Winds of change

— Crème

In search of an ultimate level of gratification, Ritu Nathani, Director, Cybage Software Pvt. Ltd., and Managing Trustee, CybageAsha and CybageKhushboo has dedicated her life to educate underprivileged children and work towards the betterment of the society. Priti Verma speaks to the driving force behind CybageAsha and CybageKhushboo
Winston Churchill once said, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” Giving back to the society in her own little, but big ways is Ritu Nathani. A dentist by profession, a known name in theatre and the Director of Cybage Software Pvt. Ltd, Ritu has led a happy and content life. With two children and a doting husband by her side, there is nothing more she could ask for.. “After completing my dentistry, I worked for a few years. I got married and had two lovely kids. Later, I pursued my childhood passion of joining the theatre, and soon started preparing children for speech examinations which were affiliated with Trinity College of London and even taught as an Elocution teacher at a couple of schools. All along the years, I was content and happy to pursue my passion and have my own identity, but the ultimate level of gratification was missing, I was beginning to ask myself if I was making enough of a difference? I always felt a void; a need to do something more, something substantial. It was in the year 2008, when my father in-law was diagnosed with cancer, that I was sensitized to the world of helplessness and sufferings. This led to the  will to give back to  society and make a difference. I discovered my real purpose of life.”

In the year 2003, Cybage started its first CSR arm - CybageAsha that works towards rural development. CybageAsha also had an interesting start. “ We had an employee from Karnawadi village in Bhor district. On his request, we visited his village, and were taken aback by the plight of the villagers. This is when we realised the disparity between urban and rural India; it’s like living in two different countries. We got our resources together and built roads, toilets, underground drainage, a well, and even a school. It was a fruitful start, this village was awarded with the prestigious ‘Nirmal Gram Puruskar’ by the then President, Smt. Pratibha Patil” she recalls.

The only way to bridge the disparities in this country is through education, once you have the required educational backing , the world is your oyster. With the will and dedication to turn things around in the society for the better, Ritu along with her husband, Arun Nathani, CEO, Cybage started CybageKhushboo- the second arm of the CSR department in 2009. It runs on the motto- Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, but teach a man how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. “After months of research of the education system of our country, we understood that the main challenge comes when children want to go to college, and especially when they want to pursue professional courses. So we decided to give scholarships to kids who wanted to pursue professional degrees,” she explains.
So what is the selection procedure?  “We have only two criterions for selection. One, the family income should be less than 2.5 Lacs and secondly, the child should score a minimum of 60% in his/her 10 and 12 standard. We call the kids for interviews and go to their respective houses to verify on the authenticity of the information given to us and only then issue scholarships to the students. We monitor children over the period of their course and ask the students to submit their mark sheets every year so that we can track their progress and make sure they don’t fall behind the eight ball. We don’t ask our students to sign any kind of bonds or ask them to repay anything, but we do encourage them to help out other kids when they get a good job. Last year, many of our children got placed at TCS, HSBC and many more established corporate firms,” she adds with pride.
CybageKhushboo has also tied up with the NASSCOM Foundation- it is a programme that provides digital literacy for all. Upon taking this course, a certificate from the government of Maharashtra is given, stating that the person is now digitally literate. Recently, CybageKhushboo partnered with iTeach Schools (an off-shoot of Teach For India) to operate one of the Municipal schools —a move that is expected to benefit 145 students. Every year CybageKhushboo keeps on taking different projects under their education programme. Similarly, they keep expanding their reach in terms of rural infrastructural development under the CybageAsha development.
Today, Cybage Asha and Cybage Khushboo work with 23 villages and have rewarded  scholarships to more than 750 students. In less than eight years, many lives have been transformed, and much more humongous change is expected in the future. So what drives this passion? “People say you have to be very selfless to be philanthropic, but when you actually embark on that journey, the gratification and joy that you get when you see the difference which you have made in one’s life, is absolutely amazing. We are people who believe in karma than dharma,” she signs off with a satisfactory smile.