India Inc buckles up to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic

India Inc buckles up to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic

“Whether to safeguard their workers or help strengthen the country’s COVID-19 response, companies across India are stepping up to strategically utilize their resources to address the here-and-now but also shoring up for the future in ways that are beneficial to both business and society.”

Samhita’s CEO & Founder, Priya Naik and Visiting Scientist at The Banyan Academy of Leadership in Mental Health, Dr. Nachiket Mor, illustrate the virtuous cycle of mutual benefit that can be created between business and society, especially in times of such crisis when the chasms between the haves and have-nots are wide.

Uttarakhand Bio-toilet initiative

Uttarakhand Bio-toilet initiative

At a time when the entire country is raging over the oh-so-popular debate of toilets over temples, Outlook India (an English weekly news magazine), declared sanitation as India’s No. 2 problem (in more ways than one) (You can refer to the article here). 64% of Indians still do it in the open which is a global record in itself. In the background of such a situation, the CSR initiative of a major Indian logistics company in partnership with Samhita is one step towards solving one of the oldest and large-scale problems of India.

To address this problem in a sustained manner, the company adopted sanitation as one of the top causes as part of its CSR policy. In pursuance of its CSR policy, it gave a go ahead to set-up environment friendly bio-toilets in and around its areas of operations to eliminate open defecation practice. These bio-toilets differ from the conventional toilets as all of the human waste is processed and converted into harmless water thus promoting environmental sustainability.

Just as it was approving the budget to go ahead with the installation of bio toilets at their Mumbai Port facilities, unfortunately, in Uttarakhand, thousands of people were killed/displaced due to devastating floods and landslides in the region. Being a socially responsible business that it is, the company decided to prioritize helping flood victims and encouraged employees to come forward and commit one day’s salary, which the company will match.

The company decided to undertake a more structured and holistic approach in order to ensure that the collected money is brought to an effective use and delivers the much-needed impact in the affected communities. So, in partnership with Samhita, a needs assessment was conducted in the flood affected villages to identify the imminent problems. It was identified that the villagers in the flood affected regions were left with very little sanitation facility due to floods; most of them going out in open spaces to defecate. Thus, there loomed a big danger of an epidemic breakout in the region. Community being an integral part of their operations, the company wanted to go beyond donations and overtake the execution of the relief project till the final stage until the affected people are not forced anymore to indulge in open defecation practice.

A local NGO Yusuf Meherally Centre (YMC) was identified for looking after the installation and maintenance of these toilets in the long run. The work began with Samhita and YMC teams getting together and conducting days of groundwork which included surveys and some social engineering to ensure only the needy and those who are severely affected by the disaster are selected as beneficiaries for toilets. Moreover, to make best use of capacity of bio-toilets, the beneficiaries were grouped together to use common toilets. This also ensured a sense of responsibility amongst the people to first build the toilets, and then use and maintain them collectively.


–  An amount equal to Rs. 7,22,760 was raised through the matching scheme with the employees

–  18 toilets would be built, spread out over six flood affected villages namely Dugadda, Shirwa, Durgapul, Bhumia ki Chaloti, Thatyur and Thapla. 15 were built for households and 3 were built for schools

–  More than 200 villagers and 325 children have been benefitted by getting access to toilets

–  Construction of toilets have provided a livelihood opportunity to around 45 villagers who worked as daily labourers


Role of Samhita

–  Identified sanitation as the major problem in alignment with the mandate of the corporate from a ground-level needs assessment in the villages of Uttarakhand

–  Recognized the right kind of social enterprise with its area of operation in and around Uttarakhand and as sanitation as the focus area. After a series of personal calls, market research and due diligence process, StoneIndia was identified as the partner social enterprise.

–  Carried out a door-to-door research and identified potential locations for setting up of bio-toilets where sanitation facilities were largely deficient. Feasibility studies and access issues were also carried out at this stage.

