World Economic Forum – India derailed.

Such is the faith of people in India that problems, challenges, opportunities, and any successes are often attributed to a divine force – the almighty. I remember a raging argument with my mother when I was a child, in which she basically justified her in-action by citing the same – “if it’s meant to be…”, which I’ve always seen as a cop-out as she avoided taking responsibility for an action.

Well, the reason I mention this is that having participated in the World Economic Forum’s India Summit in Mumbai earlier this week, India’s political & business leadership reminded me of the raging argument between my mother and me. Just that in this case, India’s much celebrated captains of industry became my mum for two days.

The problem is that everyone now recognises that the challenges India faces are possibly too big to overcome. The shine has truly come off. The penny’s dropped and they don’t know what to do. So they’re happy just to bumble on and see what happens (if it’s meant to be…)

Such was the elation of the mid 2000’s, that she was pleased to have been invited to the G20, and other international platforms, it seems that they’ve forgotten that if they desire global recognition, they need to offer solutions that fix problems.

Take, for example, the construction industry which itself will see an investment of a trillion dollars over the next ten years, but where are the skilled tradesman? In a similar fashion, take any profession and you arrive at the same problem.

India’s much talked of demographic dividend stands to turn into the exact opposite if practical solutions are not found. It’s far too easy to say that the private sector needs to play a role by harnessing the opportunity. India’s government needs to follow through by creating a favourable policy environment, else… the risks to her growth are simply too significant to consider.

I’m quite a positive guy, but this Summit knocked the stuffing out of me.

Corruption, a bloated bureaucracy, a ego, all stand in the path of progress. That’s what the India Summit confirmed in my mind.

The Social Capital: Ravi Pandey of Rolta

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 Ravi Shankar Pandey from the world of information technology…

Ravi Shankar Pandey was the head of the UK Business Unit of NIIT, the global IT education services giant and has recently joined Rolta as their President for Europe and MD of their regional ops in Germany, Netherlands and UK.

1. Is giving important? Why?

Yes, it is very important if someone is in a capacity to do something beyond their regular job and contractual obligation. As long as the ability and desire to help others come naturally.

2. What charities do you personally support?

I would not like to go into details as there are quite a few but I support children’s charities like CRY. I also support national charities like Comic Relief.

I also try and be supportive and sponsor my executives on their charitable missions such as motorbike rides or long treks, both in India and in the UK.

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

It is quite a funny story that has stayed with me. I grew up in Jamshedpur in India where there were regular home visits by a leper in search of alms. As children our birthday gift would be some pocket money from the elders, which we would use to buy a cricket bat or a football. I remember one such birthday when I chose to give all my birthday money to this leper.

I am not sure why I did it and it certainly was not a lot of money. But from then he became a regular visitor and was even at my wedding years later.

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

Among the well-known names there is of course Warren Buffet and Bill Gates who have devoted their time and billions to charitable causes. However, there are many, many unsung heroes who have been giving their money and time but are not in the public eye.

To me it is a bigger inspiration when people with far less means try to still give something back.

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

This is a very valid consideration. I think anything that does not pinch. Sacrifice is very different from giving, as that requires a higher being. For those with some limited aspirations to make a difference about 10 per cent of your savings could be a good start.

Muslims have the concept of zakaat, which is a great motivator. I think it also makes commercial sense as it ultimately encourages you to save.

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

I feel thrilled by the pleasure it gives my family. My children love being involved and it is a great motivator to see the amount of pleasure they get.

7. How important is it to you that charities provide evidence of their impact?

It is very important to see that the money is used for a worthy cause. Our contributions may be small but accountability is important.

8. Have you taken part in any adventure events to raise money?

If playing cricket for CRY counts, then that is something we did last year. But besides that I am always keen to encourage people who want to take on adventurous missions for charity.

9. Should charitable donations be private?

Charity is a very personal thing. We as Indians are always encouraged not to talk about it too much and I find it quite corny to speak about it too much.

10.· Do you have a focus on where you donate money?

Children’s charities are close to my heart. I have small children of my own and like to contribute in whatever way I can.

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.

There’s hope for India, after all the Chinese are humans

Having just returned from the World Economic Forum in China, I’m filled with optimism and hope for India’s prospects. Let me explain:

For quite some time, there’s a line that’s been pushed through the media of the Chinese being super-human, super efficient, and all such super things. My visit last year to China confirmed this, but on reflection I feel I was awe-struck just to be visiting China – its hard not to be considering all the hype you hear about the economic juggernaut that’s going to increasingly shape all our futures.

Having taken the opportunity to scratch beneath the surface this time, I found that in many respects the Chinese are no different to my Indian brothers and sisters, it’s just that the state does a good job in presenting a different picture – one of an organised system and collective entity – which is certainly not the case.

In fact, witnessing and experiencing such difference, almost makes me like China more, it makes the place more humane, and for this reason more attractive as a place to visit and perhaps even invest in.

