The New CSR Job Mar­ket

The Economic Times - - Special Feature -

As the CFO of Edel­weiss Fi­nan­cial Ser­vices, Vidya Shah wrote many do­na­tion cheques to non-gov­ern­ment or­gan­i­sa­tions (NGOs) largely on in­stinct and trust. But soon af­ter she re­signed as CFO to set up the EdelGive Foun­da­tion, Shah vis­ited some of these NGOs. The trip, which cov­ered Nag­pur, Sho­la­pur and Kolkata, was an eye opener. “Even the largest NGOs were strug­gling. They couldn’t plan be­yond six months be­cause they were not sure they would be able to raise funds. And they had no process to mea­sure the work they do­ing,” says Vidya, who is mar­ried to Edel­weiss chair­man Rashesh Shah, a batch-mate at In­dian In­sti­tute of Man­age­ment Ahmed­abad. That’s how the foun­da­tion de­cided to help NGOs build ca­pa­bil­i­ties

Edelgive’s an­nual bud­get is now ₹ 25 crore, but the ini­tial years, when it was much lower, Vidya de­ter­mined to keep ad­min­is­tra­tive costs low by lim­it­ing the Foun­da­tion’s staff strength. “I de­cided to hire peo­ple with a so­cial work ex­pe­ri­ence, since we al­ready had enough peo­ple with a man­age­ment back­ground,” she says. As In­dian com­pa­nies ex­pand the scope of their CSR ac­tiv­ity, a churn is hap­pen­ing be­tween the so­cial and cor­po­rate sec­tors. Busi­ness ex­ec­u­tives are join­ing NGOs and so­cial work­ers are re­ceiv­ing lu­cra­tive of­fers from cor­po­rate houses. As de­mand for tal­ent in­creases, salaries are ris­ing, but so is at­tri­tion. Mean­while, a league of in­ter­me­di­aries

now ex­ist to try and en­sure the mar­riage of the two sec­tors pro­ceeds with­out too many hitches. The stakes, af­ter all, are fairly high, with the Min­istry of Com­pany Af­fairs peg­ging an­nual CSR spends in the com­ing years at ₹ 20,000 crore. At Es­sar Foun­da­tion, CEO Deepak Arora has re­cruited over 200 peo­ple since tak­ing charge in 2011. With each of the group com­pa­nies con­tribut­ing from their prof­its, the Foun­da­tion has an an­nual bud­get of ₹ 80 crore and most of its projects are in-house rather than through NGO part­ner­ships. “We of­fered at least 40% in­crease in salaries wher­ever we re­cruited. We could af­ford it be­cause salaries in the NGO sec­tor were low, es­pe­cially at the ju­nior and mid­dle lev­els,” he says.

One of the im­me­di­ate fall­outs of ex­pand­ing CSR de­part­ments and in­creas­ing spends has been the ris­ing pro­file of the CSR head. Time was, a com­pany’s CSR head would re­port to cor­po­rate af­fairs or hu­man re­sources (HR). To­day, CSR heads are seen as a pro­fes­sion­als in their own right and re­port to a board of trus­tees, or, in the case of multi-na­tion­als, to a global CSR head. “To their credit, they re­al­ized they needed a full­time CSR pro­fes­sional. My man­date is to in­sti­tu­tion­alise the Foun­da­tion,” says Arora. The CSR uni­verse is ex­pand­ing and there are now ded­i­cated head­hunt­ing firms that help cor­po­rates in their search. One of these is Third Sec­tor Part­ners, which placed 65 se­nior level CSR pro­fes­sion­als in the last fi­nan­cial year, a 60% in­crease over the pre­vi­ous year. Man­ag­ing part­ner Poulomee Ghosh ex­plains the ba­sic dilemma cor­po­rates face while re­cruit­ing for CSR: “Most of them want some­one from the devel­op­ment sec­tor, with grass­roots ex­pe­ri­ence, but that re­ally lim­its the choice. We per­suade them to be open to cross­over can­di­dates from the cor­po­rate sec­tor, es­pe­cially from banking. They’re usu­ally will­ing to take salary cuts in or­der to join the so­cial sec­tor.”

One such cross­over can­di­date is Su­mantra Sen, 47. Af­ter a two decade ca­reer with for­eign banks, where he was ex­posed to devel­op­ment fi­nanc­ing, Sen quit to set up a con­sult­ing firm called Re­spon­si­ble In­vest­ment Re­search. Last year, he joined the 30-year -ld JSW Foun­da­tion as its CEO, which has an an­nual bud­get of ₹ 88 crore. “I can’t com­pare my salary with the CEO of JSW Steel, but I can say it is no longer a big sac­ri­fice quit­ting banking to get into the so­cial sec­tor. All over the world, the up­per limit on devel­op­ment sec­tor salaries is $3 lakh. In In­dia too, the best peo­ple now get that much,” says Sen.

As salaries rise across the board, NGOs are nat­u­rally feel­ing the pinch. At HSBC, Aloka Majumdar, head of group cor­po­rate sus­tain­abil­ity, part­ners with 20 NGOs and all of them face high at­tri­tion rates. “NGOs to­day need high grade peo­ple be­cause the re­quire­ments of fund­ing agen­cies have be­come more strin­gent. They will even­tu­ally have to fac­tor in higher salaries while ap­ply­ing for grants. A ma­jor salary cor­rec­tion is due in the so­cial sec­tor,” she says. HSBC spent ₹ 27 crore on CSR in the last fi­nan­cial year, which was less than 1% of prof­its. The bud­get is set to dou­ble this year and Majumdar is rop­ing in new peo­ple, in­clud­ing some mar­ket­ing ex­ec­u­tives who want to switch to CSR. Majumdar her­self was for­merly with Citibank, one of the pi­o­neers of stra- te­gic CSR in the banking sec­tor and so a reg­u­lar sup­plier of tal­ent to its com­peti­tors. When JP Mor­gan de­cided to set up a CSR func­tion in In­dia last year, it poached from Citi, since the two have a very sim­i­lar strat­egy, fo­cused on skill devel­op­ment, fi­nan­cial in­clu­sion and small busi­nesses. Chris Cooper, JP Mor­gan’s Lon­don-based ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor for global phi­lan­thropy, says: “It wasn’t easy, find­ing the right per­son to our head op­er­a­tion. It’s an im­por­tant po­si­tion, since we have big plans for In­dia.”

And fi­nally, there’s the UTV’s Ron­nie Screw­vala, who has set up his very own NGO, Swades Foun­da­tion, fi­nanced not from his com­pa­nies but from ₹ 350 crore of his own money. Rather than part­ner with other NGOs, Swades is ex­e­cut­ing its own ru­ral devel­op­ment projects and has re­cruited 300 peo­ple in the past three years, both from the so­cial and cor­po­rate sec­tor. It’s a cul­tural chal­lenge, says Ron­nie: “When we started, re­view meet­ings would go on for four hours, with every­one nar­rat­ing anec­dotes to demon­strate the dif­fer­ence we were mak­ing. I would have been sucked into that cul­ture if I didn’t have ex­pe­ri­ence run­ning a com­pany. Now I ask every­one to quan­tify their suc­cess in terms of in­come in­creases in the ru­ral pop­u­lace we’re serv­ing. Meet­ings get over in an hour.”

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