–  Helped in the setting up of bio toilets and supervised the working and functioning of bio-toilets. The NGO Yusuf Meherally Centre was identified and handed over the responsibility of installation and maintenance of these toilets in the long-run

–  Provided villages with a reporting and impact assessment framework to record the progress and sustainability of the project.

The leading logistics company has assured their commitment towards community development work in the long run and promised to stay closely associated with the local people to ensure sustainability of these efforts. The seriousness and commitment shown by the higher management ensured the project execution in a very small duration and brought a huge difference to the life of flood affected communities.

Investing CSR in Incubators – A Unique Model of Partnership

Investing CSR in Incubators – A Unique Model of Partnership

Authored by P.R. Ganapathy, President ( India), Villgro Innovations Foundation 

After, USA and China, India has the largest incubator and accelerator ecosystem in the world. But few companies have sufficient information on this ecosystem to be able to invest in it.

Samhita, and Villgro, supported by GIZ are addressing this information asymmetry and facilitating partnerships between companies and incubators and social enterprises(SEs).

The traditional model of CSR involves selecting an NGO working in an area of your interest (livelihoods, education, etc.) and funding them for a specific project, say, training 500 women artisans, or setting up a computer lab in a school.

But, the smart CSR managers of today are asking harder questions of this model.

What happened to those women artisans after the training was completed? Who buys their products and connects them to consumers? Is the model sustainable? What do children actually learn from the computer lab? Who teaches them? What content is available? Who maintains the computers and the lab to ensure it continues to deliver value?

One way to find these answers is to partner with social enterprises or for-profit entities who use market-based approaches to solve social problems.

The next logical question is : “Is it legal?” Does the Companies Act permit CSR funding to be used for support for-profit social enterprises?

The answer is a resounding Yes! Under Section (vii) of the Companies Act, CSR funds can be used to support Government-approved Technology Business Incubators (TBIs) located within academic institutions. A subsequent clarification also specifies that any TBI can be supported using CSR funds.

So, why should your company invest its CSR in social enterprises and incubators?

Innovation: Social enterprises, by definition, use innovative approaches to solving social problems. From the Biosense non-invasive anemia measurement device to the Adhyayan school transformation rubric, these enterprise use fundamental new ways of approaching social challenges, with significantly better outcomes.

 More resources:Because social enterprises attract financing from impact investors, they have significantly more resources than traditional non-profits or NGOs. This allows them to leverage your CSR money for much greater impact.

Focus on talent:More resources and a for-profit structure means the ability to pay better salaries, and attract the talent they want. They can also offer stock options. We’ve see our social entrepreneurs capitalize on the start-up craze to attract experienced and seasoned talent, leading to significantly better execution.

Sustainability:Because social enterprises have a revenue model, they have high potential for sustainability. Which means that even after your CSR funding project finishes, their solution and service continues to live on.

Scale: The combination of a sustainable revenue model, more resources and focus on talent means that these organizations have the potential for scale far greater than the traditional NGO/Non-profit model. Which means that the small amount of CSR funding you provided at the beginning is leveraged multi-fold, to achieve outsized, national-level scale and impact.

How should your company engage with social enterprises through a TBI ?

From my experience working with many corporates and social enterprises, I believe there are five dimensions to consider while designing your engagement.

Money: Social enterprises need money, especially at the early stages when they’re being incubated by a TBI, to hire the initial employees, develop their product, test-market their solution, etc.

You could fund a TBI to fund a social enterprise in four different ways:

  • Select a specific company from their portfolio that aligns with your CSR priorities – for example, agriculture or education. Your MOU with the TBI then specifies which social enterprise the funding should go to, and perhaps also what that funding should be used for and the milestones that should be achieved. Most CSRs currently work in this model.
  • Select together from a pipeline that the TBI surfaces around your CSR theme areas — you’re leveraging the TBI’s network and processes for selection and diligence, and also having a say in the process by participating in their “Investment Committee.” This way you can fund new ideas, and yet have a say in the process. Marico worked with Villgro to find and select a social enterprise working in the field of diabetes, their focus area.
  • Provide an open grant and leave it to the TBI to select and incubate enterprises within your theme areas. This stage implies you have developed trust in the TBI’s selection processes, and can depend on them to find good enterprises that fit your mandate. A corporate recently engaged Villgro to find and support skill training social enterprises, which is their CSR theme area.
  • Fund the TBI’s program costs like incubation staff, mentors, knowledge building sessions, etc., and not fund incubatees directly. This often allows the TBI the flexibility to provide the much-needed handholding that plays an equally important part in the incubation process. A large IT multi-national in Bangalore funded IIT Bombay’s incubator for the costs of running an accelerator program.

