The GE Way of Life- Ramki and Prasanth.

As part of PartnerSpeak, we have once again had the opportunity to meet and interact with two prolific members of Bangalore’s CSR community. Meet Prasanth Kumar and Ramakrishna Rao, two senior professionals from GE’s Bangalore campus, who have been at GE for over 15 years now.

GE’s global CSR focus is in four different areas- Education, Healthcare, Community Development, and Disaster Management/Relief. Ramki tells us, “In addition to this, a big focus here is towards environmental issues in India.” In the field of education, the GE campus in Bangalore reaches out to over 4500 children daily through their CSR & the GE Volunteer platform. “We spend time with these children to empower them and capacitate them for a better future. We focus on Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics (STEM) oriented learning for these children. Secondly, we try to identify children that are exceptionally bright and smart, and support them by giving them scholarships to pursue higher education.”

It was easy to tell that the GE Volunteers platform is a cause close to their hearts. Prasanth says, “We have both been involved in the volunteer community for 15 years. Since I am passionate about teaching, we started off with a few schools in the vicinity of our campus. As more employees joined in, we have diversified our outreach activities immensely. Currently, we are associated with 15 different schools in and around Whitefield.” When asked about the successes of their volunteerism, Ramki told us, “One story in this aspect would be that of two girls called Jyoti and Meena, who are now studying in the final year of B. Tech. Some of the children we have taught are now employees at big MNCs, and this brings us immense satisfaction”.

GE has been actively supporting Agastya for over two years now through programs such as Abhivyakthi, Lab on a Bike, Operation Vasantha etc. As engineers themselves, Prasanth and Ramki strongly believe in the power that science has to change these children’s lives. “The Agastya methodology is unique and commendable. It is great that they are so focused on one key area”. Ramki says. Prasanth added on by saying, “What struck me most was the passion of the teachers at the Agastya campus. It is very difficult to find that level of passion among schoolteachers. Their level of understanding of scientific concepts also surprised us. This is one of the primary reasons that made us partner with Agastya.”

Apart from Agastya, GE has also worked with other NGOs like the Manipal Foundation (healthcare), Akshaya Patra (food & sustenance) and Unnati (vocational training) to name a few. As GE looks to expand its good work in the coming years, they tell us that two most important criteria for them are sustainability and focus. Ramki mentions, “We always like for our projects to focus on one key issue, and we need to be able to sustain the project for a long period of time. Impact is also something that we keenly look at and measure.” Prasanth adds to this, “All the schools that we have worked with have been supported by us for the last 10-15 years. When our employees propose new projects to us, we always ask them to plan the project and to sustain it by themselves for at least one year. Every program we have worked with has been sustained by our employees for a long time.”

At Agastya, we believe in the power of collaboration being vital to impacting the society. Is there scope for corporates to collaborate in CSR areas? Ramki agrees, “At GE, we are always looking to collaborate – whether it is with like-minded corporates, or other NGOs. I believe that NGOs should be initiating the collaboration between multiple corporates on projects that focus on the community – this would multiply impact, and help scale up these programs across the country.” Prasanth also mentions, “There is no structured model for this, which is why large NGOs like Agastya, should be the focal point that brings everyone together. Over time the network would improve, funds would be better utilized, and there would be greater impact on the society.”

Amidst all this, we wonder how they have managed to make time for CSR activities in addition to their day jobs as engineers. They explain to us that the overlying culture of the company, and the leadership, have always encouraged a work-life balance, and engaging in outreach activities. Prasanth, who has an avid interest in photography, decided to teach a photography class with the children at Agastya, as part of the Abhivyakthi program. Through word of mouth he has also found many more employees who were interested in doing the same.

We end by asking what has been their biggest learning through their experiences volunteering and engaging with the society. Prasanth shared with us his own story, “Education can change lives. I strongly believe that because I come from very humble beginnings. My parents believed that education would change my life, and whatever I am today is solely attributed to the power of education. That is the strongest motivation for me. If we can help children through education, I am certain that they will figure out their future themselves. Every case gives us immense happiness and satisfaction.” Ramki also echoes his thoughts and says, “When we go to these schools, we see plenty of bright young minds. They don’t want anyone to hold their hand and walk with them; all they need is someone to show them the path. They have the potential, and our endeavour is to make them realize their potential through our work.”