Education is our CSR Focus: Ritu Nathani, Cybage CSR Head



Cybage Software Pvt. Ltd has two CSR arms namely CybageAsha and CybageKhushboo focusing on two important sectors – education and rural development. RituNathani, Director-Cybage and Head-Cybage CSR, talks to India CSR about actions and impact its programs are making. Excerpts:

How did you come up with the two arms of CSR at Cybage?

CybageAsha was started in 2005 with a bunch of enthusiastic Cybagians who wanted to help their villages. One of the volunteers introduced his village, Kuranwadi in Bhor district of Pune, which sensitized us to the disparity between rural and urban India. This is how Cybage Software Pvt. Ltd. commenced its first philanthropic arm, CybageAsha, in October 2005.

In 2009, we established CybageKhushboo because of our strong belief in the power of education. Our flagship initiative,CybageKhushboo grants scholarships to students who want to pursue college education and professional.

What is your vision for CybageAsha and CybageKhushboo?

CybageAsha’s vision is to upliftthe rural parts of the country by contributing to its community development and social welfare. CybageAsha started with its rural development programs. We have been implementing projects such as water conservation, watershed management, desilting of rivulets and streams, constructing continuous contour trenches (CCT’s), building group wells, water tanks & RO filter plant; Cement Nala Bandhara/Check-dams, individual toilets in villages, renovating village schools, building internal roads and underground drainage systems.

CybageKhushboo’s vision is that every youth in the country whether employed by an organization or self-employed, should have the means of being independent. The purpose is to bridge disparities through education, as we believe that talent is distributed across all sections of society, but opportunities are not. We thrive to give every student an opportunity to be able to make a career for themselves.

What is the impact of these activities?

CybageAsha programs have impacted more than 1.2 lakh individuals through its sustainable efforts. The transformation across 60 villages has been a journey that inspires us to go beyond Maharashtra and contribute towards other parts of rural India.

Our scholarship program started in 2010,and we have had multiple students passing out since 2015, getting placed in large MNCs. So far, we have provided 3097 scholarships across disciplines and almost 80% of the students have been employed. Our Digital Empowerment project has benefited more than 1600 people, Adult Literacy Program has more than 150 beneficiaries, and Skill Development program has around 300 beneficiaries.

It is a sense of achievement to observe a huge lifestyle change in the families of our scholarship beneficiaries, that is becoming more evident with more students passing out each year.

Please share details on the challenges you have faced while implementing all these initiatives? How did you overcome them?

Changing the mindset of people has been a big challenge in rural communities as they are still skeptical of changing their old practices and traditions and adopt new and modern approaches. It takes a lot of convincing andcommunication for adopting a new way of living. Many a times,even after rounds of discussion with villagers, the projects are cancelled as the villagers opt out of the proposed ideas.

Another challenge that I can recall is convincing the youngsters for jobs offered after completion of a skill development program. Giving an example, Talent Setu, an implementation partner for machine operator courses, offered job offers in and around Pune for 100 students as per its commitment to CybageAsha, but many of them rejected the offer merely because of their difficulty to cope with the urban culture and lifestyle.

Tell us something about the initiatives that you are planning?

We continue with the same initiatives that we started with. Our two philanthropic wings work towards education, rural upliftment, urban community development, and social welfare.

Naturally as need comes up we will add on more activities accordingly, like climatic conditions have become a serious cause of concern over the last couple of years and natural disastersthat used to occur rarely have suddenly become very frequent. So, this year, we started with a Disaster Management vertical. One of our employees took us to his village in Kolhapur which was badly affected by floods recently.We also visited other neighboring villages as well and identified 25 families whose homes were lost due to these floods. Coming from the lower socio-economic sections, the affected people had no means to build their houses again. CybageAsha is rebuilding their houses in Kolhapur; similarly, we made a generous contribution towards the Kerala relief fund last year.

How has the role of your employees been like when it comes to volunteering for CSR activities?

Our employee engagement has been constantly increasing year on year because the younger generation of employees is aware of their responsibility towards the society and is more inclined towards giving back to the society.

Also, our CSR team has identified different initiatives that we can undertake, which are aligned with the interests of our employees and give them a platform to use their talent for a cause. For example, our employees have conducted workshops in art & craft, painting, yoga, spoken English in low income private schools for holistic development of kids. Cybage’s Visual Communications team has transformed the look of a low-income school by painting the walls and classrooms in different themes – giving the kids a vibrant environment to pursue their academics.

As an organization, we recognize and appreciate the employees who make a difference and keep them motivated to promote the culture of giving back to the society.

Amongst the different verticals you are working on, which one do you think is the most important to Cybage?

All the work we do is important to us, but the two most important ones are: our education vertical, where our flagship initiative is to offer scholarships to underprivileged students for college education. Extending our scholarship program across Maharashtra, reaching out to as many kids as possible.

The second vertical which is of utmost importance to us is our oldest initiative of CybageAsha, which is aimed at rural upliftment, working on villages with farmers. We realized that a lot of corporate houses and NGOs are working towards the urban community, however not many reach out to the rural communities. Given that the essence of India is in rural India, and surprisingly enough, those areas are the most backward ones in terms of development. We want to focus most of our funding towards the rural upliftment vertical.

In the future, we see ourselves working less in urban communities and more and more in rural parts of the country. This vertical has been limited to Maharashtra until now, but we plan to expand our projects to other states by increasing our bandwidth, initiatives and efforts.

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