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FIINOVATION REVIEWS: WHY CHILDREN CRAWL TO DEATH IN BACKWARD DISTRICT OF ODISHA

The history repeats itself in the backward district of Odisha, with around 100 children being severely affected by malnutrition and Japanese Encephalitis, leading to multiple deaths. Earlier this year, over 19 Juang tribal children succumbed to death from acute malnutrition in remote interiors of Nagada hills in Jaipur district over a period of three months. Additionally, around 60 undernourished children hit by the Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) caused by the Japanese Encephalitis (JE) virus, a vector-borne viral fever that attacks the brain, were also reported dead in the tribal-dominated Malkangiri district within two months. Maximum children dying due to this disease are below 8 years of age. The speculations are ripe that the death toll will increase, considering the fact that many children are still suffering from fever.

Fiinovation reviews that the Malkangiri district, which belongs to the backward KBK (Koraput-Balangir-Kalahandi) region of Odisha is not witnessing this appalling situation for the first time. Many deaths have been reported in the past four years including 38 in 2012 and 11 in 2014 in this district.

In the last few years, many other states like Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh and Northeastern states have also been reporting regular cases of JE and it is also spreading to other non-endemic regions. Kolkata reported 21 deaths in July this year, wherein last year around 200 people have succumbed to the disease. Year 2013 has been the most dreadful year as 1000 deaths were reported across India.

As per the World Bank estimates, India is not only one of the highest ranking countries regarding the number of children suffering from malnutrition, but also comprises the highest number of underweight children. The 2015 Global Hunger Index (GHI) report has also ranked India on 20th position with GHI score of 29.0 (“serious situation”) amongst the countries suffering from grave hunger situation, just ranking behind Afghanistan and Pakistan. Although, the Indian GDP has increased by 50% since 1991, still more than one third of the malnourished population is still living in India. Even the RSoC (Rapid Survey on Children) conducted by the Ministry of Women and Child Development in collaboration with UNICEF on children below 3 years, revealed that 38.7% of them are stunted (low height for age), 29.4 per cent of them are found to be underweight and 15% are considered wasted (low weight for height). The significance of RSoC data also holds lot of significance considering the fact that the Sustainable Development Goal 2.2 is committed to end all forms of malnutrition by 2030.

Apart from malnutrition, the death outbreak is also related to poor hygiene and sanitation as the Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) caused by the Japanese encephalitis (JE) virus is spread through mosquito bites. The virus is transmitted to humans from pigs as they act as reservoir of the germs through the bite of mosquito known as Culex Vishnoi. The disease has gripped more than 21 villages in various districts including Kalimela, Korkunda, Pandripani etc. As per the district health officials, the disease has spread as epidemic due to water logging in paddy fields which act as good breeding grounds for carrier mosquitoes.

The Malkangiri district comprises 1,045 villages covering under the Tribunal Sub-Plan (TSP) of government, which lays emphasis on the integrated development of tribal areas. Still, the majority of population lacks basic education and falls below the poverty line and the tribal communities are dependent on subsistence agriculture, including shifting cultivation. The callous attitude of government is witnessed from the fact that even after the recurring deaths, it has not taken up the vaccination drive in the state on the right time to control the disease. It will not be exaggerating to say, that in this regard, even the Central government has failed to take any concrete steps. Not only the village lacks the specialized medical facilities like MRI scan machine, required for diagnosis of the disease. The district and state level authorities failed to take preventive measures like segregating or culling the animals like pigs or distribution of medicated mosquito nets.

The district also lacks adequate number of doctors. It has only 57 doctors over 37 hospitals against the sanctioned number of 115. Over 2000 positions of doctors are lying vacant and many other severely affected districts like Korkunda doesn’t even has a single doctor. The vaccination drive was started in India in year 2006 after the disease outbreak was registered in Eastern UP and Bihar and was distributed freely to the districts affected by the disease. Looking at the gravity of the situation, the vaccine was also included under the Universal Immunization Program (UIP) in the 181 districts affected by the endemic. But, it seems Odisha has been neglected. As per the Annual Health Survey of Registrar General of India, only 29.6 percent of Malkangiri’s population is covered under the immunization programme creating an emergency situation.

The Central and state government has come up with various programs like mid-day meal schemes, Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), the National Rural Health Mission and Public Distribution System for eradicating malnutrition and improving the health of mothers and children under 6 years of age by providing health-care services, providing food and spreading awareness. Till date, around 34 million children between 0-6 years of age and 7 million pregnant mothers have been benefited by the ICDS program.

Fiinovation urges that corporates should come forward to contribute their CSR funds in projects related to hunger, poverty, malnutrition and sanitation by promoting preventive health-care services and educating the weak and marginalized so that they can take preventive actions against the diseases. Additionally, they can also make contributions towards the ‘Swach Bharat Kosh’ set-up by the central government promoting sanitation and safe drinking water.

