Executive Chairman of Usha Menon Management Consultancy (Asia), Usha Menon in conversation with Deputy Editor, IndiaCSR, Bilal Hussain.
IndiaCSR News Network
Usha Menon is the Executive Chairman of Usha Menon Management Consultancy (Asia), an international training and consultancy service working exclusively with social-impact organisations across Asia. Her multi-country client list include International NGOs, charities, corporates, think-tanks, UN entities, associations, social enterprises, foundations, philanthropists, capability building organizations, amongst others.
She is a keen observer and an active global participant of this sector for the past 26 years. Usha brings a wealth of multi-country experience, non-for-profit management expertise and insights on leadership, cross-sector engagement and philanthropy. She has presented, trained, inspired and consulted across the globe in over 30 countries. Previously, she has held leadership positions at the National Council of Social Services in Singapore/Community Chest and Habitat for Humanity International as the Asia-Pacific Director for Regional Programs and Resource Development covering 26 countries. Usha is presently based in Singapore.
You have been into fundraising from long; tell us about your experience in and outside India.
My early fundraising exposure came from watching my father who was a philanthropist and also very engaged in community resource mobilisation in Maharashtra, India. Later I lived in Indonesia and then Singapore where I volunteered to help raise funds for local charities. That’s how I found my ‘calling’ and so the past 26 years I have worked in and for the non-profit sector across Asia. Of these, for 20 years I held leadership positions at the Community Chest in Singapore that is an umbrella organisation that raise funds for local charities and then at Habitat for Humanity International as their Director for Regional Program and Resource Mobilisation covering over 20 countries in Asia. Over the recent 6 years I have the fabulous opportunity to shape social –impact organisations by providing training and consultancy in the areas of leadership advancement, strategy development as well as fundraising capability building.
Have you raised funds by using budget allocations of big companies towards Corporate Social Responsibility?
Oh yes, however the budget allocation comes from various sources based on the corporate’s maturity.
It is a journey the corporate sector across countries and cultures take when it comes to social responsibility is similar. They follow and specific path that begins with those who do ‘Corporate Charity’ at the base of the pyramid . Lots of SMEs are in that phase. Likewise some of the larger family run business operates at this level. Nothing wrong with that because one needs to learn to walk before one can run.
Then, as these businesses grow their main motivation is to ensure they have the licence-to-operate within a community. At this stage the Marketing/ Branding requirements dictate their ‘Corporate Sponsorships’ direction, which gets packaged as social responsibility.
Having gone through that phase, many corporates get more sophisticated in their business and in their understanding of social responsibility. They begin to understand the concept of ‘Sustainability’. They start with their own sustainability in mind and apply practises that are good for their bottom –line and what is needed to become compliant (eg: Companies Act requirements or B2B demands) . The realisation and understanding that people and planet are intrinsically linked to their profit soon kicks in. This realisation helps incorporate CSR into their business processes and they being to see the benefits and the responsibility of doing good, well. At this point they are mature enough to look beyond immediate needs.
They begin to see the value of collective impact. They see the need to be part of an eco-system that will sustain the profit, people and the planet. This is entities they begin to internalise the concept of shared-value- creation. Iconic brands in India like Amul and Fab India would be good examples of such collective impact through solid business models.
These stations of the Corporate’s journey is not one where a stage starts and the other stops. There will be overlaps. For example while they do Corporate Sponsorships by supporting a cause to get visibility and brand recognition from their marketing budget, they will also start looking at sustainable ways of Social Responsibility that looks at all aspects of how they do business.
Are there any specific requirements from corporates when it comes to reporting on CSR funded projects?
It’s futile to talk about reporting requirements if these factors are not been part of the overall process. For example in India to comply with the Companies Act, 2013, Clause 135, the Corporate needs to have a CSR committee of the Board and they would have:
• formulated and recommend a CSR policy to the board, indicating the activities as specified in Schedule VII of the Act
• recommend the amount of expenditure to be incurred on the activities indicated in the policy
• develop a monitoring plan for the CSR policy regularly
So for the collaboration with an implementing partner it is important for both sides to know what the specifics are, the validity / relevance of it and to agree on what needs to be reported.
Do you think good Corporate Social Responsibility will benefit corporates in long run?
CSR would help Corporate in both the short and long term, if they look at it “not as what we do with our profits’ but as ‘how is our profit made’. An enlightened organization that is aware and committed to its social, environmental and economic responsibilities of business will surely be a better ‘brand’ for the equally enlightened B2B partners and consumers.
Your views on mandatory CSR in India?
As Gandhi-ji said “The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world’s problem”. I believe the mandatory CSR in India provides a strong push to help us get a feel of what we are capable of doing and hopefully in the near future it is not just a box-ticking/ compliance activity but a genuine maturing of our community – both the corporate sector, policy makers and the NGOs.
Do you help small community based NGOs to raise funds?
I have been fortunate to help a whole range of organization across a whole range of geography across Asia to become strong in their ability to mobilise resources to meet their mission. Do I raise it for them? – I don’t. Do I help them to do it themselves so that they don’t need me all the time spoon-feeding them when it comes to fundraising? – that’s the mission of my work.
(Note: Presently Bilal Hussai is not associated with India CSR Network)