Mentoring: Your corporate has several experienced, seasoned, senior executives, and social enterprises are often founded by relatively inexperienced founders who are trying to do something radical to solve a social problem. In our experience, mentoring from senior executives is at least as valuable as the funding we provide our incubatees. By engaging your senior management in mentoring these entrepreneurs, you’re giving them a chance to “give back” while adding significant value to the incubatee. Mphasis senior management were closely involved with one of Villgro’s incubatees, providing mentoring and guidance.

Expertise: You may have technical experts in your organization who can add great value to social enterprises by giving them advice from time to time. For example, GE’s 5.38 accelerator for med-tech social entrepreneurs provides access to technical experts within GE Healthcare. That sort of expertise is hard to come by, or well-nigh impossible to access, and can significantly assist a med-tech social enterprise in product development. Your employees also benefit by using their expertise for social good, and it enhances their sense of goodwill for their employer, because they can witness first hand the social impact of their company’s CSR program.

Facilities: A social enterprise, especially one working on an innovative new physical product like a medical device, doesn’t have the capital required to invest in labs, fabrication facilities, etc. However, it does need access to these facilities for product development. Corporates have these assets, and they are generally under-utilitized. By creating a way by which social enterprises can leverage these facilities, you could provide they a valuable and timely resource that reduces the cost, improves the quality, and cuts the time of product development.

Go to market: Lastly, social enterprises need partnerships to take their products to market. Established distribution channels are often out of their reach, because of their innovative product, lack of market demand, and low marketing resources. A corporate that can distribute a social enterprise’s product through its own distribution channels will provide that social enterprise significantly value. A large agri conglomerate’s recent tie-up with one of Villgro’s agriculture social enterprises is an example of how this could work.

In conclusion, we’re seeing the shift from tactical, project-based CSR, to strategic, programmatic CSR. By adding social enterprise support to your CSR program, and engaging corporate resources such as senior management mentors, technical experts, leveraging facilities and using distribution channels to make the support strategic, you can maximize your impact and effectiveness.

Interested? GIZVillgro and Samhita are working to help Corporates find TBIs and engage with them. So, if you are a corporate or an incubator, looking to explore new horizons of partnerships, get in touch.

Optimising CSR for Rural Development

Optimising CSR for Rural Development

According to the 2011 census, 69 per cent of India’s population lives in rural areas, amounting to roughly 833 million people. The reality of rural India is far from the idyllic scenes of bucolic farmlands. However, there is a significant role that CSR can play if employed effectively.

Read Samhita’s analysis on the challenges and opportunities for CSR in rural development, as part of the 12th International Conference on Corporate Social Responsibility & Presentation of Golden Peacock Awards.

Development through community participation

Development through community participation

As part of its CSR services, Samhita Social Ventures undertakes community needs assessment for companies to align the expectations and intentions of the company with priorities identified by the community that it seeks to benefit as a key stakeholder. This is accomplished by conducting door-to-door surveys, interviews with key informants in the village (such as sarpanch, asha worker, aanganwadi workers) and focused group discussions with the residents.

Through our intense and in-depth interaction with communities across the country, we have realized that community participation and acceptance are critical in ensuring the success of CSR programs. While the theoretical discourse on development has always acknowledged the importance of participatory approach (you may have heard of Robert Chambers and Paulo Freier), this takes on a pragmatic connotation for companies beginning to think about CSR in India.

