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.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Emily Harrison at the World Corporate Social Responsibility Congress

Emily Harrison was part of the CEO panel during the World CSR Congress under the theme "Possible to do well, by doing good" which took place of February 18th at the hotel Taj Lands End, Mumbai. Emily along with other eminent speakers such as Dr. Alok Bhardwaj, Executive Vice President, Canon India, Animesh Kumar, Group Head- HR&Corporate Services & Co CEO IDFC Foundation and Vikas Puthran, Vice President- Alliances and Operations, GiveIndia shared with the audience her opinion on the topic of "Mandatory 2% spend on CSR: Will it be just compliance or a trajectory for meaningful CSR?". The moderator of the panel was Ketan Kulkarni, VP & HEAD- Marketing, Corporate Communications & Sustainability, Blue Dart Express Ltd.

Some of the panelists thought that while there is some merit in this bill, it will not significantly change the way Indian Corporate are operating at a strategic business level. The bill appears to have some merit such as promoting growth in the CSR field by creating the need for professional and trained employees in each company's CSR team and allow for a more structured approach to social initiatives by giving a basic road-map for companies. A panelist felt that even if many companies will try to find loophole to limit tier CSR spending, it will at least push for an increase in corporate philanthropic giving. Emily expressed her view that once CSR will be mandated in India, companies should not view it as a check writing liability- on the contrary it ought to be considered within a core business strategy and viewed as an investment platform to build better and more sustainable brands.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Innovaid offering Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) training at the Bombay Stock Exchange

Starting in March, Innovaid staff will begin offering classes to Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) corporate members under the effigy of the BSE training institute. The courses were specifically design to educate BSE corporate members around the new sustainability disclosure requirements mandated by the Securities Exchange Board of India (SEBI)

The first course offered under a webinar format will be “Introduction to CSR” and it will address the needs of professionals in private companies, NGOs, International Organisations and Governments who are currently involved in CSR, or would like to be involved in CSR, and wish to apply and embed the concept of CSR in their institution. Cristiana Peruzzo, Head of CSR will be the principal instructor.

The webinar is designed to specifically help participants to obtain a comprehensive CSR understanding to enable them to design and implement an effective CSR strategy for their companies as well as communicating their CSR internally and externally. Some of the course objectives among others will be to help company representative articulate an understanding of CSR and communicate it across their organizations and to their wider stakeholders as well as Integrate CSR into strategic planning and regular business practices.

During the two hour course schedule, several Topics will be covered such as The CSR journey, Applying Definitions in Practice - Practical Examples of CSR (Indian Case Studies) and Communicating CSR and leveraging a company’s CSR report.

Other classes are scheduled for April, specifically a course named “How to set up and manage a corporate foundation” whose details will be discussed in our next newsletter.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

What 12A and 80G Means to a Non-Profit

What is the need to apply for 12A and 80G?
Many start-up NGO’s ask this question, that is, out of those who are aware that such a  certification process exists.
Indeed, 12A and 80G are crucial processes for any NGO that needs to generate income for its charity-based operations. The ability to offer a donor a return benefit for their contribution is a major advantage in the world of fundraising. And this is where 12A and 80G are essential, as they enable the gift of tax exemption It is best to apply for 12A and 80G as soon as the NGo is registered. Prepare for a high level of scrutiny from the government, especially with regards to the Memorandum of Association. Scrutinization is undertaken as an attempt to sift out NGOs with less genuine intentions to create positive social change. One recent example involved the perusal of records that led centre and state governments into an investigation of one rights-based organization, resulting in the accusation that 46.8 lakh of huge, unaccounted grants were being distributed to NGOs, including blacklisted ones, often against a bribe. 
To apply for 12A registration, the 10A form needs to be filled (You can download the 10A form here to get 12A certification which is editable). Once 12A is approved, it is valid for a lifetime.
The NGO is then ready to apply for the 80G. The form to the filled in is 10G (You can Download the form 10G to get 80G). Once 80G is approved it is valid for a period of 1 to 3 years.
There are few conditions to be fulfilled under the section 80G:
  • The NGO should not have any income which is not exempted, such as business income. lf the NGO has business income then it should maintain separate books of accounts and should not divert donations received for the purpose of such business.
  • The bylaws or objectives of the NGOs should not contain any provision for spending the income or assets of the NGO for purposes other than charitable.
  • The NGO is not working for the benefit of particular religious community or caste.
  • The NGO maintains regular accounts of its receipts & expenditures.
  • The NGO is properly registered under the Societies Registration Act 1860 or under any law corresponding to that act or is registered under section 25 of the Companies Act 1956.
Documents required for registration of u/s 12A and 80G:
  1. Dully filled in Form - 10A for registration u/s 12A registration;
  2. Dully filled in Form - 10G for registration u/s 80G registration;
  3. Registration Certificate and MOA /Trust Deed (two copies - self attested by NGO head);
  4. NOC from Landlord (where registered office is situated);
  5. Copy of PAN card of NGO;
  6. Electricity Bill / House tax Receipt /Water Bill (photocopy);
  7. Evidence of welfare activities carried out & Progress Report since inception or last 3 years;
  8. Books of Accounts, Balance Sheet & ITR (if any), since inception or last 3years;
  9. List of donors along with their address and PAN;
  10. List of governing body I board of trustees members with their contact details;
  11. Original RC and MOA /Trust Deed for verification;
  12. Authority letter in favour of NGO
  13. Any other document I affidavit / undertaking I information asked by the Income Tax department
When called for hearing, the representative needs to carry all the originals of the documents submitted at the time of application.
Income tax department has the power to approve or reject such approval upon disqualification of the non-profit organization or dissatisfaction found by the department towards the non-profit NGO organization activities

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Innovaid Welcomes a Elise Collins to the Team

Innovaid is happy to inttroduce a new team member, Elise Collins, our Program and Communications Manager. Holding a Masters in Development Anthropology, Elise brings five years of management experience with community and international development projects in the areas of environment, education and empowerment. Her focus on socio-environmental concerns and strong drive to unpack issues for sustainable solutions provides a rich contribution to Innovaid's CSR initiatives
As program manager, Elise applies expertise in critical social inquiry and participatory processes to design, implement, monitor and evaluate CSR and philanthropic projects for clients. Her unique and inspiring ideas for producing high-quality media tools drives communications and marketing initiatives for maximum impact.
Originally from Adelaide, South Australia, Elise moved to India in 2011 and is inspired by the beauty, diversity and warmth of this country and its people. 

