Philanthropy + Strategy; the crux of CSR

While philanthropy is deeply engrossed in the Indian culture and has been around for ages, CSR as a concept is indeed nascent in India. The thrust provided by the Corporate Act 2013, is the impetuous required for CSR to develop in India . However whether the industry is moving forward in the right direction is the question that needs to be answered

Currently a lot of the companies are investing out to compulsion and out of a pure legal requirement, however this approach is unlikely to work in the long run and the effort will then lose its steam. Corporate entities need to see this as an opportunity and unlock it potential rather than approaching this in a philanthropic manner. In the long run this will be good for both the society as well as the corporate.

The approach will ensure that different industries and companies within those industries choose different causes and beneficiaries; thereby doing a greater good. Traditionally education and healthcare have been popular with philanthropists, however this helps in going beyond these two causes . At the same time a strategically chosen cause could help differentiate a brand, drive its usage and more importantly positively impact its Equity in the long run. A strategically planned and properly executed idea is likely to have a positive impact on the brand awareness, character and also help in increasing its loyalty quotientPicture1

In a highly competitive environment with little or no differentiation, product and consumer based marketing will have to give way to Value based marketing.  A case in point is the current handset industry situation. With over 150 players in the market spread across different price points, all brands slowly converging towards similar product offerings, selfie and long battery life being the key words , consumers are increasingly finding it hard to differentiate. The same is true for brands with narrowing scope for product and content innovation. In such a situation brands are desperately trying to differentiate themselves by associating themselves with cricket and bollywood ,a space which is also saturating.  In the absence of new innovations, these brands will soon have to move towards value based marketing for brand building. Such cases can also be seen in other industries in the technology, banking and insurance space

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It is therefore imperative for all corporate entities to embrace the opportunity presented by the corporate act and move forward with proper strategies in place. Recent studies by Wishlife highlight that  the second year of the Act 2015-16 has seen greater utilization of the CSR fund ,however the lack of strategic alignment is very obvious across industries . The same needs to be addressed as the soonest by corporate entities. A successful CSR strategy requires commitment and alignment of stakeholders as well as effective implementation.

The journey ahead for companies on the CSR route is will be exciting and challenging at the same time . We would therefore like to congratulate all corporate entities under the purview of the Act for the opportunity and wish that they are able to benefit themselves and the society to the fullest

Vivah Circuit

When one thinks of tourism in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, the imagination usually comes to rest on the Taj and the Buddha circuit. But these traditional tourism trails are not for the modern adventurous and experience seeking traveller. Amongst the many hidden, unexplored gems of this region is the ‘Vivah circuit’. The Vivah circuit revolves around the Vivah Panchami, a Hindu festival celebrating the marriage of Ram and Sita. Traditionally celebrated on the fifth day of the Shukla paksha or waxing phase of moon in the Margashirsha month (November – December as per Hindu calendar), the celebration is organized at a grand scale and yet is surprisingly little known.

The celebration is organized across the Mithilanchal region and North India as the Vivah Utsav of Sita and Ram in temples and sacred places associated with Ram. Ardent pilgrims who know about the grand occasion flock from across the World to Janakpur (Nepal).

As one can imagine, the festival holds great significance in the Hindu belt and the vivacity of the event is testament to this fact. The festival and its unique mythology-laden narrative have the power to attract the non-religious tourist as well but the potential is mostly untapped till now. Spirituality has always been a strong point of the Indian tourism industry and little-known festivals like these, which have not yet been spoilt by cosmopolitan modernisation, provide great avenues for authentic cultural and spiritual experiences. Developed in a sensitive and careful manner, these festivals and the monuments around which these are centred can help in creating a cultural heritage-renaissance in India. For the international traveller, looking for the authentic Indian spiritual awakening or introduction, these kind of religious and cultural events have always held a great charm.

The confluence of all major religions reflected in various monumental structures romanticized by exciting mythological stories and historical intrigues makes India a unique tourism destination apt for spiritual as well as the experience seeking travellers. The number of domestic tourists stand at1432 million and has grown by 12% which is good reflection of the potential of the sector. A large proportion of all these tourists travel to spiritual destinations across the country

There are many potential avenues which unexplored cultural events and sites like these open up. One which most organizations tend to overlook is association in these heritage and cultural experience building exercises through their CSR programs. Through our detailed analysis of the CSR behaviour across categories, Wishlife has identified several key positive insights which have included the realization that education and healthcare continue to remain at the centre of corporate CSR programs. Some others like skill development and rural development see some traction but most other causes identified under the section VII of Companies Act like rural sports, armed forces etc., remain unorthodox and rare choices at best. Also low on contributions is the cause of Protection of National Heritage Art and Culture.

While restoration of cultural sites, is gaining importance gradually, other possible avenues like tourism, experience etc. have a lot of unexplored potential and are capable of generating optimal impact through focused and culture-driven initiatives. Programs focusing on revitalizing and preserving cultural assets also have the inherent potential of providing sustainable livelihood to a large number of people apart from the obvious benefit and exposure of providing a platform to showcase our rich cultural heritage. The only thing that is required is for mutually beneficial partnerships, centered around this common cultural goal to be fostered and we at Wishlife are looking forward to working with interested parties to realize the holistic potential of these avenues from being mere ideas to impressive realities.