Our work has shown that the aim should be to address social implications of corporate activities by securing community participation in decision-making and consideration of local knowledge and the environment. The community should drive and own these initiatives. Any tendency to superimpose or force CSR or other development initiatives top-down on communities could be disastrous.

So for example, during one such assessment in two clusters of Vadodara District, Gujarat it was observed that 87% people defecate openly every day. While reducing open defecation is a national and international priority, it was most interesting to note that communities in one cluster did not perceive it to be an issue. The assessment found that these communities defecated in the open not only because of the unavailability of toilets but due to low awareness of the potential health hazards, internalized behavior, accustomed practice, perception of high costs of maintaining and constructing toilets, caste based differences in terms of maintenance and cleaning, etc. It was seen that these communities appeared resistant to using toilets because of all these reasons. In this context, CSR initiatives of companies to set-up toilets for such communities to eliminate open defecation, disregarding the voices of the community, would be futile and bound to fail. The company would have, in effect, spent its funds putting up concrete structures with its branding – not used by anyone and soon falling into a state of disrepair and neglect. In fact, this is a very common sight in many villages dotted across India. One of the ways to then incorporate the community’s views and mitigate the risk of failure would be to start a behavior change communication or campaign on a long term and sustained basis. Another example flows from the needs assessment conducted in northern India. The study revealed rampant usage of traditional fuel for cooking. About 83% of people relied on cow-dung and wood as the means of cooking.  It was obvious to our eyes that this was leading to many respiratory problems among women and also causing indoor pollution. Surprisingly, the women did not seem to be too bothered. When we suggested using smokeless chullahs or stoves, most of them thought it to be flippant. Conversations with these women revealed that they preferred these smoke generating stoves because they believed that it kept the house warm, drove away insects etc. They said that they were accustomed to cooking in this way.  It is anyone’s guess as to what the results of a CSR initiative distributing free smokeless stoves to a community like this would be. Promoting smokeless chulhas in such households becomes challenging unless their beliefs are changed.

A similar reaction was observed in another needs assessment study when a group of women said they did not want personal taps and that they preferred community pumps as it was the only activity that gave them a chance to come out of their houses and socialize with other women.

In conclusion, we opine that CSR initiatives by companies or social developmental activities by NGOs should be planned in a participatory manner, in consultation with the community, literally sitting with them, and gauging their basic needs. We must take recourse to “participatory rural appraisal” and other mapping tools to identify the community needs. This, in turn, results in greater outreach and smoother implementation. And thus, a project is born.

Update to Indian NGO Bright Spots Report reveals important lessons learned for fundraising during the pandemic

Update to Indian NGO Bright Spots Report reveals important lessons learned for fundraising during the pandemic

Much has changed since we published this report on best practices in fundraising from individuals in 2020. The pandemic has upended traditional methods of engaging donors, making it difficult if not impossible to meet in person (which is one of the most effective ways of asking  for money). The past two years have been very tough on India’s nonprofit sector to say the least. 

What has it been like to fundraise during a global pandemic?
What’s been different, what has stayed the same, and what will endure once this is all over? 

We checked back with our Fundraising ‘Bright Spot’ organizations to see how they have fared. Interestingly enough, this challenging period of lockdowns and shifts in philanthropy towards pandemic response has made these exemplary NGOs more creative and resilient in their fundraising efforts. There is still much to learn from their example!

We have updated our 2020 report with new information about how to go about diversifying your funding and building your base of donors in a post-pandemic (or COVID-19 endemic) world. We’ve even added a new Guiding Principle that you can use to leverage the latest technology to acquire new givers. Please take a look at the update, and feel free to share any information that you think would be helpful as well. There is much to learn from each other!

Wishing you great success in your fundraising journey!

