Sudha Murthy, Infosys Foundation | ‘Technology and learning can greatly amplify human potential’

When the Companies Act made spending on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) compulsory for businesses in 2013, she exclaimed: “I wish this had happened 18 years ago. I could have got so much done.” Read this interview with Sudha Murthy, the Chairperson of Infosys Foundation, to know how the company has been striving to build a more equitable society since about two decades.

The Infosys Foundation was set up in 1996. what was the objective behind it and are you satisfied with what you have achieved?

Infosys has been an early adopter of CSR initiatives. fiscal 2017 marked the 20th anniversary of the foundation’s journey of transforming the lives of communities in need across India. Since its inception, the foundation through its grant-making and partnerships with individuals, government bodies and competent non-governmental bodies has fostered a sustainable culture of development in the areas of health care, promotion of education and eradication of hunger, rural development, art and culture and destitute care across the remotest regions of India.

Infosys foundation was established to support the less privileged sections of society, create opportunities and strive towards a more equitable society. The foundation is committed to the communities in which it operates.

Infosys foundation has implemented programmess in Karnataka, and subsequently extended its coverage to Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar, Delhi, Gujarat, Jammu & Kashmir, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Uttarakhand, West Bengal, among other states.

In terms of whether we are satisfied with what we have achieved so far, that depends on the projects we have undertaken—we have exceeded on some initiatives, we have met expectations on some. On very few projects, we have not been satisfied with the outcome. However, these have been good learning experiences for us.

How do you view the corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) clause in the companies Act 2013? Any changes you would recommend?

CSR is a large part of our overall sustainability policy, encompassing social, economic and environmental actions. Infosys foundation was set up with a vision to boosting our CSR initiatives; this was long before the Companies Act 2013. The first thing I said when the law was announced was: “I wish this had happened 18 years ago. I could have got so much done.”

What are the key areas Infosys Foundation focuses on?

Infosys foundation supports programmes in the areas of education, rural development, health care, arts and culture, and destitute care.

Please elaborate on your plans for financial year 2017-18.

In FY18, we aim to continue investing our resources and applying our expertise to bring about a meaningful difference to the communities around us.

During the year, we are working on building dharmashalas in various parts of the country, upgrading hospitals and constructing infrastructure in educational institutions. We are also partnering with several organizations for initiatives related to sanitation for eliminating hunger in classrooms through mid-day meal projects. Some of the other key initiatives will include sponsorships of libraries and developmental initiatives to combat water shortage issues.

Tell us about your employee engagement programme if any?

As a corporation, Infosys is also committed to supporting and nurturing employees and their work for the community. The company supports the volunteering efforts of employees through employee led CSR groups and eco-groups across campuses.

Do you have an employability programme for the underprivileged youth?

Yes, some of the recent initiatives in this space include:

  • The Foundation’s partnership with Central Institute of Plastics Engineering and Technology (CIPET) in Bhubaneswar to provide vocational training by imparting skills, competency and employability training to the underprivileged under the Skill Development Training Programme along with enabling these students with appropriate jobs after completing their training.
  • We have also partnered with Shivaganga Samagra Gramvikas Parishad in Indore to support their work on the sustainable development of 1,300 tribal villages of Jhabua-Alirajpur districts of Madhya Pradesh and to run skill development programmes that empower the tribal youth.
You collaborate with different NGOs for execution of your programmes. how do you find the implementing agencies in terms of commitment and dedication?

Infosys foundation partners with non-government organisations (NGOs) to make a difference among local communities. We receive requests for funding of projects through the calendar year. Our panel of experts evaluates proposals in the areas of culture, destitute care, education, health care and rural development. We prioritise projects by assessing their impact, and match funding requirement with availability of funds in our corpus.

Do you also partner with government agencies and departments? Are you contributing in the central Government programmes like Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Beti Bachao Beti Padhao Programme, etc.?

Sanitation has always been a key focus area for the foundation. We have invested in building over 13,000+ toilets across the country over the years. We have also partnered with the Government, and in line with the central and state Government’s initiatives for a clean India, the Infosys foundation grants are being utilised for the construction of toilets. Under the Swachh Vidyalaya programme, the foundation has successfully completed the construction of 365 separate and fully functional toilets for boys and girls in 110 schools.

Tell us about your CSR programmes in countries other than India?

Infosys foundation USA is focused on bridging the digital divide in America. It aims to give children, young adults and workers across the United States the skills they need to become not just consumers but creators of technology. The Infosys foundation USA supports computer science education and training, with the belief that technology and learning can greatly amplify human potential.