Fiinovation has been working for almost seven years with the sole objective of bringing change on ground and not only on paper. Its initiatives are based on the triple bottom line approach wherein Fiinovation ensures that positive impact is being created in social, economic and environmental areas. The initiatives are designed on the result based management framework with special emphasis on sustainability
IndiaCSR News Network
NEW DELHI: Soumitro Chakraborty is the CEO at Fiinovation. He shared his company’s vision and works in the CSR research & Consultancy. Rusen Kumar, Editor IndiaCSR talked with Soumitro .
Here is the edited excerpts of the interview:
Please tell us About Fiinovation
Fiinovation was established in 2008 as a research based organization. It is an integrated solution enabler for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and sustainability. It is known for having Asia’s first proposal research laboratory primarily focused on health, education, livelihood and environment.
With the help of the team, Fiinovation aims to enhance quality through innovation and extensive work across organizational value chain. Over the years, the organization has successfully created a niche for itself in the CSR domain.
Please tell us about the Company’s journey under your leadership
The journey started about seven and a half years back , in 2008 , where a small team of three individuals led by me. The journey was put forth in motion with the idea that maybe its tomorrow or day after but corporate social responsibility will have to take the centre stage, with this theme and spine the company involved itself at micro levels of engagements in various social development sector paradigms but keeping the focus on primarily in engagements with corporations involved in Corporate Social Responsibility domain.
Also the focus was on raising the awareness for companies to get involved into Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives as a part of not philanthropy giving but as a part of accountability management. To add to this, Company’s Act which got embedded in 2013 only, facilitated and catalyzed the growth of Fiinovation into many folds.
We started our journey with engaging on Policy Advisory level, Initiative Designing level but later on with a realization that the corporation were not only seeking advice but were seeking partnerships with Fiinovation in order to implement and direct their social responsibility initiatives, Fiinovation got involved in 2010-11 with Project Implementation as well.
This lead to the second birth of Fiinovation and team expanded to 50-60 odd individuals. Meeting this demand we scaled new heights following which it was understood that corporations will have to look at collaborations, mergers and long term sustainable partnerships with civil society organizations which was the third phase of Finnovation’s growth story and hence forth in 2012, the team expanded to about 100 individuals and we started our journey again with a new spirit, with a new understanding.
Today where we are , with the kind of base of clients and base of corporations as partners, is largely because of the journey and constructive engagement led by Chakrborty and his team has enabled the overall sector to gather a substantial meaning.
We are glad that within a short span, the company has been appreciated and acknowledged for its efforts in the social arena both nationally and internationally. It has also been given opportunities to share platform with large institutions as knowledge partners at various occasion. wehave given an opportunity to be a Committee Member for the CII Northern Region: Regional Committee on Affirmative Action. Certainly, steering this ‘Ship of Hopes’ has been a ever learning phase which each member endures.
What is the business philosophy at Fiinovation?
Fiinovation is based on the principles of innovation, practicality and simplified solutions. Our belief is to provide simplistic, yet effective solutions which are implementable and would sustain for societal development in the long run. Our service-methodologies has supported us in assisting corporations to design, implement and report projects through civil society organisations (CSOs). Alongside, the assistance is also provided to the CSOs on facilitating funds for the projects, optimum utilization of available resources and capacity building of their staff for greater impact.
The developing economy of India is experiencing a widening gap between human development index and industrial profits. In order to bridge the gap between the two, the government of India introduced the new Companies Law. This has opened doors for a wide spectrum of opportunities for the CSOs and corporations to work collectively on a common platform and find implementable and simplified solutions to societal issues.
What are the key areas of Fiinovation research consultancy?
Fiinovation is proud to be Asia’s first CSR research consultancy. The practices at Fiinovation include CSR portfolio management, CSR-CSO partnership, initiative design, initiative management, monitoring & evaluation, impact assessment and sustainability reporting. Having a pool of over 4000 NGOs, Fiinovation has been working towards facilitating a connect between the right NGO with the corporation.
