Interview with Aniisu K. Verghese, Corporate Communications & CSR, Tesco Bengaluru

Written by Rusen Kumar 

BANGALORE: Aniisu K Verghese is the Lead, Corporate Communications & CSR, Tesco Bengaluru, set up in the year 2004, the operations and technology centre for Tesco worldwide. It builds technology products and platforms, design stores and manage Finance and Retail Operations.

Rusen Kumar, Editor, India CSR talked with Aniisu K Verghese on various themes to understand his company vision on CSR and sustainable energy. Edited excerpt:

What are the areas that Tesco Bengaluru has been concentrating on as a part of its CSR initiatives?

CSR initiatives by Tesco Bengaluru revolves around three themes: Care for Nature (environment), Skills for life (skills for young people) and Youth for Ever (preventative healthcare).

Under the Care4Nature track we run environment-focused initiatives through the year. From regular Swachh Bharat cleaning drives to tree planting drives across the city, Tesco Bengaluru offers opportunities for colleagues to give back to the communities we serve while gaining life experiences and becoming well-rounded individuals. Other initiatives include setting up dustbins across the WEPPIA managed area, installing public e-toilets and sponsoring a project to install sustainable energy street light in parts of Whitefield.

Skills4Life: From digital literacy programme and setting up computer labs in the adopted government schools to workshops at BOSCO and Association for People with Disability, the passionate team work to up skilling young people. They achieve these tasks by maintaining regular engagements with schools and partner NGOs. We recently supported Agastya Foundation with 2 mobile vans that makes education accessible and fun by conducting and teaching less fortunate children subjects such as science.

Youth4Ever focuses on preventive health measures for disadvantaged communities. The team has conducted eye check-up camps in government schools and eye-pledging drive on campus for Tesco Bengaluru employees. We have partnered with Akshaya Patra Foundation to provide kitchen equipment that cooks nutritious mid-day meals for school-going children, and with Sankara Eye Hospital to provide vision-restorative surgeries to needy patients.

What prompted Tesco Bengaluru to choose sustainable energy street lights as a part of its CSR initiative?

We partner with the local communities and our volunteers discovered the need for street lighting in an adopted school we support and in the neighborhood. We therefore felt it important to provide a sustainable lighting system so that residents were able to go about their day-to-day activities with sufficient lighting. Having identified these areas, Tesco Bengaluru came forward to drive this initiative and contribute funds under its CSR programme to light up these locations in Whitefield with sustainable solar lights.

How were the villages identified to be worked on, under the initiative?

The volunteering team at Tesco Bengaluru identified a few locations that were in need of basic lighting. Our team had visited the Nallurahalli village for a tree plantation initiative and Gandhipuram for a street cleaning drive. During these projects, the team identified a dearth of basic lighting; also electric poles weren’t erected in these areas. Through initial interactions with the community, villagers expressed concerns about unlit roads at night making it difficult for them to go about their lives safely. To bridge this gap, Tesco Bengaluru installed 19 solar lights in public and learning spaces in the Gandhipuram and Nallurahalli villages. We also discovered that the school premises needed more lighting. After careful consideration, Nallurahalli Park, Nallurahalli Government School, Gandhipuram Village and Gandhipuram Government School were shortlisted as beneficiaries of this initiative.

Is Tesco Bengaluru single handedly involved in the implementation of the project?

The project was executed by Tesco Bengaluru in association with Rotary Bangalore IT Corridor Charitable Trust.

Can you elaborate on the Solar Lighting System project?

The project involved the supply, installation and commissioning of an effective solar powered lighting system with the latest technology such as lithium–ion batteries, efficient LED lights and solar panels with high levels of wattage.

The total number of street lights that were installed are 9 at Gandhipuram village, 9 at Nallurahalli village and 1 at the Nallurahalli Park.

The places chosen for installation are Government School, Park and Village area.

Sl. No. Name of the Place Kind No. of Lights
1 Nallurahalli Govt. School 5
2 Nallurahalli Park
3 Nallurahalli Park 1
4 Gandhipuram Govt. School 3
5 Gandhipuram Village area 6

Apart from the project agenda to provide street lights, were there any other parallel agenda of the project?

Specifically, for the beneficiary schools, the benefit has been two-fold: apart from significantly improving the lighting at the school premises, the installation of these solar lights have helped students learn about alternative power systems.

What was the impact noticed after completion of the project?

With the completion of this project, these public and learning spaces now have sustainable light. The villagers, especially women and children, feel safe walking at night. It has also helped in averting accidents caused due to the lack of lighting. There is also a significant improvement of lighting at the school premises and the programme has also contributed in helping students learn about the solar lighting system. The community members who have benefited from this programme have expressed how the installation of the lights has considerably helped in improving their quality of life.

Aniisu K. Verghese manages Corporate Communications & CSR for Tesco Bengaluru, the in-house technology and retail operations team of Tesco, one of the world’s largest retailers. He has over 17 years of experience with technology, financial services and consulting organizations’ such as Accenture and Oracle. Aniisu joined Tesco in 2013 helping develop a consistent communication strategy and plan for employee engagement, corporate social responsibility and branding. Prior to joining Tesco Aniisu served for five years as the Internal Communications Lead for Sapient, a US based consulting firm. He began his career with Leo Burnett as an advertising executive. Beside his Tesco employment, Aniisu is the IABC’s South India Chapter Board member and is passionate about engaging communicators and students through workshops, teaching assignments and blogging.  In 2003, he founded a road safety charity called Friends For Life and in 2012 he authored a book on Internal Communications – Insights, Practices and Models. He is the recipient of the 2015 PR Hall of Fame Award from the Public Relations Council of India.