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Mahindraites Volunteer: Sparking A Culture Of Giving

The Mahindra Employee Social Options (ESOPs) programme gives employees added purpose and breaks the monotony of everyday life

For Vinodini Bhargava, a Mahindra Research Valley employee, weekends are for spending time with her children. The only difference being her children are a batch of 20 government school students.

A volunteer with the Mahindra ESOPs programme, Vinodini has steadily gained confidence in teaching them basic English and computers. Reflecting on her first day with them, about three years ago, she says, "I was very nervous because I had no teaching experience and had never dealt with young children earlier. But that quickly changed. Their curiosity won me over and it's been a fulfilling experience."

When Vinodini joined Mahindra Research Valley in Chennai, as a Graduate Engineer Trainee (GET) in 2017, she was given an orientation about the ongoing ESOPs activities - which included weekend classes for children from the neighbouring government schools - as part of her induction programme. She immediately signed up for the activity and continues to teach happily every weekend, and she has many stories about the children. There was one child, she recalls, who was always very quiet and choose to be a backbencher, never participating in the computer or spoken English sessions. But once he was in the science laboratory, he surprised everyone. He made a centrifugal pump from the bottle caps, blades and pipes available at home and gave a detailed presentation to the whole class. In every science class, he participated actively in experiments and built some amazing toys as part of his homework.

She considers it providence that the support classes helped the child discover his interest area and feels that if children from economically weaker sections are given access to opportunities, they can bloom to their full potential.

Volunteering is one of the most visible articulations of civic engagement and spirited citizenship that promotes camaraderie, catalyses social inclusion and creates social capital.

It was with this vision and outlook that the company conceived ESOPs as the formal volunteering platform in October 2005 on the 60th Anniversary of the Mahindra Group. The ESOPs platform provides employees with an opportunity to get involved in the developmental programmes adopted by the organisation. At Mahindra, employee participation is at the heart of all major corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes and CSR is not merely limited to the sharing of company's wealth and resources, but also the time of the employees.

ESOPs, which began with just over 4,500 employee volunteers in its first year, now has a volunteering base of over 93,000 employees as it marks its 15th year in 2020. "In FY20, each volunteer devoted 7.54 hours on an average to ESOPs."

Majority of the volunteering activities are carried out on weekends. The company offers ESOPs activities in more than 65 locations and the activities are pretty flexible - it can be all Saturdays for some or few hours during holidays for others. Activities like blood donation may even be held within the office premise during work days, with the permission of the business head. But most ESOPs activities are conducted outside of office hours.

While the spirit of volunteering largely remains the same, it has different connotations and meaning for every employee. ESOPs have also fostered relationships which go beyond the cubicles and confines of the workplace. Sumeet Maheshwari, who works as deputy general manager with Corporate Secretarial team at GCO always makes it a point to take his colleagues along for volunteering activities. "Since the first Hariyali plantation activity that I undertook nearly 10 years ago, to the recent school painting session conducted at the NM Joshi Marg School at Worli, I have always tried to take along a few colleagues for all the activities to spread awareness, create a larger participation and also strengthen our connect with each other," he says.

For the employees, volunteering also provides a break from monotony and stress of everyday work. Sanyogita Singh, who has been with Mahindra World City, Jaipur, for over 10 years, feels that CSR and ESOPs is one aspect of her work where she truly finds a purpose. She has been involved in multiple activities but finds the women empowerment project closest to her heart. Her passion and commitment are evident as she speaks about it, "Many areas are still marked by patriarchy and an orthodox mindset, which makes it extremely difficult to work with women. They were hesitant to participate and at times not even allowed to step outside their homes. We, along with our partner NGOs and Technology Business Incubation (TBI) teams had a tough task convincing village chiefs and rolling out activities. I have seen the transformation over the years and today, we work with over 1000 women in 23 villages. It is a heartening sight to see women step up and even secure their livelihood through our initiatives."

Volunteerism has helped drive a positive change and create deep rooted, diverse socio-economic impacts in our society. ESOPs has fostered a culture of giving and created awareness on pro-social values, which employees have imbibed in their personal life as well. ESOPs truly combines employee satisfaction with social good.

Flagship ESOPs programmes

1] Lifeline Express Project: Inception year - FY 2007-2008, Total projects - 20, Beneficiaries count - over 1,00,000 people living in rural areas, Total person-hours - over 80,000

2] Project Hariyali: Inception year - FY 2007-2008, Since inception total trees planted (excluding Araku, Wardha Family Farming Project, Hudhud Rehabilitation Project and Kashmir Rehab Project) by Mahindra Group - 6.03 million (over all 17.94 million)

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