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CSR bringing a positive change

One important lesson that corporate life has taught me is to always be hands-on. One should be ready to roll up the
sleeves and get back to the grind. This not only helps in acquiring a first-hand feel of the scenario on the ground but also makes a meaningful contribution.
As I gradually sink into my role as the head of CSR at the bank, apart from other responsibilities, I am applying the same maxim. Be hands-on, go out into the field, take feedback and opinions, understand the needs and then go about achieving the objectives.  Indeed these visits give one a completely different perspective, diverse from the life and surroundings that one is accustomed to in big cities. The travel allows me to directly interact with the people (the beneficiaries), the NGO partners and my colleagues in the corporate social responsibility in India team.
The philosophy of the Bank has always been to ‘give back’ to the ecosystem in which we operate; not by way of donations but by being partners in change, with all stakeholders. And our CSR Umbrella is suitably called ‘Parivartan’ or change. So far, the fruit of our efforts are the smiles of the beneficiaries; from the children to womenfolk to farmers. Not to forget, the immense satisfaction my colleagues and NGO partners derive from making a meaningful difference in society.
My approach towards CSR is not to look at it from the prism of just social responsibility, but from the perspective of bringing social change, which I believe is more holistic. And this can only come when all the stakeholders work in tandem to bring change that’s sustainable over a longer time horizon.
In my visits, I have seen that the community reciprocates when they know that we are in it with them for a long haul. The projects that we choose keep in mind the long term benefits rather than quick fixes. Sustainability is the key ingredient in some of our flagship programmes like HRDP (Holistic Rural Development Programme), 3T (Teaching-the-Teachers) to name a few. I truly believe that teachers need to be empowered to think of innovative ways of imparting education in classrooms.
In 3T, the belief is that teachers are an important part of Nation Building, for it is their efforts that shape the social and economic development of society. We are not talking about hi-tech innovation and technology application, but simple ideas that involve zero costs.
So for example, the game of Snake and Ladders is used by teachers to teach languages. Each square has an alphabet to teach students the alphabet and make a word out of it. Or the door being used to teach the concept of angles to young kids. This helps make the classroom environment more fun and enables students to revise any topic or subject.
This positive change in my view is best captured in the quote, “The best place to find a helping hand is at the end of your own arm.”

Views of the author are personal and do not necessarily represent the website’s views. This article appeared in our quarterly print magazine. To grab a copy, click here

Ashima Bhat, HDFC BankAshima Bhat is the Group Head, Business Finance, CSR, Infrastructure and Administration at HDFC Bank. A career banker, Ashima has been with HDFC Bank since its inception.