Morry Rao Hermón, MPA
Director of Philanthropy, UC Berkeley 
Fulbright-Nehru US Senior Scholar to India 2020-2023 
Academic and Professional Excellence Award

P.S. If you’re in the Mumbai area, please join me on Monday, April 4th, 2022 at the Mumbai Cricket Association Recreation Club for a free half-day  workshop on Fundraising from Individuals in a post-Pandemic World: Lessons from the Field. Come meet the “Bright Spot” organization frontline fundraisers in-person at this masterclass featuring a panel discussion on diaspora fundraising, as well as guest presenters Suman Srivastava on Conveying Impact through Powerful Storytelling, and Noshir Dadrawala on Adhering to Compliance Norms.You won’t want to miss it! 

FAQ on CSR Rules, Amendment 2022

FAQ on CSR Rules, Amendment 2022

How do companies who have given a one-time grant to NGOs account for unspent CSR funds?

  • If companies have provided “One time grant” to the NGOs, that grant has to be spent within one financial year by the NGO.
  • If the project does not stretch over the  financial year. These projects can be categorised under “other than ongoing projects” in the annual action plan. 
    • Under  the annual action plan, the CSR Committee of the company is required to provide modalities for utilisation of funds. 
  • The CSR Committee shall recommend to the Board on budget allocation for any CSR project including modalities of utilisation of funds in every project. 
  • Funds allocated to such “other than ongoing projects” has to be spent within one financial year and there shouldn’t be unspent at the end of the financial year. 
  • If there is an unspent CSR amount, NGOs should return unspent funds to the companies and companies are not permitted to spend the unspent CSR amount which is related to “other than ongoing projects’ ‘, on any CSR activity during the intervening period of six months after the end of the financial year. 
  • Such unspent CSR amount is required to be transferred to any fund included in Schedule VII of the Act within 6 months from the end of the previous financial year. 
  • If companies foresee that there will be an unspent CSR amount at the end of the financial year, they may take the decision to categorise those projects as ongoing projects as well based on reasonable justification. Definition of ongoing projects can be referred below.

How do companies who have given a multi-year grant to NGOs account for unspent CSR funds?

  • If funding is spreading across multi-years, those projects must be categorised under “Ongoing projects”. 
    • Ongoing project has been defined under rule 2(1)(i) of the Companies (CSR Policy) Rules, 2014 as: 
      • (i) a multi-year project, stretching over more than one financial year
      • (ii) having a timeline not exceeding three years excluding the year of commencement
      •  (iii) includes such project that was initially not approved as a multi-year project but whose duration has been extended beyond one year by the Board based on reasonable justification
  • The project should have commenced within the financial year to be termed as ‘ongoing’. The intent is to include a project which has an identifiable commencement and completion dates. 
  • After the completion of any ongoing project, the Board of the company is free to design any other project related to operation and maintenance of such completed projects in a manner as may be deemed fit on a case-to-case basis. Note: The term ‘year’ refers to the financial year as defined in section 2(41) of the Act. If there is an unspent CSR amount pertaining to ‘ongoing projects’ at NGOs end, such unspent funds should be returned to the companies and companies have to transfer such unspent to a separate bank account of the company to be called as ‘Unspent CSR Account’ within 30 days from the end of the previous financial year. 
  • A company can pay back such unspent CSR amount to NGOs (from Unspent CSR Account) in the next financial year to execute further agreed project activities. 
  • A company can open a single special account, called ‘Unspent Corporate Social Responsibility Account’, for a financial year in any scheduled bank, to transfer the unspent amount w.r.t ongoing project(s) of that financial year. 
  • A company needs to open a separate ’Unspent CSR Account’ (in its accounting system) for each financial year but not for each ongoing project.

Companies who have written a cheque to their own foundation who in turn are supporting NGOs and there is an unspent CSR amount at foundation level

  • The similar treatment would be followed as per above. Two points to keep in mind:  
    • Foundations are to be treated as first recipient of the CSR amount just like NGOs receive CSR amount from companies directly. 
  • All formalities related to getting unspent CSR amount from the foundation/NGOs and depositing into a separate unspent CSR amount or depositing into any fund included in Schedule VII of the Act, as the case may be, should be done by companies itself. A foundation cannot do so on behalf of the companies.