In India, the one thing we all know is that the government is simply incapable of trying to shape the world’s perception of India – which is no fault of their own, but simply a characteristic of the society it has become. With such rapid proliferation and scrutiny by the media and civil society groups, the government is held accountable – and perhaps does a better job at it than the Opposition parties in India.

When we look at macro trends, the economic advantages India is going to derive over the next thirty or so years from its demographic profile are absolutely gigantic. As Professor Tarun Khanna of the Harvard Business School cited at the Summit – India will have a surplus of approx. 50 million skilled workers over the next few decades, whereas the rest of the world will have exactly the opposite.

Given this is the case, does it not stand that India has a fair chance of lapping China in this race to the top?

The Social Capital: Sumit Jamuar of Lloyds Banking Group

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 Sumit Jamuar from Lloyds Bank…

Sumit Jamuar is a managing director at Lloyds Banking Group. He joined the bank in 2003 and is currently responsible for cash and payments sales, trade finance and agency treasury services and global clients for financial institutions (FI), part of Lloyds Bank Corporate Markets.

1. Is giving important? Why?

Yes, it is. Balancing self with contributing positively to society is an important part of my upbringing and personal philosophy. I realise that I am immensely privileged and it is my obligation to give back to society when I am able to.

2. What charities do you personally support?

Personally, I don’t have one dedicated charity, but there are causes that are close to my heart. Being an Indian living in Britain, charities that help bring the two countries together in some way are in my view extremely valuable.

Specifically, charities connected to education, talent-development and sustainable-finance are also hugely important. Some of the initiatives that come to mind are Money for Life, Opportunities International, Pratham, Save the Children, and Sewa Day.

Additionally, my responsibilities as the chairman of the GEM Network within Lloyds are part of my commitment to contribute positively to society and the bank.

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

It was in the 1980s when there was a severe drought in India. With around 20 neighbourhood friends we organised and delivered a charity event where we raised about Rs 250 through selling tickets. We ended up meeting the Prime Minister at that time, Shri Rajiv Gandhi, to deliver the cheque for his relief fund.

Looking back, while the amount we raised was relatively small, I am proud that we worked hard and tried to contribute in our own way.

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

Bill Gates and N.R. Narayana Murthy are both phenomenal individuals who have contributed to society on a huge scale. Their application of their business skills to solve social problems is quite unique.

Within the Lloyds Banking Group I have always been influenced by Truett Tate, our vice-chairman – client coverage, who has been an inspirational leader with his relentless focus on contributing to society through charitable causes.

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

I don’t think a percentage really matters as long as you do it for the right reasons.

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

When I was young, someone taught me that I should give 10 per cent of my time to something that I am passionate about, to contribute to society without having any expectations in return. I have found that this approach has allowed me to be pleasantly surprised. These experiences have always enriched me, in many situations, in totally unexpected ways.

7. How do you decide whom to donate to? Does your family influence your decision?

It depends on the themes as outlined above, and on the person who is committing time to this cause.

8. What was the last charity fundraiser you attended? How much was raised there?

Recently at a senior leadership event we raised £10,000 for Save the Children, which is Lloyds Banking Group’s charity of the year.

9. Should charitable donations be private?

Yes, they should preferably be anonymous

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.

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.

Is the UK a corrupt nation?

That corruption in India is an issue is not news to anyone. Just look at the news headlines being generated by Anna Hazare’s attempt to reshape the Lokpal Bill. You see scores of everyday people piling in behind this, BUT…

What I’m dismayed about is the manner in which big business has keep out of the fray. In a country that accords celebrity status to the likes of the Ambani’s and other businessmen / promoter families, why is there such a deafening silence?

I’ve often canvassed opinion on the issue of corruption in India, and the overwhelming opinion of businessmen is that paying people off is justified as long as it progresses their matter! It’s the cost of doing business in India.

Aggrieved that I’m accusing their country of being a shady place, they quickly retort by asking rhetorically whether our business practices are cleaner and cite examples such as BAe systems case dropped by the Labour government in the national interest. Or more recently, the hacking scandal that’s engulfed the media industry. They also cite the parliamentary expenses scandal as another example in which the UK is as corrupt a society as India.

So, what’s your view?

10 things about the Mumbai blasts

So far, this is what we know:

1. Dadar is a congested area. Nationalist party, Shiv Sena have their HQ there. Dadar station is also a railway hub where people change trains to get home from work.
2. Zaveri Bazaar is a market which is located in South Mumbai, like Opera House area. Lots of people travel in rush hour from there. Zaveri Bazaar also houses many Gujarati businesses.
3. Opera House is a affluent area in South Mumbai. These attacks target everyone. Not just the poor.
4. Today is Kasab’s birthday, the only captured gun-slinging terrorist from the 2008 attacks.
5. Hillary Clinton is expected in India next week. Pakistan’s Foreign Minister is expected by the end of the month also.
6. The two groups – Indian Mujahaddin & Lashkar e Toiba have been fingered. It seems that two members of the former were arrested yesterday in Mumbai.
7. Pakistan’s President & PM must be tense at the moment. Hoping India keep their calm. They’ve expressed their sympathy.
8. Like I said previously, Pakistan doesn’t have a handle on its own security. Left hand doesn’t know what right hand does. Wouldn’t be surprised if this is the work of a sleeper unit that’s now termed as being ‘Indian’.
9. Attacks often give rise to communal tension, esp in Mumbai. Like last time, all communities will stand together, I’m sure. In 2008, Mumbai’s Muslims didn’t even allow for the killed terrorists to be buried in their graveyards!
10. More to follow…

