes that are desired to result from then program. The degrees of inputs include financial contribution, as well as expertise, and access to consumers for marketing purposes, and will determine the possible outcomes.

Outcomes in strategic philanthropy are matched to targets, and are best kept simple so that they can be effectively communicated, e.g. ‘this program educated x amount of farmers correct herbicide use’ or ‘this program delivered an education to 100 rural children’.  The power of these messages are much greater than telling an increasingly cynical market base that an amount of lac or crore have been signed over to a cause

Strategic philanthropy is CSR, where the company is empowered to create real impacts that are core to the nature of the business itself. Positive externalities result in goodwill in the marketplace, which in turn can be a driving factor behind positive business relationships, between the firm and the whole range of stakeholders, and the best way of developing goodwill is through strategic philanthropy.

For companies, ranging from small start-ups to large corporations, strategic philanthropy represents a great opportunity to exert personality in the immediate market through CSR, in a manner that speaks for itself. Effective strategic philanthropy, as it develops the stakeholders, builds social capital and can be integral to a business’ core enterprise as it grows and achieves sustainability within the market.