In Their Own Words: An Interview with Vindhya

[from right] Mr. Duresh, CEO & Manager and Ms. Pavithra Yagati Sundareshan, Director, Vindhya

[from right] Mr. Duresh, CEO & Manager and Ms. Pavithra Yagati Sundareshan, Director, Vindhya

In Their Own Words: An Interview with Vindhya, Winner of the 2013 GSC 3S Employee Engagement Award

Interview with Vindhya CEO and Director, Ashok Giri Durgesh

1.  Can you describe how the concept of Vindhya came about?

Vindhya’s conceptualization is one of the best blends of business and philanthropy. The need for a firm like Vidhya became apparent to us while we were hearing of the attrition issues at BPO’s and also of the contrast in the unemployment rate of communities with access only to basic education. The need of the hour was to setup a work environment which enables differently-abled  individuals to feel the comfort of their work place and at the same time provides them adequate training to  empower them to deliver to their best of their abilities. That is when Vindhya thought of creating a profitable organization which can deliver the Quality deliverables of people from the differently-abled community and which can create self-respect and dignity within this society.

2.  What pushed Vindhya towards pursuing goals in sustainable and socially responsible practices, as opposed to a strictly profits-based model?

As mentioned in the concept above we always wanted to create a profitable and impacting organization which is sustainable and socially responsible and a win –win for both employers and employees.

We realized that the people in the differently-abled community needed empathy and not sympathy, so even with the minimal education thatthey had we were able to deliver back end support processes and other projects very effectively and efficiently.

As a profitable organization it would be possible to scale to greater heights by delivering the expectations of our customers. This was not, however, the only reason for our success — our team of employees with various disabilities proved their own abilities in ensuring and working towards achieving the goal of a successful role model entity.

3.  Did you – at any point – come to regret that your company is following this path? 

Never. We have always been happy and motivated by the values and the culture that has helped us to become what we are toda,y not only at an organizational level but also at a personal level.

We never complain about the negatives of life, but instead work towards making things better and better, which is what our employees have taught us.

4.  What do you think sets you apart – as far as business model is concerned – from other companies from your sector?

With regard to Operations, we have never let down any customer in terms of our deliverables and have consistently delivered quality goods.  We have also been very flexible to any kind of work which has come our way. In terms of employees, we have created the best team of individuals who compliment each other with their unique strengths and commitment to striving to do better and better on every transaction.

The environment is such that the customer is very confident about the work we do and the employees get their bit of love, respect and dignity in their families and their society without any compromise.

5.  To what would you credit the success of Vindhya practicing socially responsible business?

The success of Vindhya can solely be credited to the people of Vindhya. Vindhyans, as they are called, form the crux of this organization. Without the dedication and commitment of the employees, we would not have scaled the heights to which we have reached today.  I also would credit the success to our customers who believed in us and gave us an opportunity to prove and showcase Vindhya’s abilities.

6.  What do you think can be done to make the business world aware of the need for corporate social responsibility?

We at Vindhya believe that this can be accomplished by focusing on three separate yet complementary themes:

  1. Awareness;
  2. Acceptance;
  3. And Opportunities for employment.

From the Desk of the Chair: Abandoning CSR Silos

It is easy to preach to believers.

 

Within the comfort of your silo, you share similar values, similar principles and practices:   you evaluate situations through similar lenses.  It is empowering to increase the size of the silo.

 

However, the real challenge, and the real satisfaction, comes from reaching out and open a dialog with “nonbelievers”; that is, those who do not see what you see or who      reject your perspective.  Real results come from challenging the status quo, and merging different perspectives, that can create the best business outcomes.

 

In the last few years, I have engaged in totally non-scientific trend-tracking research.  As a CSR “believer”, I have approached a number of “non-believers” and asked them their views on CSR.  My interviewees participated in various conferences, symposia, workshops, that were not focused on social responsibility, ethical sourcing, or sustainability.  My respondents came from varied fields including BPO,  IT,  supply chain management, innovation and  system integration.  I have posed my questions to company/division heads, CIOs, CTOs, general managers and engineers.   Over the past few years,  I have routinely asked participants and speakers these question: Does social responsibility register on your radars?  If so – how?

