I was welcomed very warmly at the front desk, and led to an open office. I see Guru from his evening walk giving a high five to his colleagues. He has finished his quota of 10,000 steps. The atmosphere at work is extremely upbeat and everyone I see has one common accessory – a big smile on their faces. As we settled down, I asked-
What is the secret of happiness at office?
Guru says – keep things simple, be clean in approach and happy. This makes us more productive. Customers are happy, so it routes back to our employees, they are happy.
This simple formula stumped me. Can it truly be this simple? Let us know their story, philosophy and how they have shown that philanthropy can be simple.
Tell me about the philanthropic journey of Guru & Jana?
Guru & Jana Associates, our CA firm, formed about 14 years ago. It is extremely popular among the students. We get 1500 applications annually for internships. Every year, we take 20 interns. As a policy, 5 years back, we made a conscious effort to become a social enterprise. We decided to take 10 of the most brilliant students (toppers and rank students from tier 1 cities, great pedigree) and 10 below average students from mostly rural background. The idea was the pair a topper with the below average student. By law they have to stay with us for 4 years. So this symbiotic relationship will help both – one learning to give and the other learning to experience. This also means, we needed to spend more time with these students from the rural background. The anxiety they go through is multi-fold – peer pressure, being away from families, everything being foreign around them, undoing some of the things they learnt to move ahead. But the 40-50 students we have taken in this program over the last 5 years have fabulous families now.
What I have seen in the last 5 years is that the 10 below average students have overtaken 10 best in most cases. These students are also tasked to get the next 10 students to office. All of these students, who have passed from us – are with leading institutions these days apart from a few who continue to work with us. What this did for us? Employees are happy with these initiatives – workplace is definitely a very happy place; money is not the retention tool, but the feeling of giving and belonging is far stronger. So we have a committed and engaged workforce.
“Money is not the retention tool, but the feeling of giving and belonging is far stronger”
“Higher simplicity = lower complexity = faster service = higher customer satisfaction”
What is the role of your organization’s professional success in building a social enterprise?
We wanted to be a role model for being simple in our dealings as Chartered Accountants. Also be clean and transparent in our dealings. The company who can work the fastest will have to be the cleanest. We have maintained our accounts very clean and decided not to pay any bribes. During one of our brainstorming sessions, we thought of how the charkha (Cotton spinning wheel) defined the vision for our company. If we have to do something very big, it doesn’t mean something complex. Instead, do something small and simple and with great love. Be simple, don’t complicate!
Central to all of this is, one has to be happy. To be happy, you need to respect everyone and be healthy. Guru & Jana is a uni-status company. We all have the same chairs, food and workstations at work. Our accounts are open, even our office boy can see our accounts. In terms of health we gamified this. A portal is created, and everyone’s daily workout is captured. For example, incase someone distributed sweets for their birthday, then 500 points are deducted from their account, and if someone distributed health food then they would be given an additional 1000 points. We have no intercoms in the office. So if anyone wants to speak to a colleague, they walk over and speak to the person. When you walk over and tap and speak to the person, more collaboration and happiness is created. More than 100 such small initiatives have been implemented. We feel that if we are happy, then we are more organized. This supported with technology and process delivers faster services. Higher simplicity = lower complexity = faster service = higher CSAT. By applying this simple formula we can reach our vision of 202020, a top 20 CA firm in India by 2020.
This formula struck a chord with the start-ups. Start-ups want simplicity. Look at my office, it’s an open office, there are no locks or conference rooms. On an average we reject 6 clients out of 10 purely based on ethics. If we realize that the person may not go with our ideology of maintaining clean accounts we don’t want to work with them.
This simple philosophy got us profits.
Can you tell me a little more on the successful CSR programs at Guru & Jana?
The programs of Guru & Jana are two fold. One is for our own employees and the other is focused on the community we operate in.
For our employees, who earn approximately Rs. 30,000 per month, owning a house is a distant dream. What we decided from Guru & Jana was to build homes for our employees at affordable costs. GuruJana homes was conceived. Here Guru & Jana gave Rs. 80 Lakhs as a seed fund into this initiative and we constructed nine 2-BHK homes for our employees near Girinagar main road. We asked them to pay an EMI of Rs. 6000 / month (as that figure was affordable for an employee in that salary bracket). The first nine houses were handed over to our employees. We have assured our employees that even after they leave Guru & Jana they can continue to stay in these homes. All they need to pay is the monthly EMI. We are now starting the phase 2 of GuruJana Homes. We are looking to build 10 houses in the same area. This project is dear to our heart, as it’s not just about ensuring our employees get great work to do, its also about taking care of their families.
From a community perspective, we are currently supporting 100 kids who are connected to Guru & Jana by providing them with school fees, uniform, health coverage and most important tutoring on life skills. Our young employees have volunteered to conduct the mentoring program – where they go to the kid’s houses and see how they are improving on their hygiene, moral and spiritual self. There are also professional tutors who have been appointed to help the kids with the studies and other skills, which will help them develop holistically.
In addition, we support an old age home where over 70 destitute are living. They live a life of dignity and we have ensured that their housing, medical, boarding and lodging is taken care.
“It’s not just about ensuring our employees get great work to do, its also about taking care of their families”
“In business we measure in money, while in philanthropy we measure smiles. The result is same.”
How do you raise funds for all these activities? Is this just from the profits of Guru & Jana?
We contribute some percentage of the profits to our foundation. Apart from that, I have authored a book titled “Banter Beyond The Buck”. The proceeds from the sales and royalties of both my partner’s bestseller and mine are routed to the foundation.
Another route for our funds is, as an organization we do not give discounts to anyone. We are willing to give a discount, but that money will go to the foundation. The money will go directly from client’s account. The entire process is transparent. For example – if my cost of providing certain services is Rs. one lakh and if my client wants a 50% discount, I tell them – you pay Guru & Jana only 50,000 but you pay the foundation the other 50,000 as it’s the value of my effort. I will match your contribution to the foundation. This ensures that my clients are willing to give the discount back to the foundation without hesitation, as I am ensuring 50-60% of Guru & Jana’s income is going into the foundation. This way we have raised Rs. 50-60 lakhs of funds. Today, funding is not a concern. What we are short of, are tutors who can go to the houses of these kids and teach them.
The next step in this journey is big and I am sure it will pay off. To sustain any model for giving cannot be built just on donations and Guru & Jana profits. It will need some steady sources. So I am writing my second book – “God in the Boardroom”. It has interviews of top 15 global leaders on why organizations need a clean board and what it means to them. My first book raised close to Rs. 30 lakhs and also with the other funds helped us support over 100+ kids. By March 2018, we want to support 1111 kids. For this I will need 40 mentors. To pay the salaries for these mentors I will need steady funds. Proceeds on the book will also ensure that the foundation will be sustainable on its own. Philanthropy is also a serious business. In business we work for profit. In philanthropy you work for impact. In business we measure in money, while in philanthropy we measure smiles. The result is same.
There is no right time to start a CSR program at your organization. Now is the right time. Start small, but keep going. Get your employees involved – start from your office and then move to your community. That will help you increase your area of influence. Start giving today, and see the joy that brings.
About Guru & Jana
Guru & Jana is a chartered accountancy firm based out of Bangalore South India. The firm has over 250 members, including 45 professionals. The professionals comprise of Chartered Accountants, Cost Accountants, Company Secretaries, lawyers, and MBAs. Their services include :
- Audit and Assurance,
- Consulting Services,
- Corporate Outsourcing,
- Tax and Regulatory Services,
- Corporate Law and Governance
To know more, please visit http://www.gurujana.com