Companies who have given FCRA funds: If there is unspent FCRA funds at the end of the financial year

  • It can be spent in the next financial year as per agreed project objectives and existing agreement with the donor. The agreement should be valid in the next financial year as well.
  • If there is unspent FCRA funds at the end of project period, the modalities of the unutilised balance can be decided in consultation with the donor and as per donor’s direction.
  • FCRA funds cannot be returned to the donor.
  • Also, FCRA funds cannot be onward granted / sub-granted by the NGO

Will funds at the 2nd  implementing agency account be treated as unspent or not ?  If a company’s foundation transfers money to NGO hence there is nil balance in their account, whose utilisation is considered final- the foundation or implementing agency?

  • Implementing agency utilisation would be final and an unspent amount should be considered as per implementing agency account.

If it is unspent on 31st March , would the  2nd implementing agency need to transfer money back to the foundation account? 

  • Yes, and the foundation will return an unspent amount to companies back.

Can a company’s foundation open an unspent account on behalf of the company? 

  • No, Companies need to open their own unspent account

In case of any queries, feel free to reach out to us at

Samhita-CGF’s REVIVE Alliance Awarded Best CSR Project in Skill Development & Livelihood

Samhita-CGF’s REVIVE Alliance Awarded Best CSR Project in Skill Development & Livelihood

Samhita-CGF’s REVIVE Alliance has found a place among the best CSR projects conceptualised and executed in the year 2020-21 for our efforts to support and restore the livelihoods of informal workers, nano and micro-entrepreneurs, artisans and women collectives who have been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The jury for selecting the best social projects for “TheCSRUniverse COVID Response Impact Awards 2021” included Dr Rishikesha T Krishnan, Director, Indian Institutes of Management (IIM) Bangalore; Dr Himanshu Rai, Director, Indian Institutes of Management (IIM) Indore; Dr Umakant Dash, Director, Institute of Rural Management Anand (IRMA); and Prof Shalini Bharat, Director, Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai.

In addition to the top academicians, the renowned social sector experts in the jury panel included Mr Nixon Joseph, Ex-President & Chief Operating Officer, SBI Foundation; and Mr Sanjay Sinha, Managing Director, M-CRIL.

CSR Trends & Opportunities in India: 2021

CSR Trends & Opportunities in India: 2021

Samhita has conducted a CSR research study in collaboration with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), which coordinates Official Development Assistance for the government of Japan. JICA assists economic and social growth in developing countries, along with promoting international cooperation.

This research report on ‘CSR trends and opportunities in India’ maps the CSR landscape in India, as experienced by Japanese, Indian and MNC companies, as well as implementation partners (NGOs and Social Enterprises). The report achieves this by taking an in-depth look at the following:

  • National macro-level CSR trends on compliance, spending by cause areas, geographies and modes of implementation,
  • Findings surrounding the CSR approaches, types of approaches to CSR and challenges as reported during surveys and quantitative interviews conducted with Japanese companies, Indian companies and MNC companies operating in India,
  • Insights from qualitative interviews with implementation partners regarding their approaches to funding and CSR partnerships, benefits they see in engaging with CSR and challenges they face while building and maintaining CSR partnerships,
  • Defining features of an ideal CSR program and CSR trends in the near future,
  • CSR recommendations for Japanese companies operating in India and recommendations for JICA for creating a more enabling CSR ecosystem.

Are We Moving Towards a Truly ‘Social’ Stock Exchange?

Are We Moving Towards a Truly ‘Social’ Stock Exchange?

SEBI recently approved the creation of India’s social stock exchange. We analyse some of the strengths and shortcomings of its proposed framework and operational structure.

The purpose of establishing the SSE in India is to ‘take our capital markets closer to the masses and meet various social welfare objectives related to inclusive growth and financial inclusion’.

While it is too early to determine if the SSE will be able to achieve this purpose in the long run, Samhita’s Anushree Parekh, Amiya Walia, and Shivina Jagtiani examine whether the proposed mechanisms are defined and designed in a manner that furthers this goal. In doing so, we draw upon the insights and learnings published in our comprehensive research that reviewed seven global SSEs