Manisha Bhatia

Media & Communications

Fiinovation

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CSR FOR A DIFFERENT CAUSE

A recent report by the United Nations (UN) reveals that India has population of more than 100 million disabled citizens. However, due to lack of sensitivity and opportunities only 100,000 of them are successful in obtaining employment. To uplift the specially-abled people, the government has introduced the Persons with Disability Act, 1995 mandating 3 per cent reservation for specially-abled in government jobs. However, the government is still unable to fulfill the 3 percent reserved jobs for disabled people. The main reasons behind this is the lack of education, lack of facilities for specially-abled at work stations and continuous discrimination faced by them at home and work.

Even, many private sector companies are ignorant about their responsibility towards the inclusion and development of specially-abled people. They are under the wrong impression that it is a cumbersome and expensive task to hire specially-abled people. This issue is further aggravated by the fact that they lack support from their parents and society. Hence, they develop low self-esteem and never flourish in the society, even if they are extremely talented. Additionally, the infrastructure in India is not well-equipped to cater the special work requirements of specially-abled people. For instance, the standard size of the workstations may be too high or too low for people with wheelchairs and crutches. Other challenges include difficulty in using stairs in the workplace which lack escalators and the availability of adequate and friendly transportation facilities for differently- abled employees.

But, some companies have decided to bring the change and Fiinovation applauds the move of these companies which have pioneered the initiatives by identifying the need to tap the specially-abled population in creating a special pool of specially-abled employees; despite the challenges being involved. One such example is created by the leading coffee chain, Costa Coffee. The Green Park, New Delhi outlet of Costa Coffee is entirely led and managed by the speech and hearing impaired employees. The menu is also designed keeping in view the needs of specially-abled employees.

Srishti Kataria, a student of the Amity University, Noida shares her experience by saying, “It is just like playing dumb charades. Placing my order in different ways is fun. What I feel when I am here is something I cannot explain in words. The vibes are so positive and the staff always smiles at you with warmth.”

Fiinovation reviews that not only Costa, but even other coffee houses, restaurants, retail outlets, and other companies like Lifestyle, Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC), Hyper City, Max, Dominos, Tata Steel, Bharat Matrimony and Reliance retail among others, are increasingly employing them as executives, cashiers, attendants, store administrators and merchandisers.

In another inspiring example, The MphasiS utilizes its CSR funds focused around three areas of education, employability and entrepreneurship development. The company shares its experience stating that it has faced lot of challenges when it decided to invest its CSR funds for hiring the professionally sound persons with disabilities. There was lack of skilled manpower for joining the organization at suitable positions. So apart from recruiting the specially-abled people, the company also ensured to provide financial assistance to the students with milder disabilities in getting admission in the professional fields of engineering and management.

Recently, at the Rio Paralympics, Indian parathletes have raised the Indian flag high by winning four medals in different sports categories, including two gold medals. Athelete Deepa Malik has become an icon for Indian youth through her exemplary win at Paralympic and several other sports competition. She has also been awarded with Arjuna award for her stupendous performance in Sports.

Fiinovation salutes the extraordinary talent and capabilities of specially-abled people and urges the nation that instead of showing sympathy, we should explore their talents and align then with the mainstream society.

Although, the government has launched various initiatives and awareness campaigns but, the issue is so big that it cannot be solved overnight. With the majority of specially-abled population residing in rural areas, it becomes difficult to develop adequate infrastructure addressing their concerns. Hence, Fiinovation urges the corporations to come forward and invest their CSR spends for the development and upliftment of specially-abled individuals thereby promoting inclusive development.

For the companies, who have been associated with the cause of uplifting specially-abled for a long time now, it can be highlighted that with the initiatives to ameliorate the situation of the specially-abled population, things are changing for better, gradually.

Manisha Bhatia

Media & Communications

Fiinovation

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Communicating CSR – A Fiinovation Review on the Importance of Social Media

Social media has created its own space in the mainstream media with millions of users constantly engaged in communicating information from one place to another. In this era, nothing seems to be hidden or not talked upon on the social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. As of 2016, there are 3.4 billion internet users across the world and nearly 75% of them live in G20 countries. With new entrants such as Quora, WhatsApp, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. the game has just begun.

For businesses, social media has been a major marketing tool to promote themselves easily to a larger audience. In 2014, the forecast for investments in social advertising worldwide suggested to nearly double in a two-year time span, going from around 16 billion U.S. dollars to nearly 31 billion U.S. dollars in 2016. The United States is, by far, the largest social media advertising market in the world, as more than 9.4 billion U.S. dollars being spent on social media advertisements in the country in 2015 alone. In US, 9 out of 10 companies use social media for marketing purposes. Two US based organizations, Google and Facebook continue to be the world’s largest ad publishers.

