Santanu Mishra, Co-Founder & Executive Trustee – Smile Foundation in a casual chat with SPO India recounts the CSR landscape in the country, of what it had been a decade back and how it has shaped now, besides speaking about Smile’s initiatives and activities –
Please tell us something about Smile Foundation?
Smile foundation is a national level development organization reaching over 400,000 beneficiaries across 29 states and we work with more than 900 villages. We started with the concept of education as the means as well as the end, but while we work on the ground we realised that without health education cannot happen. So we started extending our thought from education to include health as a part of education. We also realised that one the family members getting consistent economic support to the family will help the children go to school. Along with that empowering a mother to make the children go to school is also important. So we created a concept on the basis of lifecycle approach where a child will go to school, the sibling will be working in a place, the mother will be empowered and the father will be the supporting figure. So we extended from children to the family. We are into education, healthcare, livelihood and women empowerment.
How have you structured your manpower?
We have a lot of our own employees across the country, more than 460 employees in 16 offices but more than that we actually have more than 250 community based organizations spread across the 29 states. We work through community based organisations; they are the linkages with the community on who people trust.
We work together with them to plan the strategy and try to find out from the ground what is the need of the community. Our role as a mother organization is to see what the necessity of community is and what the gap is. There is a government which provide the social need of a community but there is a gap, which either the community is not aware of or the government system is not able to fill the gap. We as an organization we try to model certain things and after going back, try to replicate and represent it for the right kind of policy making. We do not have the bandwidth to solve all the problems of the society, but we can be a complementary agency to e government. (1:51-4:28)
Do you get funds from government or corporate?
Smile’s 95% funding is from corporate and though we work with government, we have not taken funds from them. Our model has been from day one corporate funded because if you analyse and should learn from the corporate world is the return based objective approach. This is the most efficient way of realising the potential of any resource and its optimum utilization. Our idea is, if you can develop a model and can satisfy corporate, then you can satisfy any other nomenclature.
Do corporates believe in contributing towards CSR?
Earlier CSR was not taken seriously because they were concentrating on delivery of quality products and services to the customers, which was the first priority for them. Quality was a privilege 20 years back; if any organization is giving quality then it was a privilege to the customers. But today if you analyze the situation, quality is not only the distinctive factor; for growing a business you need to think of your employee base and take care of them and so employers started thinking about their employees’ good too. However gradually the thought has come of whether you are a socially responsible organization or not, which was not there in India. But in the last one decade the idea has changed and now every company tries to do some good to the society through its products and services.
What type of corporate are you associated with for the activities?
We are majorly working with the multinational corporations, but a lot of Indian good brands who believe in good governance also associate with us.
Now CSR is taken by corporates as a strategic investment for the brand. Ultimately it is the brand that sells. Corporates like Ericson, big financial institutions, and airline companies like Indigo are some of the big brands we are associated with. A lot of IT and telecom companies are also there on our list.