 

It was not long ago that the standard response was:  “Social responsibility? – it does not count in my business.”

 

Social responsibility and sustainability have been  considered by “hard-core” business professionals as “warm and fuzzy concepts”,  not worthy valuable time at serious subject matter gatherings.  And a triple-bottom-line has been viewed as a “cooking the books” approach.

 

In the recent months however, a conference-hopper could notice subtle changes that quietly have been taking place in IT/CT/BP professional gatherings.

The general observation from dozen or so events this year is that social aspects of business are being noticed by subject matter experts, as reflected in the conference programs and speakers’ presentations.  And a variety of topics related to the social role of business is being added to agendas of technical conferences:

 

–        New panels that address the social aspects of the IT business have been added to the “hard-core” IT programs;

–        Innovation experts underscore the role of social innovations;

–        Company leaders, in their discussions about the battle to find and retain talent,  talk about the importance of community work in developing and attracting new talent as well as maintaining existing talent;

–        Key-note speakers have been bring up topics related not only to the next big thing in their respective fields,  they also challenge the audience with bigger business ethics questions: Why  do we do what we do? What impact does a particular product offering or a strategy have on a community and why do we care?

–        Social and environmental risk of business strategies have been discussed alongside technology risks;

 

Just a few weeks ago, when I asked a panelist on the IT vendor selection panel at an innovation conference in New York, “Does CSR parameters register on your radars during decision-making process re. vendor selection?”,  all the panelist, all of them technical experts, responded: yes!

 

This is a dramatic change from only a few years ago.  Although some did not know exactly how CSR is being translated into RFP or SLA, they openly acknowledged that “social” consideration counts.  Other panelists quoted numbers for “Social dimension” from 4% to 11% of the total score for a vendor selection score card in their respective organizations.

 

At the “Outsource 2LAC” conference in Buenos Aires this November, panelists discussed such topics as the cloud and private clouds, mobile platforms, global trends in outsourcing and local economic trends.  Social role of business was not on the agenda as a separate topic.  However, the concept of social responsibility was interwoven in just about all the discussions.  Community and employee enrichment programs have been presented as business practices that leverage companies’ value propositions.

 

It was very stimulating to hear how business economics questions were posed and argued with business ethics arguments.  “Our community work with high-school kids pays off in talent acquisition”, argued Ramiro Hernandez of Grupo Assa from Argentina.  “Money does not change a person.  It makes him more of who he really is” – shared Marciano Verdi, the CEO of PeopleOne from Brazil, when he described HR policies in his Mexican operations.

 

As we are closing 2013, it is evident that sustainability and social responsibility professionals are not the only ones passionate about CSR principles.  Managers and general business practitioners from India to South Africa, from Canada to Argentina, from US to China, start using the language and the lenses of social responsibility and sustainability more broadly and more frequently when addressing vital business questions.  Steadily, CSR is expanding beyond its own silo of believers.    Sustainability is becoming one of the universal perspectives to evaluate and manage all organizational functions, including IT.

 

As we are planning for 2014, I submit that the success parameters for truly sustainable and socially responsible enterprises should not include increasing the size of the CSR silo, but rather by the efficacy of a “viral approach to spreading sustainability viruses from CSR silos into other functional silos”.  As it is easy to preach to believers, the success comes from embracing diversity and converting non-believers.

 

I submit that for 2014 we plan strategies regarding how to abandon our comfortable silos and spread the sustainability viruses across entire organizations.

 

That way, most company projects and initiatives will be viewed through the lenses of sustainability and social responsibility.   And it will pay off – because sustainability pays off.

 

For 2014, I wish CSR passionate believers great success in spreading sustainability germs.

