A woman president unlocks valuable corporate partnerships

Kalpana Srilalitha Prabhakaran (left), past president, RC Bangalore Whitefield Central, D 3190, at the inauguration of the Water ATM.
Kalpana Srilalitha Prabhakaran (left), past president, RC Bangalore Whitefield Central, D 3190, at the inauguration of the Water ATM.

RC Bangalore Whitefield ­Central, D 3190, under the leadership of Kalpana Srilalitha Prabhakaran, has struck a partnership with a range of corporates over the last year to transform communities around Bengaluru.

The most recent project was the installation of a Water ATM in the club’s adopted village, ­Naganayakanakote, about 7 km from the city. The facility was totally funded by a UK-based MNC, Tesco, and implemented by a social enterprise Waterlife. The machine costing $60,000 provides clean drinking water for nearly 10,000 villagers.

The automated water dispensing unit works on a prepaid card basis where people can draw 1, 5 or 20 litres of water by swiping a prepaid card. The service is priced at ₹1.70 for 5 litres and ₹17 for 20 litres. A maximum of 1,000 litres is dispensed in an hour from the ATM. The water quality is checked through a remote monitoring system and the vendor will maintain the unit for 10 years after which an RCC installed by the club will take over.

Besides, the club has set up a community fund to provide a rainwater harvesting system for the village.

 

Roping in corporates

Kalpana has a well thought-out and systematic approach to attract corporates to invest in community service projects. “It does not happen overnight; it takes years to build a rapport with them to gain their confidence and make them understand that Rotary is a dependable partner,” she says. She got in touch with several corporate heads when she was chosen the club’s president-nominee. “By the time I took charge as president, I  already had two full years to interact with them.”

Last October, Kalpana had organised a ­Corporate Meet which was attended by 100 companies, of which 42 organisations evinced interest in a ­Rotary-corporate ­collaboration. She and her team met the CSR managers and recommended Rotary’s five focus areas. “We replaced ‘peace and conflict resolution’ with environment programmes. We divided the companies into groups, assigning a past president for each group to brainstorm and come up with ideas for service projects,” says Kalpana.

It does not happen overnight; it takes years to build a rapport with corporates to gain their confidence and make them understand that Rotary is a dependable partner.
Kalpana Srilalitha Prabhakaran

Of the 42 companies, the club struck a deal with, 22 have been earmarked for various projects and these corporates are grouped as product and service oriented. “We have signed project-specific MoUs with these companies. We provide updates about the project every week and share a consolidated report every quarter with them.”

The club has thus constructed a playground in the same village, in association with Mercedes Benz, and Rajamane Telectric has helped it install solar lamps in the village. Plans are on to develop a biodiversity park in Bengaluru, in partnership with TESCO and the BBMP.

The past president shares yet another interesting strategy to refurbish three government schools in the city, of which work has been completed in one school. While TESCO will provide solar panels for the schools, Schneider Electric will support the electrification process and ­AkzoNobel, a paint manufacturing MNC, will provide the paints for the schools.

“When there are so many players, we will be able to include more schools too, and the corporates will be happy as their expenses are shared,” she says. As for the painting job, Kalpana says that she approached employees in some of the MNCs who were happy to paint the school on weekends. “­Multi-nationals such as Adobe, GE etc have an ‘employee engagement programme’ for which credits are given to employees for the work they do during their non-working hours. It is a form of stress-buster for them,” she adds.

The club has thus built a corpus of ₹8 lakh through such smart moves.

 

No to favours

Kalpana was firm in her belief not to give graft or bribes; she had some testing times though. She narrates an occasion where a panchayat official demanded money for signing the permission for a repair work in a school. “I didn’t want the heading ‘Gifts’ in my accounts. So I tried talking to him about Rotary and our Four-way Test.” While conversing with him she discovered that the official’s son was admitted in a city college and the father was concerned that his son might feel out of place in an urban environment as he hailed from a rural locality. Kalpana spoke to the college head, “not for extending any favours to this student, but just to see that he settles down comfortably there. Lo behold, this did wonders!

On another occasion, a corporate head wanted a market survey to be done for his product in return for his company’s support for a project. “I put him in touch with a management college where the students could undertake the survey as part of their syllabus.” It proved to be a win-win for both, the college and the company, as the college received more such assignments and the company signed up for campus recruitment and opened internship opportunities for the students.

“I didn’t want my team to spend more than the club dues. All I wanted from them was to extend physical support and coordinate and supervise projects at the sites,” says Kalpana, who is an IT entrepreneur. Her successor this year is also following suit, she adds.

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