Well-defined CSR guidelines can go a long way: Priyadarshini Nigam
Priyadarshini Nigam, Head CSR at Newgen Software gets in a conversation with Busines Upturn, and shares how with CSR act, Newgen has come a long way. “Newgen ﬁrmly believes that a safe atmosphere and child-friendly ambiance for learning and growth are keys to any successful educational initiative. Thus, students are being imparted the soft skills to browse through iPads using fun and interactive methodologies, such as role-plays, quizzes, movies and presentations during digital literacy sessions,” she says.
Read on to know more about Nigam’s perspective about CSR, digital education, mid-day meal program, expansion plans, and much more.
Not many companies out there contribute fairly to Corporate Social Responsibility. What are your thoughts on this?
Priyadarshini Nigam: Many organisations today have instituted corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs in compliance with the Clause 135 of the Company’s Act, 2013. The organisations are embracing a broad and multifaceted vision. So, it won’t be fair to assume that the planning and implementation of the CSR initiatives are easy for them.
CSR vision and policies of the organisations continue to evolve and expand with every amendment in the clause. This creates additional pressure on companies to have their social initiatives show stronger ROIs which must be reported at the end of the financial year. It calls for intense planning and adequate time to figure out the trustworthy implementation partners, who can execute the program on- ground while complying with the CSR vision of the company.
We can agree on the fact that many times leading organisations with enormous CSR budgets are not able to utilise the entire fund during the designated period. Ever-changing CSR guidelines, reporting systems, intensive background checks, hallowing bureaucratic approval systems are leading to huge chunks of unspent CSR funds lying around with these organisations. Well-defined CSR guidelines can go a long way with the companies and can help them with optimum utilisation of the funds.
NDDP is a quite a unique concept if we talk about digital education. How do you think that fulfills the purpose of education though?
Priyadarshini Nigam: NDDP is a one-of-a-kind initiative that aims at empowering a digitally literate future by leveraging state-of-art infrastructure and equipment.
Newgen ﬁrmly believes that a safe atmosphere and child-friendly ambiance for learning and growth are keys to any successful educational initiative. Thus, students are being imparted the soft skills to browse through iPads using fun and interactive methodologies, such as role-plays, quizzes, movies, and presentations during digital literacy sessions.
The NDDP program has directly benefited 3000+ students across the three adopted schools, and through them, has touched the lives of several indirect beneﬁciaries including parents, siblings, friends and the community. In total, the program has benefited an estimated 15000+ direct and indirect beneﬁciaries.
A lot of emphasis is being placed on leveraging innovative and digital media-based pedagogy such as audiovisuals, presentations and iPad browsing. Doing so helps make mundane textbook syllabus easy-to-understand, exciting and relatable for the students. Content of NDDP is designed in-house for the students, which is in conjunction with their necessities and requirements.
The program, apart from rendering digital literacy to the students has helped them understand the textbook concepts thoroughly. It has also helped us encourage their browsing and reading skills, which has led to improved results in their school examinations. Moreover, it has helped boost the conﬁdence levels & teamwork skills of the students.
You are also contributing to the mid-day meal program at the government schools. But these days we hear about the poor condition of mid-day meal schemes – what’s your take on this?
Priyadarshini Nigam: At Newgen, we truly believe that the provision of a nutritious diet is the most important factor in the growth and well-being of children in their formative years. In this regard, we have collaborated with The Akshaya Patra Foundation, a a non-profit organisation in India has been running a Mid Day Meal program for government schools across India for over two decades. Under this initiative, we provide necessary nutrition to 3600+ school-going children in Vrindavan and in the remote areas of Jhalawar, Rajasthan. With world-class facilities, fully mechanised kitchens, strict quality protocols, the organization ensures that every student is fed a nutritious diet.
By supporting this initiative of Akshaya Patra, we are trying to upgrade the quality of the meal being served to the children under the Midday Meal Scheme.
Do you think that the government should have many refined laws when it comes to CSR?
Priyadarshini Nigam: In my opinion, clause 135 of the Companies Act, 2013 that lists out the CSR activities does not specifically detail the concept of social purpose. It needs to be categorised in broader terms with the defined sub-categories so that there’s no confusion regarding the areas of interventions in which organisations plan their social initiatives. To remain relevant, the law must uphold and reflect the value system and belief of society.
The CSR clause of the Act acts as a guideline for the organizations. Thus, it should be clear enough and should manifest a set of rules which the organizations can follow instead of interpreting the laws as per their own convenience.
What are your expansion plans?
Priyadarshini Nigam: Well, ever since the commencement of our CSR initiatives, we’ve come a long way, but this is just the beginning. We passionately look forward to upscaling our ongoing initiatives and undertakings to widen our reach in the community.
For every social intervention, active participation of the community is important. Under NDDP, we’ve initiated activities that have helped us connect with the beneﬁciaries’ mothers. They certainly act as the baron of the community, we’re working in. The initiative is in its initial stage; we are putting the best foot forward in generating awareness on various thematic areas, namely menstrual hygiene, digital education, and others.
Under NDDP, we’re catering to the students from the 6th– 8th standard. The motto of our NDDP program is to make the students digitally proficient. This is NDDP’s 4thyear of implementation in one of the adopted schools and we are actively bringing together the alumnus of the project so that they can stay connected to the program. The objective for the alumnus is to informally attend the program and take care of their higher education and careers with the help of counseling, awareness generation sessions, and others. We conducted our first Alumni meet in Government Girls Senior Secondary School, Harkesh Nagar, wherein 120+ alumnus of NDDP marked their presence and actively participated during the sessions.
We have collaborated with Khushii, an NGO working for the upliftment of children with lesser means, to make 2,600 children literate with the help of remedial classes at SDMC Pratibha Primary School, Harkesh Nagar. This school acts as a feeder school for our NDDP beneficiaries at Government Girls Senior Secondary School, Harkesh Nagar. Under this initiative, we are planning to adopt more feeder schools in Delhi and Chennai. We shall also be extending our partnership with The Akshaya Patra Foundation we will be covering more remote areas of India under the midday meal program.