My new column on ‘Giving’ at www.indiaincorporated.com

THE MOST IMPORTANT BIT ON THIS BLOG IS AT THE BOTTOM – DON’T FORGET TO READ IT.

I’m starting to write a new column on a popular website called India Incorporated (www.indiaincorporated.com) where I hope to interview high profile business leaders, professionals, and other such people on their views on their charitable interests and giving.

When researching and writing my book on Indian entrepreneurship, I was positively flabbergasted with the level of personal involvement that high profile people invest in giving back to good causes, which I found refreshing and inspiring. But, I wondered why we’d never read about such acts of kindness and generosity in our media. I know I’d be interested.

Was it because they felt that this was “private” i.e should not be spoken about? Well, no.

If you opened the Annual Report (which is a marketing document) of their businesses, you’d find sections on how they were making a social impact by leveraging their resources effectively – so my assumption that their charity was “private” proved to be wrong.

So, why is it that we don’t read about their views on the subject of ‘Giving’?

It’s this I hope to contribute.

What I need your help on is to compile a generic list of questions you’d like answered from business leaders on charitable giving. If you’d like to contribute, then please leave a comment at the end of this blogpost.

Thanks.

Vikas

Do Londoner’s care?

Have to congratulate Mayor Boris Johnson for launching the Team London initiative today with Samantha Cameron, Peter Andre, and Barbara Windsor in attendance today.

Whilst trying to model it on what Mike Bloomberg has done in New York, I’d like to encourage him to take a closer look at home for examples of success like Sewa Day (www.sewaday.org), which I’m totally supportive of.

Also, not really sure that they’ve set an ambitious target. If in year one Sewa Day managed to recruit 5,000 volunteers (of which the bulk were in London), I don’t see why the Team London team can’t stretch beyond the 10,000 target they’ve set. After all, BoJo’s volunteering czar – in her opening remarks outlined that volunteering seems to be in London’s DNA as 75% of all Londoners volunteered for good causes. If so, why just 10,000?

One of the good ideas that’s emerged is the recognition on ‘stars’ who go above & beyond the call of duty by pouring their time and resources to create a significant impact to a cause. I know there are many such awards, but you just can’t have enough of these – in such hard times, we need positive role models and inspiration to contribute to our local communities. For this reason, well done.

My only advice for the Team Londoners is to ensure this turns into a real, wide ranging, initiative that reaches out to all marginalised communities & utilises its best resources – it’s people.

Londoners do care. Wish you the very best.

KV Kamath – India’s Banker becomes Chairman of Infosys

Earlier today, it was announced that KV Kamath would become Chairman of Infosys – a major Indian and international IT services company that’s based in Bangalore.

In my book titled ‘India’s Inc – How India’s Top 10 Entrepreneurs Are Winning Globally’, I interviewed and included Kamath – although he wasn’t an entrepreneur per se – simply because he’d taken a boring, old world, finance institution and made it globally competitive – displaying all the traits that successful entrepreneurs display while building their businesses. In the book, I called him ‘India’s banker’ as ICICI had truly become a force in India. Their retail operations were slick, their corporate and investment bank delivered exceptional returns etc. The thing that truly marked him out, though, was his fascination with technology. He could have easily been the Chief Technology Officer for ICICI, such was his grasp of the potential technology held to provide a well deserved boost to his company.

For this reason, it came as no surprise that KVK, on retirement as CEO of ICICI, was asked to serve in Infy’s Board. So in many respects, this announcement also doesn’t come as a major surprise to the markets.

Interestingly, Narayana Murthy, founder and soon to retire Chairman of Infosys, also features in my book. Murthy’s known for many things but what stuck out was his commitment to retiring from Infosys as per the governance of the company. In many cases, such words are seen as niceties as it’s widely expected that their next generation will take over, so for this reason its important to mention and celebrate an entrepreneur who’s kept to his word on this – not that anyone has ever doubted it.

Recently, I’ve also read some of the media coverage around succession at Infosys in particular, which despite being interesting to ponder, is in fact a sign of things to come. Mr Murthy and his band of founders will retire soon. Whilst they claim that Infosys will thrive without them, Kamath’s appointment is a litmus test on their faith in the company that they’ve built.

It’ll be worth keeping an eye on Infosys, that’s for sure.