The trend is not restricted to the western economies, rather over 80 percent of 120 companies listed on The Wall Street Journal’s Asia 200 Index are active on the social media platforms. Although, the numbers will be lesser in a developing country like India, yet quite a number of companies are actively participating in promotional activities on the social media platforms. In July 2016, the country’s digital advertising market was projected to grow at a CAGR of 35 per cent to reach Rs. 7,044 crore by the end of the year.

The growth has been steady since 2011 and digital advertising accounted for nearly 12 per cent of the total advertising spends in the country in 2015. Mr. John Rose, the Managing Director and Senior Partner – Boston Consulting Group suggests that due to the online distribution models the traditional news media companies are not getting their due share of revenue. On top of it, in future, it is expected that the online advertising market will increase rapidly with higher internet speed and penetration.

As the focus of companies is shifting towards increasing their brand equity or brand value by being socially accountable, it becomes crucial to inform the stakeholders about the social and environmental impact. Hence, strategies for communication requires alteration as well. Focusing on social media platforms, the businesses will look to highlight their CSR initiatives to the people of India. As the platforms provide direct opportunity to engage with the audience, the CSR initiatives will definitely be discussed upon. With the increase in awareness among consumers about the harmful impacts of the products and services, the corporations will be required to come clean for increasing outreach and enhancing brand loyalty.

For those, who have not been associated with online marketing, it might be difficult to analyze what kind of content will lead to higher engagement. Fiinovation believes that businesses can take the help of consulting firms which can develop strategies involving social media campaigns to communicate the impact of the CSR initiatives. The businesses can communicate information through Press Releases, Videos, Images, Info-graphics, Video-graphics, etc. as per the requirement of the social media campaign. Most of the recent surveys suggests that the consumers’ today notice the social work advertisements and behave accordingly. Not only they are looking at product and services that doesn’t cause any harm to the society and environment, but also are inquisitive on how the business is creating a shared value.

Although, CSR in India is completely different from cause marketing, yet some of the brands like KFC, ITC, etc. have been implementing such strategies. Similarly, CSR also comprises immense potential when it comes to attracting the consumers and impressing the stakeholders. In such a competitive environment constant innovation is a must and a good advertisement on CSR definitely helps the brand connect emotionally with the audience. For example, when JSW Steel wanted to highlight empowerment of women, they associated with Geeta Phogat, India’s first female Olympic wrestler from Haryana. The message of having a “Will Of Steel” might be directed towards all the girls in India, but the impact was equal irrespective of gender. Recently, Samsung came with its campaign #SapneHueBade highlighting its CSR contribution towards education and digital classrooms. Similarly, several others have also tried to inform the stakeholders about their CSR initiatives.

However, the work doesn’t end until the campaign is being propagated through the right mediums. This is where social media platforms play a crucial role in disseminating the information to the consumers. It is important to have the right kind of strategy as social media can lead to negative publicity if the audience find anything inappropriate. For increasing engagement and participation of the people, social media must be utilized as it is one of the easiest mediums with millions of subscribers. As a brand, it is important to be trend setter instead of following others. In order to create an everlasting impact on the minds of the consumers, the brand needs to be innovative with their CSR advertisements or communication materials. In today’s day and age, not many are interested in reading a CSR report filled with pictures of sunshine, solar panels, smiling multicultural employees, etc. These reports are a great start, but until a brand starts sharing the content in the most innovative form suited for the different social media platforms, they might not be considered trendy. Although, that doesn’t mean that traditional forms of media is not effective, but the power of social media cannot be undermined as well, especially when internet penetration is increasing at a good rate.

As in future the online advertisement and CSR will continue to grow, it is advisable that the brands associate with CSR consulting firms for developing the appropriate CSR communication strategies. As businesses will be looking to keep the stakeholders interested to purchase their product’s, to invest in the company or to support the organization’s social activities in their communities, the communication strategies should be dealt in a meaningful way to attract positive attention. Other advantages would be motivated employees, better relation with the communities and public agencies and better access of attracting investments.. With all these benefits, organizations’ shouldn’t be shying away from utilizing the social media platforms to their respective advantage.

If you make customers unhappy in the physical world, they might each tell 6 friends. If you make customers unhappy on the Internet, they can each tell 6,000 friends.” – Jeff Bezos

By Rahul Choudhury

Media & Communications, Fiinovation

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FIINOVATION REVIEWS: THE SOCIAL MEDIA RETURNS OF CSR

The return of billions of CSR investments is based on three pillars, social impact, integrating sustainability in business practices, and engagement with the stakeholders. Although, customers aren’t interested in the technical CSR theories however there is a direct connection between their purchase habits and a company’s involvement with the ethical business practices. A recent Cone Communications/Ebiquity Global CSR Study 2015 reveals that in today’s date consumers feel personal accountability towards addressing social and environmental issues. A research conducted by them covering 100,000 customers across nine countries including India suggests that the customers have unanimous voice for the companies to act responsibly towards addressing these issues.

