Sankalp Dutta Nagar, an analyst at HCL, is giving back to society by teaching children, especially girls from underprivileged backgrounds, karate. A black belt himself, Nagar trains more than 70 children of the Shahpur community in Noida in two 4-hour-long sessions on weekends.

Noida-based Nagar, 40, believes it is important to direct individual passion towards social causes. “I see karate as a very good medium to channel energy in a positive direction. It is especially relevant to young girls in today’s society as it gives them techniques to defend themselves," says Nagar.

Power of One

Nagar’s endeavour began in 2014, when he volunteered to provide karate training as part of the HCL Foundation’s “Power of One" programme. Under this initiative of the company’s philanthropic arm, over 40,000 employees contribute 1 daily from their salaries for social causes. It offers employees a platform to volunteer among less privileged communities by devoting an hour, a day, a week or a year to community service activities such as teaching, counselling, mentoring, or leading sensitization and awareness drives.

The foundation provided mats to facilitate the karate training as well as financial assistance to help students register for competitions. Nagar’s seniors allowed him flexible working hours and leave whenever required for training or travelling. The HCL Foundation also published Nagar’s story on social media as recognition of his effort.

“It has truly been an overwhelming experience for me as I have been duly recognized and rewarded for my community work at various forums," says Nagar.

According to Nidhi Pundhir, HCL Foundation head and corporate social responsibility (CSR) director at HCL, working within local communities adds value for both the company and the employees, and increases the “social quotient". These days, she says, employees are interested in workspaces that offer them a platform to give back to society. “The general sense of giving and contributing is way high now," she says. “Employees engage and stay much longer because they feel there is as a sense of purpose both in their job and private life."

To encourage employees like Nagar, Pundhir says the foundation works closely with its senior business leaders to ensure visibility of programmes across the organization. “We design and organize major volunteering activities on Saturdays, which is a day off for most employees, and it also gives them a chance to participate along with friends and family members," she says.

The “Power of One" initiative began with a group of employees collecting funds that were then used for small employee-driven projects like teaching math in schools or taking care of destitute animals. Later, the company streamlined the system, linking the contribution to its payroll system.

Photo: HCL Foundation
Photo: HCL Foundation

My Scholar

The 1 contribution is also mapped to HCL’s “My Scholar" initiative, to award scholarships and provide quality support to meritorious students from economically challenged backgrounds, especially from families with income levels below 2.4 lakh per annum. The beneficiaries are usually children of people from HCL’s own supply chain, such as housekeeping, security and support staff.

Seventeen-year-old Nisha Sharma, one of the beneficiaries of the “My Scholar" initiative, may not have dreamt of becoming a cardiologist if she hadn’t been able to afford coaching at a private institute for two years to crack the medical school examination. Sharma, whose father has been working with HCL as a security guard for five years, was able to repay her medical entrance coaching loan with the financial assistance he received through the scholarship. “Without this assistance, my dreams of becoming a doctor seemed surreal," says Sharma, who now studies at the Patna Medical College in Bihar.

Pundhir says the scholarship programme, under the “Power of One" initiative, seeks to ensure the educational development of students like Sharma. There is even a mentoring component, with every scholar being paired with an HCL employee. “They function as a support system for the scholars and provide guidance, motivation and emotional support," says Pundhir.

Volunteering Warriors is a series that looks at how companies are fostering a culture of engaging with communities.