Bangalore: Two-and-a-half years ago, four graduates from Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani, got together, started writing, editing and publishing a magazine focused on the developmental sector in India. That experience culminated, some two months back, into a diversified consultancy service focused on the same space.
CSR initiatives: Sattva Media’s co-founder Vikram Rai. The consultancy designs CSR strategies for firms. Hemant Mishra / Mint
Bangalore-based Sattva Media Consulting Pvt. Ltd offers strategic and technical consultancy services to non-profit organizations to structure and scale them and to companies, to devise their corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes. The eponymous magazine sent out to a 1,500-member mailing list, is soon to be hosted online. While the magazine is free of cost, Sattva charges differential fees to non-profits and companies based on the hours spent.
Sattva counts New Delhi’s Udyogini, a non-profit for women empowerment, as a client. The engagement focuses on increasing Udyogini’s reach and impact fivefold—from 30,000 women today to 150,000—in as many years.
“The level of seriousness in non-profits has to match that of a company in terms of measurability, effectiveness,” says Vikram Rai, co-founder and director at Sattva. Rai switched from voluntary work to full time at Sattva after he quit his job as technical lead at International Business Machines Corp., better known as IBM, in December. With so much international funds going into non-profits, “…they (non-profits) have to justify the money put into them (non-profits)”.
Sattva, says Vanita Viswanath, secretary and chief executive officer of Udyogini, “has done an evaluation of our work over the last three-four years and come up with a business plan…with revenue streams and projections”. Udyogini engaged Sattva when its core donor, Interchurch Organisation for Development Cooperation from the Netherlands suggested it draw up a business plan.
Udyogini’s revenues come from training other non-profit organizations in women empowerment and from government bodies for connecting agriculturists and craftsmen to markets.
From the perspective of a business that wants to channel its CSR budgets better, Sattva eases that pain. Crimsonlogic India Pvt. Ltd, the Indian unit of a Singapore-based information technology services and consulting firm, has been involved in CSR initiatives since 2001. But donations were made in the last minute and on an ad hoc basis until now, says Sunitha Rao, a senior executive in human resources at the firm. “…a third person brings in structure,” she says.
After Crimsonlogic engaged Sattva in April, the consultancy identified a beneficiary for the tech firm’s CSR initiative: Parmanand Educational Trust, an unaided trust in North Bangalore that runs a school for children of vegetable hawkers and flower vendors, among others. Crimsonlogic, which has a Rs1 lakh CSR annual budget, will not just donate funds for the school but also allow its employees to spend time as teachers there.
With Rai being the sole full timer and a handful of part timers and consultants, Sattva is struggling to cope up with work that is fast rushing in. Alongside, it is also doing the groundwork to approach angel investors and venture capitalists for funds with expansion plans on the horizon for the consultancy; the amount is yet to be finalized.
But Vineet Rai, CEO of Aavishkaar Venture Management Services Pvt. Ltd, a venture fund that invests in start-ups that promote development, is sceptical of Sattva’s scalability and sustainability.
“Corporate social responsibility’s sustainability is questionable…funds for it dry up the fastest when the economy is down,” he says.
While market size numbers are not available, it is an extensive landscape given the thousands of non-profit organizations and even more number of companies involved in CSR in India. What helps Sattva is that there are few focused competitors in the market with large consultancies such as McKinsey and Co. offering pro bono consulting and individuals working as one-man shows.