Latha Pandiarajan a Chartered Accountant is the co-founder of Ma Foi Management Consultants; India’s first and largest internationally acclaimed human resource Management Company, based out of Chennai. Ma Foi initially focused on placing middlelevel managers in the Middle East. It then started offering all the businesses under HR Services which made them the No.1 HR services provider in India. In 2002 they partnered with the Dutch HR Company, Vedior which took a majority stakes in them. This helped them to expand in various countries and they had 70 offices in India and had their presence in 18 countries. In 2007 Randstad acquired Vedior for US$5.14 billion and hence Ma Foi became a part of Randstad.
Latha Pandiarajanshares with Marie BanuMa Foiprogrammes and her pleasant moments.
What was your vision when you launched Mafoi?
We started MaFoi in 1992 when HR is not even an industry. It was more on personal management and there were only few recruitment companies. It wasn’t very professional as some used to take money from candidates to place. Looking at all this, we wanted to be in this space as there is lot more you can do here.My husband Mr. Pandiarajan belongs to this industry and I am a Chartered Accountant. Hence,we thought this combination would work well. I always had a passion to work for HR and to work with people.So, it blended well.
Ma Foi is a French word meaning “My Word”. I thought that it symbolised trust, what we really wanted to say in terms of integrity. That’s how we started. The vision was to make a change and we were pioneers in this industry. It was exciting and at the same time bearing the pioneers cross.
Right from day one we always believed in two things: institution has to be built on values and the institution will be run by people. We took people from different industries and trained them.
Initially, it had its own challenges. We started with only 60,000 rupees. Banks did not recognize us and they were not giving us over draft facilities. We kept growing and always had the drive to grow large because more than anything size matters as it is only then that people sit and listen to you.
I can really say from my own experience that this is very true. We struggled to get an overdraft of one lakh rupees and it is so ironical that when you become big the same bank assigns a relationship manager to handle your account and it is very easy to even get 100 crores from the bank.
About MaFoiand its charitable activities?
We donated 5000 rupees —our first profit from Ma Foito Banyan.Initially we started supporting children in the Sivakasi belt. At the end of 1993, we launched the Trust.As the organization started growing, we had a lot of people helping us and wanting to do many things. Hence, in 1997 we started the Ma Foi Foundation. More employees started to volunteer and take part.
Any organization does not sustain only on profits. It is much more than that.
Can you tell us about your Projects?
We always wanted to look at our programmes holistically. Our focus wason education, health care and women empowerment for sustainable livelihoods. For education, we started the programme under the brand ‘Disha’ meaning ‘showing the way’. Health care was carried out by Ekam. It was initially incubated by Ma Foi and when it started growing large, we spun it off as a separate Trust. For women, we worked through Sornam Trust. Each of these Trusts help each other.We conduct medical camps for our children through Ekam, and for women who are poor and cannot afford their children’s education – they are supported through Disha.
The idea was to look at a family as a whole so that people can move from one level to another. When you look at it holistically, it becomes easier to deal with.
You have been actively involved in the social sector for a few years. Can you share some memorable moments?
I have a lot of pleasant memories. What is very close to my heart is our project ‘Gems of Disha’. This programme focuses on children who are not studying well.
We had initially supported children who were studying in eighth standard in corporation schools. We worked along with the respective School Principals and conducted weekend classes for the weak children.
One day, when we wanted to expand the project, we identified students who were not studying well and were abused and mocked at. We then decided to work with the last 10 students in eighth standard and mentor them.Instead of having teachers, we invited students who had passed out from the same corporation school and were studying in college to come in the evenings to teach these children. We asked them to first spend time listening to the children and then slowly start teaching. They could related well and we paid them a pocket money of 1500 rupees a month. We took 60 children in the first batch and my greatest satisfaction was when 52 of them cleared the board examination. Most of them who used to get single digit marks are now in College.