Fiinovation seconds the fact that in today’s date, the Internet savvy consumers are knowledgeable and keep a tab on a company’s business practices. Hence, social media plays a major role in connecting and educating the customers about their efforts and initiatives towards sustainability and social development. Consumers find social media as an important medium to learn, voice their opinions, raise concerns as well as appreciate brands for their remarkable initiatives in the field of social development. This phenomenon is especially observed in the developing countries. In India alone, 88% of the consumers use social media to engage with companies over CSR issues. The best method through which consumers would like to engage on CSR efforts are directly linked to their wallets with nine out of ten customers preferring to purchase 89% of the products based on companies’ ethical business practices.

Another study conducted in 2013, reveals that the consumers are using social media primarily on three different aspects. Primarily around 34% of the consumers use social media to share positive information about the companies and related issues. Secondly, 30% of them use social media to gather information about the companies and thirdly 25% of the customers use social media platforms to spread negative information.

Looking at this staggering research results it is evident that CSR is no just an investment rather its returns are carefully strategized around a comprehensive digital marketing strategy. An increasing number of companies are strategically integrating their philanthropic projects with their marketing agenda for higher stakeholder engagement and enhancing business reputation and increase their brand value.

The leading chip giant, Intel utilizes social media for improving it’s earth-friendly initiatives while engaging diverse sectors of information and communication technology and consumers. Mr. Michael Jacobson, Director CSR at Intel said, “My department takes advantage of social media by marketing the positive ways Intel is working to minimize its global carbon emissions, as well as the entire industry. There was a time when we only focused on reducing own environmental footprint,” said Jacobson. “Today, we look for ways to help reduce CO2 emissions across the board, and we do that by talking with our stakeholders individually through social media.”

Manisha Bhatia

Media & Communications

Fiinovation

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Are You Celebrating an Eco-friendly Diwali? – Fiinovation Reviews

Indian festivals has always been known for its extravagant celebrations. Diwali is one of the biggest festivals in the country. Apart from the cultural and religious connections, the festival is often linked to air pollution, noise pollution, waste and several other negative impacts on the environment. For a few years now, there has been a significant campaign from activists, environmentalists, corporations and individuals to ensure there is less harmful impact on society due to the festivals which is celebrated by millions of people.

Fiinovation reviews that many initiatives such as Smokeless Diyas, restriction on crackers, etc. have been implemented, but not to much effect. Therefore, it is required that India implements a comprehensive action plan in which there is voluntary participation of the people to ensure that the Diwali celebrations doesn’t harm the society and environment.

At this time, the solid waste generation increases significantly filling the dump yards, ponds and lakes. In most of the metropolitan cities, dumps of waste after Diwali is a common sight. The harmful chemicals seep into the water bodies through drains damaging the entire ecosystem of the water bodies.

Fiinovation believes all these negative effects go unnoticed as humans remain busy in their celebrations. The air quality in almost all the Indian cities reaches the ‘severe’ mark. Yet, people continue to ignore the negative impacts of the festival of light.

So, the question here is that are we as individuals doing every thing to ensure that we celebrate Diwali in a eco-friendly way?

The answer might not be satisfactory for many experts, however it is never too late to act on the recommendations. There is a dire need to change the way we celebrate these festivals. For example, instead of bursting crackers, we can ask our children to bloom flowers.

Here are few recommendations which might help the society take adequate steps to reduce the negative impacts of Diwali:

  1. Fireworks Free Diwali – The elders needs to guide the younger generations to stop buying fireworks instead contribute the money towards a cause helping people who are in need of support.

  1. Time Out! – During Diwali, Indians are generally busy in several activities, but it is recommended to take out few hours to volunteer on social causes. This can also be done at an institutional level with corporations urging their employees to dedicate few hours towards social responsibilities.

  1. Waste Free Gifts – Innovative gifts such as plant saplings, recycled products, etc. that ensures reduction on waste generation.

  1. Swachh Bharat – The Prime Minister of India has started a campaign which requires participation of all people. The work of keeping the nation clean is not an one time job, rather it is during such festivals that we need to ensure we don’t dump garbage on streets and in water bodies. Instead, segregate both bio-degradable and non bio-degradable waste and dispose them responsibly.

It is expected that with these small steps taken by everyone, Indians can definitely reduce harmful impacts of Diwali. Even the corporations can contribute towards sustainability by developing eco-friendly products and awareness programmes.

Therefore, let’s make a difference and be the change we want to see.

#HappyDiwali

By Rahul Choudhury

Media & Communications, Fiinovation