Purpose, Inc., episode 1.2: Balaji Ganapathy of Tata Consultancy Services
“Purpose is the new tech,” Balaji Ganapathy says he’s become fond of saying, enjoying how provocative the statement sounds. “Today every company wants to be a purpose-driven enterprise. It’s easier said than done.”
In this episode of the “Purpose, Inc.,” podcast, host Michael Young talks with Balaji, global head of corporate social responsibility for Tata Consultancy Services, about TCS’s purpose-driven work in communities around the world. One of 100 companies owned by the 150-year-old Tata Group, TCS is a $22 billion dollar global information technology services provider with offices in 46 countries and 450,000 employees.
Reducing Social Inequities
“At TCS, our purpose is defined by what we can do in terms of technology and solutions to support our customers, support the community, and support people around the world,” Balaji says. But the inequities that exist in the word—social inequity, economic inequity, gender inequity—are growing, exacerbated by the adoption of technology.
TCS’s mission to help all people thrive in the digital future is targeted toward women and girls, ethnic-minority groups, and rural citizens who are falling behind residents of rich urban areas in this quickly changing economy.
Two of the initiatives that Balaji oversees in the United States:
- Ignite My Future is a two-year-old program that teaches computational thinking concepts such as data, algorithms, abstraction, modeling, and decomposition, to teachers and students in 150 school districts around the country—and prioritizes schools with high rates of free and reduced-price lunchs.
- Go IT, taught in 77 cities, helps young adults learn about the range of possible careers in technology. “Students get a toolkit of skills like design thinking, human-centered design, and agile prototyping, all (framed to show them) how digital innovation can happen if they identify a problem that they see in the community and want to solve it,” Balaji says.
Michael and Balaji also talk about the “four capitals” TCS brings to its community initiatives, the organization’s community-first approach during the COVID-19 outbreak, and how TCS measures the impact of CSR work.
Balaji saves his most pointed advice for other companies who want to develop a purpose-driven mindset without indulging in greenwashing.
Corporate social responsibility is a professional space, he cautions. “This is not just to have social events, or let’s go clean up a park and take some pictures,” he says. “As a leader who’s driving these initiatives, it is important for the world and companies to recognize the role of purpose within organizations. I am thankful to be in a company where it’s been part of the business model.”
Companies have to stress-test their commitment to purpose to make sure it’s authentic. Just as importantly, Balaji says, corporate social responsibility professionals have to be prepared to “hold feet to the fire.” “I am a moral beacon and a compass for my board and my CEO and my leadership team,” he says.