Friday, 30 May 2014

To Feed a Hungry Mouth

In the run up to the BFSI Vision CSR Awards 2014, I pause to think of one of the core areas of CSR – poverty eradication. One question that haunts me is – can the BFSI sector do something about a sustainable poverty eradication campaign? Can we from the sector lead the way in this cause? To an extent, there is continuity in our theme – last week we spoke about women empowerment. This week it is poverty eradication. If we achieve the former, the latter is bound to happen.

We are so caught up in the dreams of a better tomorrow, that we forget the millions of our country men go to sleep hungry. We are a nation of paradoxes. We buy a huge amount of grain from the farmers and then promptly let it rot. At a conservative estimate, nearly 40 percent of our food crops are wasted for want of better supply chains. How different are we from the avowed capitalists who do not baulk at destroying food because it will reduce prices.

I recall the top three issues listed in the top ten priorities for poverty eradication by the UN. According to the UN, “eradication of poverty cannot be brought about by charity, but needs first and foremost empowering the poor, focusing on women, and tapping their tremendous potential.” The next on the list is “Women fall into poverty more easily and more frequently than men. They constitute majority of the people living in poverty. Ending discrimination against women and girls and promoting gender equality were critical for poverty eradication.” And the third “Productive employment, including self-employment, played a central role in poverty eradication. Access of the poor to land, capital and other productive resources must be improved.”

For me the agenda is clear. These three points are what we call “Financial Inclusion” – aimed at providing women across the country with the means to start small income generation schemes. But we seem to forget that the income generation schemes under the financial inclusion program are limited in their scope – they are limited to the village ecosystem. The poor connectivity between Indian villages traps them in islands of human habitation, limiting the market size. Whatever is produced has to be consumed within the village. The villager is not able to transport her produce to larger markets, and if she attempts to do so, nearly half the produce is wasted.

For the villages to reap the benefits of the financial inclusion program, they need to be connected to the towns and cities. Their produce should be able to reach the consumption centres without nearly half of it being wasted.

Hopefully, the new government will make linking of villages a priority – else, the silent poor majority in Bharat will continue to envy the urban India progress.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

The Birth of BFSI Vision CSR Awards

BFSI Vision was founded with the objective of providing members of the BFSI community a platform to exchange ideas and push the boundaries of knowledge. Along the way we did have our own share of learnings. After the crisis of 2008, the BFSI sector and banking in particular came under severe criticism – from being described as parasites to being greedy – the sector faced all these allegations. However, while interacting with the Indian BFSI sector, I was struck by the singular pursuit of social wellbeing practiced by them. Take for example the Buldana Urban Co-operative Credit Society Ltd – a credit society started by Radheshyam Chandak, a self confessed money lender who transformed the lives of farmers and the disadvantaged people in and around Buldana. Buldana Urban today runs schools, warehouses, builds roads and in general has played a great part in revitalizing the economy of Buldana. Or take the case of the big daddy of them all – The State Bank of India which has founded the SBI youth for India – a movement founded by SBI to channel the energy of willing urban youth to work for rural India to transform the rural ecosystem. There are countless examples of how the Indian BFSI sector has showed its humane face. The greed and arrogance that destroyed livelihoods in the developed world were by and large absent in India. The Indian institutions have shown the world that we can be profitable with a human touch.

I was humbled by the sheer number of schemes and efforts of the Indian BFSI Sector to help develop the Indian under privileged. And what better way of celebrating this unique facet of the Indian BFSI sector, other than to recognize their efforts by instituting a series of awards for the best and most deserving of our institutions – a series of awards aimed only at the BFSI sector firms.

The idea of the BFSI Vision CSR Awards was born. A series of awards aimed at celebrating the human side of the Indian BFSI sector. An award to inspire us for greater glory.  To lend the award its credibility, we roped in Ashvin Parekh Advisory Services – a boutique advisory services in the BFSI space to be our knowledge partner, and to audit our processes. To make it free from any bias we may have, we decided to stay away from the jury. The jury will be chosen by APAS and not by us. We have a stellar jury lined up.

The award process is under way. We will shortly open the nomination process. And we look forward to your participation. Over the next few weeks, we will examine various facets of the CSR activities of the BFSI sector. We will start the series with the theme of “Women’s Empowerment” Meanwhile please do write to us if you know of any initiative that has caught your attention. We will like to feature it.

Let the process begin.

Monday, 19 May 2014

BFSI Vision is a premium B2B Magazine.The CSR Awards 2014 is our way of recognizing, rewarding & celebrating excellence in CSR. RT's not Endorsements.