We sat down with Archana Sahay, CSR Head, APJ – Dell EMC, over a cup of imaginary tea to find out more about her journey as a CSR professional and take a deeper look into the mind behind Dell Technologies’ social impact projects.
What made you decide to be a part of the CSR industry?
Initially, my aspiration was to join the Civil Services. It was during my time at Miranda House that my father asked me to consider working for organizations such as the UN and World Bank.
I wanted to be a part of such international organizations to bring about large-scale social change. My guide encouraged me to start working with local nonprofits while pursuing my M. Phil. at JNU.
My experience there, made me realize that the development sector is very dynamic. Working in this sector, I could directly impact many lives. Eventually, I got really immersed in the work I was doing.
I strongly believe that if I exist, I must do something for the betterment of others. At least, that’s how I’ve always looked at it.
How is a corporate setup different from an NGO setup?
I feel that there is not much difference since the objective is the same- Making a positive impact on society.
I moved to Bangalore after getting married. There, I worked with ActionAid International. We had many donors, one of the more prominent ones being Wipro. Wipro was in the process of setting up Wipro Cares with the intent of carrying out social development under its brand name. The program was in its nascent stage when I onboarded it.
That’s how I started working in the CSR space. I may have been in the corporate sector for a while now, but my world is still in social development.
Which cause areas do you support, both personally as well as under Dell’s CSR banner?
Personally, I feel deeply connected with the cause - ‘Women Empowerment.’ I strongly believe in doing so through education. Though I’m from a small town, Jamshedpur, my parents really emphasized my education in my formative years and believed that it is only education that can change one’s life. It was education that has brought me to where I am today, and I wish to give the same opportunity to other girls. My personal passion for the education of girls resonates very well with Dell’s CSR philosophy.
What do you think about ‘mandatory’ CSR? Do you think it helps companies meet their business objectives?
According to me, the intent and approach of the government is right. Public-private partnership is important for the development of society.
There were a few corporations that spent on philanthropic initiatives, but with the CSR law coming in, the whole process of giving has become more structured. Businesses have realized that in order to grow and flourish, it is important that they nurture the ecosystem. For instance, the government’s campaign to achieve digitization in the country cannot be successful till the time the people are financially literate, which is why financial literacy is being propagated through a lot of CSR interventions. With the enactment of this law, it has become a win-win situation for the government, businesses as well as society.
Also Read: The Importance and Scope of CSR
How has Goodera contributed to your company's CSR journey?
Goodera is a group of young and highly motivated individuals who are looking at solving social problems in an innovative manner. Goodera is a visionary company and it was among the first social consultants in the market. I value the inputs provided by the Goodera team and their contribution to helping Dell with its CSR journey. We rely on their dashboards and data-driven recommendations. Goodera helps us get in getting accurate data with multiple levels of checks, training NGOs for data entry and this helps in strategizing our programmes. They have been our reliable and trusted partners for a while now and we are truly thankful for their support and collaboration.
Tell us a little about your biggest accomplishment so far.
My biggest accomplishment would be - I can see the impact my work creates on human lives. This is incredibly rare for a corporate job and I feel that my role is a blessing. It gives me the opportunity to work for the betterment of society.
I feel a sense of accomplishment with each success story, beneficiary and impact metric. Through the CSR projects that I oversee, children are getting a better education, the youth is getting better jobs and I get to contribute toward the holistic development of the society.
How challenging is it to juggle your professional responsibilities with your personal ones?
Being a corporate employee and a full-time mother is a very challenging role and it’s difficult to juggle them. I believe that to accomplish one’s goals one must have a healthy ecosystem around. I am very thankful to have a supportive family and loyal domestic help. Nobody can be successful in isolation. With a good ecosystem around you, you can be successful both personally and professionally. I want to give credit to my family and my close friends for my success. The only thing that has changed since I became a mother is that it has become difficult to travel to the remote locations where our CSR projects are carried out – I do miss being in the field.
What message would you like to give to young minds (especially women) who wish to look at CSR as a viable career option?
My advice to the young girls who want to join the CSR space would be - Join this sector only if you are genuinely interested and passionate about social development. Do not perceive this field as just philanthropy as it is equally important to understand the skin of the business as it is to bring about social development. Aligning your passion for social development and understanding what is beneficial to the business are both very important. It is important to marry them, then only you can succeed in this role.
In this sector, I got various opportunities to see the meaningful change that CSR programs bring in people’s lives. These changes motivate me, and I do not feel disillusioned ever. I believe, it doesn’t matter how small your contribution may be, you should keep doing your bit for the betterment of the society.
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