 

I wish non-believers and agnostics, to open your minds and evaluate business cases for CSR viral infection, as this is one infection that you want to contract, because again – it pays off to build sustainable and socially responsible enterprise.

 

To all of us – best of success in 2014 in perusing our goals and dreams!

 

Wanda R. Lopuch.

 

Letter from 2014 GSC President, Bharat Ramani

It is my great honor to be the President of Global Sourcing Council for the coming year; I would like to thank the Board of GSC for nominating me to this post.

As a global strategist and entrepreneur for the past 29 years, I have experience in building and managing multinational corporations. I was involved in setting up IT Application Outsourcing Centers for Fortune 500 companies in the mid-1990’s through 2009. I have also accumulated extensive global experience, having lived and setup organizations in US, India, Russia, UK, Germany and Hong Kong.

I am actively involved in promoting and helping young start-ups in US/India Corridor and helping them to work together to create innovative products and services for these markets. I believe it is important for major corporations to invest in socially responsible sourcing and was involved in giving young startups business opportunities in my previous companies, specifically subcontracting IT contracts with many of them.

As we reflect on 2013, the GSC has achieved some important milestones in its short history by:

  • creating partnership with organizations around the world including NASSCOM Foundation to collaborate on spreading the message of advancement of sustainable and socially responsible sourcing
  • becoming a 501.c.3 organization under the US IRS tax code, which means that it offers tax exemptions to its members and of course our successful 2013 GSC 3S Awards Program

Our main goal for this year is to expand our global footprint.  We have established and launched the GSC Chapter in India while creating and establishing organizational frameworks for GSC Chapters in Africa, Europe and Latin America. We are at an important time in our lifecycle – the world has started recognizing our cause and a movement towards sustainability and socially responsible sourcing has started in different countries around the world. We would like to collaborate with like minded individuals and organizations who believe in our vision of Socially Responsible and Sustainable Sourcing.  I want to use this platform to reach out to these persons and organizations and make a real impact in our society.

 

Bharat Ramani

In Their Own Words: An Interview with The Catrinka Project

The Catrinka Project Founders

The Catrinka Project Founders

In Their Own Words: An Interview with The Catrinka Project, Winner of the 2013 GSC 3S Out-of-the-Box Award

Interview with The Catrinka Project Co-Founder and CEO, Megan Reilly Cayten, and Co-Founder and Creative Director, Amisha Patel

1.  Can you describe how the concept of The Catrinka Project came about?

We are three friends in New York City, all with international roots and a passion for investing in women and girls around the world. Amisha is a designer and Sumana and Megan are avid collectors of beautiful things from around the world – things with a story and a soul. Megan, who has worked on four continents to leverage the power of the private sector to create social change, knows how to run things. Amisha, who founded the socially responsible girls clothing line Ode Kids, knows how to make things. Sumana, who co-founded a charity for orphaned girls in India, knows how to invest in girls. We came together to form Catrinka in late 2012, with the goal of making beautiful products, employing women, and educating girls.  By imbuing our products with a soul, and a story, we hope to create a sense of intimacy between our customers, the women who made their bags, and the girls who benefit from their purchase.

We named our label after Megan’s 5-year old daughter, Caterina (nicknamed “Catrinka”). We hope our cause and mission speak to anyone who knows a little girl, or a woman who wants to make her daughter’s dreams come true.

2.  What pushed The Catrinka Project towards pursuing goals in sustainable and socially responsible practices, as opposed to a strictly profits-based model?

The mission is core to Catrinka’s business model. It is what inspires and motivates us to keep going. We all love beautiful things but the meaning behind the label is what makes the work worthwhile.  We welcomed the challenge of creating an innovative social enterprise to compete with more established businesses that have questionable production models, to inspire other burgeoning entrepreneurs and to meaningfully contribute to the growing community of those already pursuing socially responsible business practices.

