IT industry is uniquely positioned to leverage its core competencies to enable NGO partners to scale and sustain their social development programs

Shri. Chandrasekaran has over 25 years of experience in the global information technology industry. Currently, Chandrasekaran is the Group Chief Executive, Technology & Operations at Cognizant, which is a part of the NASDAQ 100 and S&P 500 indices, and the Fortune 500 list. His experience spans key functions such as corporate strategy, customer relationship management, business development and operations management.
Chandrasekaran has been associated with Cognizant since its founding in 1994, propelling its growth into a global delivery organization, spearheading newer solutions and championing crucial process initiatives. As an Executive Officer at Cognizant, he drives the Company’s global delivery management, capacity growth and process initiatives, proactively nurturing key alliances and leveraging business partnerships. Prior to joining Cognizant, Chandrasekaran worked with Tata Consultancy Services, and was responsible for setting up its offices across the US and Europe.
Chandrasekaran has a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from Regional Engineering College in Trichy, and an MBA from the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore.
Shri Chandrasekaran tells Marie Banu about two Corporate Social Responsibility arms of Cognizant that spearheads initiatives in the field of community service.
IT industry plays a major role in India’s financial economy. How do you think it can contribute to the social economy and development?
Technology companies bring a huge employment potential not just within the IT industry but also create ancillary jobs. For every IT job there are three to four ancillary jobs created and with the expansion of IT companies into Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities, they increasingly contribute to both the financial economy and social development in these areas. Every year when new entrants join us in our campus, we notice the profile of the graduates joining us changing – many of them are from rural/semi urban areas. We also see Parents accompany some of them and they are all proud that their wards have a bright future ahead of them.

IT industry is uniquely positioned to leverage its core competencies to enable NGO partners to scale and sustain their social development programs. They can bring their strong experience in program management and technology and help social programs drive larger societal impact.

Being a part of an industry with a vast pool of knowledge workers gives them immense opportunities to play a key role in these programs. Cognizant engages and leverages the passion, skill and experience of our associates such that their vast knowledge and technical and managerial skills add value to our CSR initiatives in Education, Digital Literacy and supporting technology-focused projects.

What is Cognizant’s role in this?
At Cognizant, we firmly believe that corporate actions play a very important role in creating a climate of positive opinion and that giving back to the society is not only imperative to the company’s growth, but also an earnest reflection of the values it stands for. Cognizant Foundation and Outreach are two Corporate Social Responsibility arms of Cognizant, spearheading our initiatives in the field of community service.

Cognizant Foundation (CF): Established with the objective of improving, guiding and inspiring the lives of underprivileged people, Cognizant Foundation focuses primarily on the areas of Education, Health care and Livelihood. The prime objective of Cognizant Foundation is to reach out to the economically & socially backward sections of the Society and make a meaningful impact in their lives and in their quest for a better future. The Foundation supports deserving institutions/organizations working in the focus areas of Education & Health care, through financial support towards equipment purchase & enhancement of infrastructure facilities. The project locations are spread across India, mostly in states where Cognizant has offices.

Cognizant Outreach: Towards the end of 2007 when Cognizant crossed the second billion dollar revenue mark, the Outreach program was launched to address the twin challenges that were prevalent : to improve the quality of education; and to provide an official and unified platform for interested Cognizant employees to participate in community service initiatives, focused entirely on education. The program was a perfect bridge between the employees of Cognizant who are passionate about giving back to society and the schools which are in need of a holistic support for the long-term towards improving the quality of education through sustained corporate partnerships.

Sound stewardship of natural resources is another pillar of Cognizant’s CSR initiatives. Cognizant has successfully pursued a range of efforts to reduce impact on the environment to protect vital and irreplaceable resources and better manage climate change risks. Cognizant sustainability team “Go Green” also extends their expertise and passion in improving Cognizant’s environmental practices around the communities we live and work to make a positive impact to the environment.

Campus Connect: Cognizant is committed to comprehensive professional development and training programs for the underprivileged through Campus Connect projects. Campus Connect mainly focuses on providing various skills to the underprivileged enabling them to seek employment opportunities.

Cognizant Outreach has set an amazing example for volunteerism amongst your associates. Can you share your experience with Outreach?
Since its inception, Outreach has partnered with over 140 schools in India, and has reached out to over 500,000 students; making a definitive impact on their academic performance, honing their talent in extra-curricular and sport activities, aiding them make informed career choices or improving the school infrastructure.

In 2014, 25,000 associates volunteered for various initiatives clocking 303,163 hours. Volunteers conduct regular coaching sessions in mathematics, computer science and English. Such sessions have enhanced the understanding and proficiency of the students in these subjects. Some of the schools reported a significant increase in the pass percentage levels of students. Apart from regular academic sessions our volunteers have career counselled 18,000+ students and trained 38,000 children to participate in Outreach’s annual inter-school competition.

When we started this program we didn’t realize how much we are going to get back in return. It is so gratifying to see the smiles on people’s faces, sparkles in children’s eyes. We have seen hope, that inspires us to move ahead and dream bigger.

With the government being more firm on foreign funding for NGOs, they will be now dependent on corporate funding for their projects. Your thoughts?
The new legislation will bring in a sizeable number of medium sized companies under its ambit. In general, the societal impact is expected to be positive with the added CSR participation of such mid-sized companies spread across the country. Even before the new legislation was introduced, large corporations were already driving CSR initiatives. Larger corporates who have built strength for implementing these programs can guide/ mentor others with their expertise in program selection, governance and in choosing the right partners to maximize the impact of their CSR spends. It is important to choose the right NGO partners with track record of legal and financial compliance and creating the right impact to the society.
You head/associated with Nasscom foundation. What social initiatives are they involved in and what is your contribution to society through Nasscom?
One of the key drivers for formation of Nasscom foundation is to promote social development through the application of ICT leveraging the strengths of its member companies. The NasscomFoundation focuses on two functional program areas – Fostering ICT for development and promoting Business responsibility within the IT industry in India.

Nasscom acts as a catalyst capturing and disseminating best practices and encouraging the member companies to do more and as a channel partner for CSR activities of the member companies through its various programs such as Skills initiative to enable meaningful employment through ICT , Disability Initiative to build inclusive workplaces, Impact Sourcing to facilitate hiring from excluded communities,Nasscom Social Innovation Forum to nurture and promote technology innovations for inclusive growth etc.

National Digital Literacy Mission (NDLM) is onesuch initiative aligned to the Government of India’s vision of making one person in each and every household in the country digitally literate by 2020. NDLM is a platform created for digital literacy awareness and training programs in both rural and urban communities empowering them to fully participate and interact in an increasingly digital world. With the participation of Nasscom Member companies and their collective efforts to bring down the divisive digital wall will help India take a lead in shapingan inclusive global digital economy.