Kindly throw light on mission and motives of operation?
The corporations have today realized the necessity of developing the society in which it operates besides generating profit. This has increased their involvement in lending funds for improvement of the community at large. However, their good deeds face bottlenecks due to lack of expertise in monitoring, implementation and evaluation of utilization of funds, which are crucial in assessing whether any real change is being brought on ground.
Similarly, the CSOs or the organizations working for societal development on ground, are unable to implement the projects, and thus, are forced to discontinue their operations. This is where Fiinovation stands as a link between the requirement and the need. Based on modern concepts and tailor made projects, Fiinovation suggests corporations on ways of allocating funds in a particular project – from implementation, monitoring and evaluation to its assessment – Fiinovation ensures funds are followed by on-ground impact.
Kindly tell about the area and aspects of CSR consulting.
Fiinovation has been working for almost seven years with the sole objective of bringing change on ground and not only on paper. Its initiatives are based on the triple bottom line approach wherein Fiinovation ensures that positive impact is being created in social, economic and environmental areas. The initiatives are designed on the result based management framework with special emphasis on sustainability.
We have different practices (as mentioned earlier) that help ensure these objectives are met. As part of a niche industry such as CSR, which has only started to gain ground, it is understandable that it will take time for the change to really take effect, but the process has started.
Why you chose the area of CSR consulting?
Our social development sector experience suggested that in order to create greater impact, there needs to be proper research and consultation towards creating a platform to channelise the CSR investments in the right direction. Today, many corporations are finding it difficult to align their business objectives with the CSR goals. Whereas many civil society organizations are languishing without funds. It is important to strategize a plan that addresses the challenges of all the stakeholders.
How it bridged the gap between businesses and communities?
When we develop a CSR policy for a corporation, we try to align their business objectives with social imperatives. We also advise them to implement their CSR initiatives with the help of civil society organizations who are experts in their own domain like the corporations who are experts in their own field. Thus, we forge a partnership between corporations and civil society. This partnership directly impacts the communities who are the ultimate beneficiaries of the CSR initiatives.
What are the challenges you faced?
Every start up faces its own set of challenges and so did we. But what made our hurdles even more challenging was we came from a very niche domain, where in we not only had to make people aware about our services but hand hold them towards comprehending the importance of CSR. One can gauge the difficulty from the fact that a handful, of about 100 companies, were involved in CSR. It proved to be a task for us to make others take the social development sector seriously.
We concentrated our focus on sectoral research in our in-house proposal research laboratory bringing in sectoral professionals in our team. To further spread the word around, we shared our views at various national and international conferences while lending views on the importance of CSR and sustainability with industry leaders and CSR professionals. This interactions helped us in bringing out the best research and strategies.
What are the recent achievements of the research firm?
Within a short span of time, we have been acknowledged at international and national platforms. We have been declared ‘CSR Team of the Year’ at the Global CSR Excellence & Leadership Awards 2015 and ‘Caring Company Award’ at the World CSR Congress 2015 in Mumbai.
Apart from this, we were adjudged the ‘Manager of the Year’ & ‘Best Enterprise of the Year – in the field of Health, Education, Environment and Livelihood with a focus on CSR & Sustainability’ Socrates Awards by European Business Assembly – Summit of Leaders 2014 at Oxford. We were also adjudged the ‘Best Innovation: Product or Service’ for CSR & Sustainability at the World CSR Congress 2014 held in Mumbai, India.
How do you visualize the future of CSR consultancy in India?
CSR is here to stay, especially after the recent mandate by the government. Even though it is still evolving and at a nascent stage, corporations will now actively get involved on ground while CSOs have been presented with a huge opportunity to get the support they have been looking for.
As a CSR consultancy, we also have to continuously evolve with time with new innovative ideas and strategies that are implementable. We also need to meet the expectations of both the corporations as well as the civil society organizations.
It is a talked about sector and a much needed one for the degradation that the society at large is facing, the effects of which will be witnessed in times to come if nothing is done now. We believe CSR is the way forward.