It was an interesting conversation. One of my ex juniors who now Heads Security of a Retail Chain was online. He observes over 80 stores from his seat and also ‘Keeps an Eye’ on about 1000 people working in the Stores.
He had an interesting conversation with his Legal Director.  The company has some unused CSR funds. Last year, they ‘donated’ money to the nearby Police Station but this year they wanted to do :
1.something different,
2.something better,
3.something that will help improve the branding the Chain
4. something that will ENGAGE all the 1000+ Direct and indirect employees.
He was looking for ‘Free Idea, Free Advice and was Plain enough – I want to pick your brains”.  I did not mind – for a change.
There were two three thought tracks appeared in mind instantly.  ( No not just horns of dilemma – Trilemma) The thought process was clear.
  1. ENGAGEMENT of People is the Key.
  2. HAVE FUN while you perform the CSR duty of the Organisation.
  3. INFLUENCE all the 1000+ internal and 10 times more Stakeholders like customers, suppliers, neighbours and generally people in the Society with some good deed.
  4. COLLABORATE with NGOs or others who can Add Value and give you some ‘AD-VALUE’ i.e. Advertising Value due to the Event that we create.
  5. PARTNERSHIP – Look for an opportunity for foming a Long Term Partnership if the Goals ( CSR) of the company matches with those of the NGO.
With these thoughts, I did some loud thinking over phone with my friend and ex junior :
  1. Look at what is in VOGUE today. PM MODI, His CLEANLINESS DRIVE Mission, His choice of Ambassadors, the resultant publicity et al.(Including one in which he poses with a Broom – which is the Election symbol of Aam Admi Party – his arch rivals in Delhi which helped them beat BJP to nearly brooming it out of Delhi Assembly) But that apart (I am known to digress while thinking – loudly or otherwise :)) .  Your Stores, The packaging and other Waste that your stores create and spoil the surroundings.  Can this be a Mission. Can this be your program. At all 80+ Stores? Engaging all 1000+ people Employed + Contracted involving your vendors and neighbours?  My friend said Yes, something like this is what they have in mind. So this is what I suggested on This Thinking Track:
    1. Create an Event wherein the Store Employees and Vendors come together and help clean the Store and the nearby surrounding together.
    2. Buy Three colored Dustbins to sort the Waste – Solid, Wet and Dry and get the help of local school children to Exhibit and demonstrate how waste is distributed.
    3. Take help of a NGO which specialises in ReUse, ReCycle Waste.
    4. Have the Staff Wear ‘T’ Shirts with an internally brainstormed Slogan like ” Clean Stores Have Clean Souls ( Honest) working here”  etc. etc.  Brand the Waste baskets, dust bins and the Children with T shirts, Caps and Re Usable handgloves and small artistically designed Polythene Aprons which are washable as branding tools.
  2.  The Second Track I was thinking was about Bengaluru, its waste management crisis and the condition of its ‘PourKarmiks’ = The Safai Wallahs and Walis = The Waste management staff of the BBMP who recently went on strike for wage increase.  My thoughts were:
    1. Does Any one ever Thanks the PourKarmiks?  Is there an opportunity to give them a flower bouquet / a garland / cleaning equipment ( which as a corporate you can always Brand) and a Cash award in each Store? If we were to invite about 10 such PourKarmiks working in the Wards where these stores are located – we are talking of a near 1:1 interaction with 1 Staff member and 1 Pourkarmik ! Now consider 2000 people from 2000 families ‘Touched’ ‘Felt’ ‘Regarded’ ‘Thanked’ ‘Awarded’ ‘Photographed’ – The reach is already to 10000 family members becoming aware about the program, the brand and the unique idea of ‘Saying Thank You’  reaching and touching Souls. That brought me to think of my friend the Security Head and CCTV Comptroller – I thought can this guy be equipped with a Camera which looks inside the Souls of the 1000+ co workers of his organisation and can he Reach Out and Look Within each of his team mate for their Charitable Hearts and Souls? May be not. Because such a Camera does not exist.  But Thoughts. The Thinking Track such as the one I am sharing – is this possible – yes, because it comes out a Mind Set which has Empathy, Sympathy and feeling of goodwill towards someone who is doing a menial job – trying to find Dignity while maintaining our city’s Sanity ( Sanitation needs/ Hygiene needs).  My friend liked this.  He said he would internally brainstorm – form core team of volunteers and present the thought in their own words to the Management – I LIKED IT !
  3.  The Third Thinking Track has two elements
    1. Eye Care – My Lady Doc and her husband have run an Eyecare trust for 5 years – have done over 500 Eye Test camps, Performed Hundreds of free surgeries and distributed Thousands of Spectacles and medicines free to the needy in Bengaluru slums.  I suggested to my friend to speak to them.  I am quite sure, BBMP does not care for the Eyesight of the Pourkarmiks ! If we were to bring them together and help them with Eyesight check, look for Cataract and other surgical needs – provide support thru the Retail Chain for the Surgical needs, spectacles, eye care medicines – will this create a Goodwill in the Hearts of the lowly paid Service Provider near your stores – and convert him/ her into a loyal stakeholder and your Store’ Brand Ambassador?  My friend liked it – they spoke, agreed to meet – I hope a positive outcomes forward.
    2. While we gather 2000 people on a Sunday.  I think it is also a good opportunity for organising a Blood Donation Camp in a city which has very high Accident / fatality rate – what with the Big holes dug by different Government and municipal departments which are Death holes creating more and more accidents in the city.  I felt this is one big opportunity to associate, collaborate and partner with Blood collection organisation in the city an make it an annual event.
Finally, I said to my friend, bring in a Marketing expert on the team who can look at all aspects of branding, publicity, media coverage and also internal communications.
So far everything is positive.  I just realised – I have not written an article for my blog even on the 4th Anniversary on WordPress.  So decided to pen these thoughts. 
May be, someday there will be a Camera which will look inside the Souls of the people.  May be, some day there will be a wand, which will wake up the Humanity and Goodwill in people.
May be, one day CSR will not be just a Branding Vehicle but will be an outpouring of a Soulful Corporate with a Soul ! 
Amen !
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