Vodafone adapts ‘Shramdan’ as practice


It’s one of the few companies which allows its employees work full-time dedicatedly with a cause focussed NGO and also pay them for the same.

Cheque book philanthropy is common practice among Indian corporates. Most Indian companies consider a monetary donation to a developmental cause – build a school, hospital, centre for refugees, disaster relief – a good enough contribution to give it back to the society.

However, some companies are trying to adopt a different route. They are choosing active philanthropy. Vodafone India, for instance, is one company which ensures active participation by its employees on societal developmental work.

Through its programme, World of Difference (WoD), Vodafone enables its employees to contribute their time, skill, expertise and passion to the social sector by working full-time dedicatedly with a cause focussed NGO.

The programme was launched some four years back and this year as many as 50 qualified Vodafone India employees – 26 women employees and 24 male employees – drawn from different work streams, will work with 25 diverse NGOs for a period of eight weeks to enhance capacities, address technology gaps and address issues related to women empowerment, governance and health.

During this period, the employees will continue to receive their salaries and all related benefits from Vodafone India throughout the programme.

The core belief of WoD is to fund and inspire individuals who are keen to use their skills, expertise, and passion for a chosen charity programme, instead of donating money directly to charities.

Rohit Adya

In an exclusive interview with HRKatha, Rohit Adya, external affairs director, Vodafone India, says, “In our view, CSR has evolved with time. Today, being a responsible business is not only about what and how much you do but increasingly important is how you do it.”

“One needs to consider several aspects such as, ‘Is the programme sustainable?’, ‘Does it create shared value?’, ‘Does it empower communities?’, and ‘Does it help address a relevant socio economic challenge?’,” he adds.

Vodafone’s endeavour is to use the power of its network, its technical know-hows, its resources and its capabilities, to make a positive impact on the society as well as create socially conscious workforce.

In India, the programme is run in partnership with Dasra, a strategic philanthropy foundation. The latter analyses and matches the skills and acumen of the participants with the non-profit organizations.

What’s interesting is that Vodafone India has not made participation in ‘WoD’, a voluntary exercise. Rather, the company believes in a strict selection procedure to find the right fit for the programme. Similarly it also selects the NGOs very carefully.

The NGOs’ ability to define its needs for a unique project, its legal status and compliance, geographical diversity, potential of creating true social impact are all considered.

Similarly, the employees are selected after a rigorous application and interview process. For every project placement, the selected NGO provides a detailed job description. This is then hosted on the intranet once the

WoD programme applications are announced open, similar to any other job listing.

After applications close, the Vodafone Foundation and Dasra team work closely with the Vodafone HR team for final selections.

Vodafone employees are expected to actively work at the grassroots level and in new surroundings with diverse stakeholders on projects that positively impact the NGOs on ground.

When asked about how this entire activity paybacks on the people front, Adya asserts, “This stint benefits employees professionally and personally through cross-sector growth, thus providing Vodafone with well-rounded and ‘aware’ employees. Indirectly, employees get to know their customers better, experience working in challenging and new environments with limited resources.”

Besides, the company believes that the participating employees come back wiser with fresh learning and experiences that encourages responsible behaviour across the organisation.

This year, Vodafone has substantially increased the number of participants for this programme and incorporated elements to ensure continuing engagement with its NGO partners even after the formal eight-week programme ends.


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