3.  Did you – at any point – come to regret that your company is following this path? 

We have never regret following this path but have recognized how challenging it is to find space in the economics for both our employment and our donations pieces. Pricing products competitively is necessary to grow our business, and in a marketplace that has grown accustomed to fast fashion prices, customers may love a good story but do not always want to pay for it. Fundamentally, though, we just are not interested in doing business any other way.

4.  What do you think sets you apart – as far as business model is concerned – from other companies from your sector?

We have a dual social mission: to employ women and to educate girls. Many companies work with just one of these goals (and one is hard enough!). Our donation

The Catrinka Project Bags

The Catrinka Project Bags

program donates a service – education – that allows girls to change their own lives, rather than a product that displaces local production and which the recipients may not need (as is typical of many one-for-one programs). We have also invested deeply in developing an expert advisory board and researching our girls education mission to make sure that the interventions we fund will have maximum impact.

5.  To what would you credit the success of The Catrinka Project practicing socially responsible business?

Our success lies in the amazing partnerships we have formed with women working around the world to build their own socially responsible businesses. The artisan groups that produce our designs work flexibly in challenging environments while adhering to the tenets of our business and theirs.  Our story also readily resonates with the educated women who are our customers and who understand the importance of investing in women and girls.

6.  What do you think can be done to make the business world aware of the need for corporate social responsibility?

Consumer education is key. People need to know the true environmental and social costs of a lot of the traditional ways of doing business, and to hear success stories, so that they can choose to support those businesses that are on the right path. Only if consumers demand and expect socially responsible practices from the businesses their spending supports will businesses incorporate these practices in order to remain competitive.

In Their Own Words: An Interview with WEConnect International

In Their Own Words: An Interview with WEConnect International, Winner of the 2013 GSC 3S Empowered Woman Award

Interview with WEConnect International CEO and Co-Founder, Elizabeth A. Vazquez

WEConnect International CEO and Co-Founder, Elizabeth A. Vazquez

WEConnect International CEO and Co-Founder, Elizabeth A. Vazquez

 

1.  Can you describe how the concept of WEConnect International came about?

WEConnect International’s mission is to identify, educate, and promote women-owned businesses globally through a unique certification process. This innovative concept was the brainchild of a group of members of the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council. They created a Global Committee to develop a strategy to support women entrepreneurs based outside the US. WEConnect International was launched as a result of this effort.

 

2.  What pushed WEConnect International towards pursuing goals in sustainable and socially responsible practices, as opposed to a strictly profit-based model?

WEConnect International is committed to the proposition that socially responsible business practices and profits are integrally linked. We are an educational organization that promotes best practices on two fronts. We assist women business owners to develop competitive products and services, and we encourage them to build solutions that are also good for the environment and society. Additionally, we help corporations understand the value offered by these women business owners and we offer tools to make it easier for corporations to buy from women.

 

3.  Did you, at any point, come to regret that your company is following in this path?

The leadership and team of WEConnect International fully rally behind the mission to promote global supplier diversity and inclusion as a way to grow SMEs and create jobs in our target markets. The results we have obtained so far serve to reconfirm that we are on the right path.

 

4.  What do you think sets you apart –as far as business model is concerned- from other companies in your sector?

WEConnect International is a unique organization. We are the only group working at the global level to build a database of self-registered and certified women-owned businesses that want to compete and grow.

 

5.  To what would you credit the success of WEConnect International practicing socially responsible business?

The largest and most progressive corporations in the world play a key role in advancing WEConnect International’s mission. We rely heavily on our global and local partners to support our work and maximize our impact.

 

6.  What do you think can be done to make the business world aware of the need for corporate social responsibility?

Great progress has been made already, but much work remains to be done. A substantial component of our work at WEConnect International involves reaching out to local, regional and global corporate citizens to raise awareness on the specific advantages of buying from women business owners, such as unique business solutions, powerful leadership, new job opportunities and overall social benefits.