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Angus' Reflections on Interning with Innovaid

Living in Mumbai and interning at Innovaid have been brilliant experiences, and I can’t think of a better way I could have spent my summer holidays, from the business and law degree I am undergoing at the University of Western Sydney. I had been totally unaware that organisations like Innovaid exist in the world, and it has all been a very pleasant surprise!

Most of the time that I spent in the office I was been busy researching – which doesn’t sound too exciting, however, Innovaid delves into some really interesting issues. I learnt about the plight of children with facial cleft deformities, children without any educative provision, and youth impacted by the Punjab drug endemic. I was involved in the writing up of contracts and MOUs, I attended meetings, and edited CSR reports. Furthermore, I learnt how philanthropic bodies effectively strategise to meet the needs presented by social issues, and the roles that corporates and celebrities can have here.

My internship wasn’t all about work, and I made time for some travel throughout India, and managed to explore the Rajasthan area, as well as Delhi, Agra, and there was a separate trip to Goa. It was great to have Mumbai as a base – it really is an amazing city, and there were many great nights out and some good friendships were made. One of my most bizarre experiences involved being an extra in a Bollywood comedy, that involved me running away in horror from an evil trained pig - which had accidentally consumed ecstasy!

I would definitely recommend interning with Innovaid to anyone who is willing to step outside of their comfort zone and experience working in a different culture - that can be at different times incredibly frustrating or overwhelmingly positive. My overall experience of the internship program has been wonderful, and I feel like I am now much better equipped to utilise my degree vocationally, and I have learnt so much about a field that interests me greatly that I would now consider working in, in the future.

Monday, 18 February 2013

By Choosing Sustainability over Philanthropy, Many Indian Companies are Already Investing More Than 2% of their CSR

MUMBAI:  India Inc has responded with mixed but mainly negative reactions to the CSR provision since its inclusion in the New Companies Bill as far as 2008. Many highly recognizable names in business see it as a questionable government’s intrusion in private philanthropic matters, objecting that what a company spend on “community welfare, education, health, development and environmental activism” should be left to the discretion of each company’ board.  Others claim no relationship should be made between profits and CSR and that each spending should be done on an ad hoc basis. What is sadly missing from the debate is the fact that by choosing sustainability over philanthropy, many Indian Companies are already investing more than 2% on their CSR activities, and they are failing to see the CSR clause as a tremendous opportunity in terms of cost-cutting measures, improvement in efficiency and, more importantly as a tremendous platform for reputational gain.
The Bill, now set for Rajya Sabha’s approval, includes crucial provisions making it  mandatory for those companies that have reported profits of Rs 5 crore (Rs 50 million) or more in last three years- to spend at least two per cent of their average net profit on CSR activities. Penalties will be imposed on Companies failing to meet the obligation and not disclosing reasons for it.
Even if the bill give broad guidance as to the definition of what constitutes “CSR Activities”, there is no specific detail the intended focus or target of a company’s CSR expenditure.  Schedule VII of the Bill lists a variety of possible examples of CSR spending, ranging from a very philanthropic focused ‘eradicating extreme hunger and poverty’ to ‘promotion of education’ to a more embedded and strategic ‘ensuring environmental sustainability’.  Such lack of clarity can be the key separating the company truly committed to a more embedded notion of CSR from another merely compliying with the mandate and with no clear strategy of harnessing the benefits of CSR seen as a cost effective investment rather than a mere liability imposed by the government.
The major advantage of the approved bill is the preservation of each company’s autonomy in the selection of its area of CSR spending. Currently the majority of Indian companies prefer to adopt a very basic approach to csr tending more towards a philanthropic exercise. Such act usually entails the establishment of a charitable foundation mostly functioning at at arm’s length from the parent company and disbursing funds directly in the communities in which the company operates in a very ad hoc basis without any strategic aim such as involvement of employees, or aligning the company with a particular social cause pertinent to its business sector.
A few savvy companies may decide to adopt a more westernized model of CSR leaning towards sustainability more than philanthropy.  Such companies would thus use the 2% mandatory spending to minimize the negative externalities, beyond the legal compliance of environmental and social law, such as aim for carbon neutrality in their business operation, or to or they could opt to maximise positive externalities beyond the mere job creation overly claimed by the CSR novices by administering  vocational training  or providing workers with more comprehensive benefits.
From our experience many companies in India are already investing significant amount of money in cost saving measures which can be considered embedded CSR activities aimed at reducing the negative impact of business and they are unaware of doing so, having remained stuck in a philanthropic conception of CSR.
IT companies furthering  technology  education may strategically be thinking about their workforce of tomorrow,  a mining or a chemical company can be overtaking environmental initiatives to save water and energy and produce their products in a more efficient and environmentally conscious way.
 Cristiana Peruzzo is Head of CSR at Innovaid Advisory Services in Mumbai, India