Infosys’ commitment to giving back can be gauged by the fact that the company became one of the first in the country to abide by the new stricture of spending 2% of their average net profit on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities. On July 11 this year, Infosys donated Rs 240 crore this fiscal to its philanthropic arm, Infosys Foundation. Set up in 1996, the non-profit trust works across sectors, including healthcare, education, culture, destitute care and rural development.
“Of course, my thinking was influenced from the years I worked at the Tata Group. They are my heroes,” says Sudha Murthy, chairperson of Infosys Foundation, and wife of Infosys co-founder N R Narayana Murthy. “Years back, my 16-year old daughter Akshata, who was a scribe for a blind student, asked me if I could sponsor the student who wanted to study at St Stephens in Delhi. I asked her that since she is so interested why she herself doesn’t sponsor him. She then told me something which made me think. She said: Amma, what good is our life if we cannot really help others”
This chat with her daughter led Sudha to discuss the idea of setting up a philanthropic arm with her husband. By then, Narayana Murthy who was already considering setting up a foundation, asked his wife to head it. In the last 17 years, Infosys has donated Rs 20-25 cr every year to the foundation. In these years, Infosys Foundation has spent 20-25% of this amount on mid-day meal programmes for students in government schools, another 20% each in helping build schools and in healthcare, and the remaining on promoting fine arts and culture.
“With us getting Rs 240 cr, we have decided to spend Rs 50-60 crore on mid-day meals, and another Rs 50 crore on education,” says Murthy. In April this year, as required by New Companies Act, Infosys constituted a four-member panel, including independent directors KV Kamath, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw and R Seshasayee and the then CEO SD Shibulal to oversee all CSR activities done through the Infosys Foundation.
“Our focus remains on mid-day meals and education. We realised that if you provide children with healthy, nutritious food, then there is a drastic fall in drop outs. We see more children come to school,” says 64-year old Murthy, who travels over 200 days in a year, to oversee the work undertaken by the foundation.
The foundation works across 30 districts in Karnataka where in addition to helping provide schools with computers it has also helped build 60,000 school libraries. It also works in some districts in Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra. Recently, the Foundation expanded its presence to North India, by starting with Rajasthan where it provides mid-day meals and clean drinking water.
“I want to work now in the North because until now, we had little money to work there. In fact, for the first time, I’m going to the North-East, where Infosys (Foundation) does not even have a presence,” says Murthy.
Murthy says that aim of her foundation’s work is not to help build Brand Infosys. “On the contrary, the villages where we work, people have not even heard of Infosys. They all think of me as a teacher.” The foundation, in the past, has also taken up relief work at various calamity-affected areas of Tamil Nadu, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh. Murthy says that the foundation may not get “mileage” because of the remote areas where it works in, but that’s not what it aspires for, anyhow.