SAP Labs engages its employees to volunteer in SAP One Billion Lives and Code Unnati programmes. The SAP One Billion Lives social entrepreneurship initiative, Code Unnati, digital literacy and empowerment initiative and its month of service.
In an interview with Apresh Mishra, Sindhu Gangadharan, its SVP and MD, Gunjan Patel, Head- CSR, SAP APJ and India discuss company’s CSR vision, volunteering, activities and impact. Excerpts:
Tell us about CSR activities led by SAP Labs?
Sindhu Gangadharan: One of our programs on Digital Literacy is Code Unnati- the partnership between a corporate as well as the customers and employees where we aim at driving the purpose led impact focused in the regions that we operate.
The second aspectfor Labs is creating a culture of innovation built upon that from a CSR point of view. Some of the aspects we look at are driving social entrepreneurship with the help of accelerator programs.
The larger context around this vision is to connect the employees with our purpose and this is done with the help of our Month of Service program that involves employee volunteering where we contribute through their skills, time and passion so that it aligns with the vision of SAP Labs.
We also have thought leadership as our focus in India as we contribute to the Digital India by driving the awareness and helping the society in building up the skills around technology. This helps in building a pool of passionate employees. So mainly in everything that we do, we are also making sure that our employees are coming together and driving a very tactful purpose driven work culture that we are very passionate and proud of.
What is your contribution towards Digital India and STEM education to the youth? Are there any other activity areas that you are into?
Sindhu Gangadharan: We have an extensive pan India program around Digital Literacy and STEM Education. The latter one is something we absolutely are very passionate about.
We are launching an initiative called Girls Power Techand we are driving Code Unnatithat was launchedin 2017 and which has created a phenomenal impact across the country. Apart from that, we are also working towards women empowerment.
Women make up 40% of the world’s workforce, as it is a male dominated field across all levels, and this is also why we have been focused on looking at initiatives for girl students coming from weaker socio-economic backgrounds and giving them an opportunity to come into the corporate world by launching Girls Power Tech. The aim of this initiative is to inspire girls from the weaker socio-economic backgrounds to take up careers in STEM. We are tapping into colleges from North Karnataka region to being with and targeting students who are already pursuing STEM Education, be it BSc. or Computer Application.
Of course we are spread across the country but we want to start in Northern Karnataka and we are looking at bringing students for an internship program and during this internship program they can benefit from a lot of things like career mentoring and project experience to inspire them to have a career in technology by training them on latest technologies and career enhancing skills which sometimes unfortunately they do not have access to even if they are the brightest and meritorious students.
How does the employee volunteering fit into your scheme of things with regard to CSR?
Sindhu Gangadharan: Code Unnati, has a huge impact and the most integral big part of it is through our own employees’ passion and it is also how can we give them a purposeful working environment here and a lot of these programs are so successful because of the self-driven nature of our employees who want to create that social impact in the societies we operate in.
We focus our attention on how we are driving some of these initiatives globally but also in the regions we operate in, like India. For example, this is the 15th year of Month of Service and the 2019 Month of Service was focused on six broad areas and completely based on employees’ passion and purpose of service. Some of these areas were education and digital literacy where we looked at education, startup mentorship and partnering with government schools in the areas we operated, like Bangalore, Pune, Mumbai, Gurgaon and Hyderabad.
Our Month of Service is very popular with our employees. We have almost 10,000 employees volunteering (repeat participation), with 77,000 volunteering-hrs, impacting more than 250,000 lives
In these areas we went to the local schools, supported them in education and other related things they needed support on. The second pillar was around health awareness and sensitization because we also created a lot of health checkup camps, disseminating information on basic health awareness, particularly sanitation and also sensitization of sanitation measures. Moreover, blood donation camps were organized, and lot of our employees had been deeply involved in these activities. The third one was around sports – leveraging sports as a means of development and engagement with children with the help of design thinking team building exercise and social awareness sessions.
We also fostered community inclusion, by engaging with people with disabilities and sensitizing some of the cultural aspects that we deal with in India as we have a high level of diversity in terms of the regions we operate in as well.
Then the other pillar which we focus on is on sustainability and environment. We are very proud of some of our activities like sapling plantation, rejuvenation activities and so on. Last but not the least, disaster management is a strong focus here where we went in and supported the affected communities through counseling and taking care of things like first-aid, medicines, food. So, employee’s passion and driving the purposeful service is something that was at the core of this and the Month of Service is where we start from the Board to all the levels. We have that focus and we drive a concentrated effort across these areas but for us at SAP Labs, this is a yearlong activity where we call out people and make sure that they participate in huge numbers.
How do you engage employees?
Gunjan Patel: Our CSR practices are not hierarchical but based on employee’s passion. The unique aspect of our CSR is that our employees and leadersvolunteer together. We have a platform called SAP Together which tends to popularize or socialize our efforts. Code Unnati is the initiative that we are very proud of. Code Unnati program established around 1400 training centers and employees engage into skills-based teaching or mentorship through these centers. In all SAPhas trained around 1.08 Million children & adolescents and around 5275 teachers on digital skills since the launch of Code Unnatiin June 2017.
Talking about governance, each quarter the leadership team and relevant stakeholders come together to look at the impact we are creating for the effort we are putting in.What are the impacts, how are we mentoring the KPIs, what is the change that we are seeing out of it, all these aspects are evaluated on a quarterly basis and this information goes to the Board.
What are the benefits that the corporates get if they engage their employees in social activities?
Sindhu Gangadharan: We are not looking at it as the benefits that we would get because we are doing this for the society. We want to be a part of the welfare system for the society and give back to the society, that is at the core of everything that we do. One of the reason we are the best place to work in India for multiple years in a row is also because people find a purpose.
Besides coming and building the world’s best product, they are able to influence the change in society and drive that kind of impact. This is the reason people feel so energized to come to work and bring technological advancements to their product which can bring the change in the society that they operate in. I am a strong believer of how technology can help drive the needed change in the society.
Our employees are also passionate about bringing in some of these capabilities like AI or ML or whatever be it into the core of our solutions because the more they are closer to the kind of social challenges we face, the more driven they are to bring about the change needed. For example, we are using our technology to create a flood warning system, that can help quickly evacuate people from flood prone areas – a sort of early warning system. This is the beauty, once people are upfront and close to the purpose, they are driven,and this is why we are the top employer as our employees feel passionate about working for SAP.
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