The Social Capital: Malcolm Lane – Tata Consultancy Services

This interview was first featured on www.indiaincorporated.com, where I write a column called The Social Capital

The Social Capital with Vikas Pota – What giving really means?


Vikas Pota speaks to Malcolm Lane from Tata Consultancy Services (TCS)

Malcolm Lane has over 35 years’ management experience within the IT and telecommunications industries. He joined Tata Consultancy Services in 2001 where he is Director Corporate Affairs. He also leads the European Tata Corporate Sustainability Group, which encourages synergy across the Tata Group companies.

1. Is giving important? Why?

Yes, when we see others in need around us, I fail to see how we can close our eyes and ignore. Clearly it is not possible to support all in need locally or around the globe so we need to identify the areas close to our hearts where we feel we can have maximum impact.

2. What charities do you personally support?

Some of the groups overseas and locally in the UK that do marvellous work like Compassion, Tear Fund, British Asian Trust and Cell Barnes Residents Association, St Albans.

Health is another area close to my heart and support includes The Institute of Cancer Research, Myeloma UK, Grove House hospice, Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research, Anthony Nolan Trust and Indian Cancer Society.

Through the online Just Giving channel I like to encourage people in their fundraising, especially employees of Tata Consultancy Services.

Education charities are another priority area for me. I admire and support groups like the Mumbai Mobile Crèche, Loomba Trust, African Children’s Choir (orphans in Africa), Cunningham Hill School UK – where I have been a school governor for 24 years, Bread Tin – teaching young City professionals philanthropy and Stepney Football club education projects.

A truly inspirational project is the Sevalaya School [www.sevalaya.org] project in India, built by a former TCS employee over a 20-year period. The idea is to help any child who cannot afford to pay to go to school. The school has an orphanage for boys and girls as well as an old people’s home, a library and medical centre and a sanctuary for cows. I have been associated with Sevalaya School for many years. It has succeeded in eradicating child labour in a number of villages in the area.

Some faith-based charities I support include Prospects UK – supporting adults with learning disabilities, Thirlmere Church, and students at All Nations Christian College addressing needs in society.

3. What was your first ever donation to a charity?

To my local church as a child in Sunday school.

4. Which individuals stand out for their support to charitable causes?

Eric Low, the CEO of Myeloma UK, and V. Muralidharan, founder and managing trustee of the Chennai-based Sevalaya School.

5. What percentage of our income should we give to good causes?

A minimum of 10 per cent is a good starting point. But for those who have more, I believe more is expected. Consider, if a person receiving a ridiculously high income of £1 million and then gives away 90 per cent they are still left with £100,000 which is four times the national average income. So, 10 per cent for high earners (however you define high earners) would seem inadequate.

6. What do you, personally, gain from contributing?

I believe we should give expecting nothing in return. However, sometimes we are pleasantly surprised with gifts that money cannot buy, such as a get well card signed individually by 750 children from Sevalaya School, Chennai, and subsequently a thank you card signed by 900 children a few years later on my 60th birthday.

7. Do administrative charges by charities determine your decisions?

I used to judge a charity as being good if it had a very low administration charge, however we need to be more sophisticated in our approach. Different charities include different activities in their administration charges. Whilst I would still want to see low administrative charges, the administrative activities can be the engine and powerhouse of a charity.

8. When was the last time you volunteered for a cause?

On June 27, 2011, I spoke in the House of Parliament at the launch of Myeloma UK’s latest initiative to improve information to Health Care Professionals (HCPs) of the latest treatment and care options via the Myeloma Academy training facility. The aim was for the HCPs to be equipped to inform patients of the best treatments and latest options available in terms of emotional and financial support.

9. Should charitable donations be private?

We need to look from the perspective of those in need and if making our giving visible encourages others to give we should swallow our humility or pride to remain humble. However, neither should we be proud and shout ‘look at me, how good am I for giving so much’ or use our giving as a means of buying favour or recognition. In addition to financial donations, we should donate our time and skills which might be visible and as a result have a positive impact on those the charity is seeking to support.

10. Does your faith play a role in the charities you support?

A strong driver in life is my Christian faith, but not just faith for faith’s sake. Faith without deeds is dead and that action should be to meet the needs of those of all faiths and those of none. Faith might be our driver but not to just meet the needs of those aligned to our own faith. Unless faith brings about action with compassion for those in need, we had better confine the promotion of our faith to those well off and comfortable, which would be to my mind a wrong understanding of faith. I would summarise my Christian faith as ‘love God and love your neighbour’. Who is my neighbour? All those in need!

Through these in-depth interviews with industry leaders, Vikas Pota asks charity-related questions that unearth the driving force behind their philanthropy and social responsibility.