“If you really like what you do, it becomes leisure,” says Dhaval Udani, chief executive officer, GiveIndia, a Mumbai based not-for-profit organisation. In his case, his part-time volunteering at the organisation became a full-time responsibility when he took over as its CEO.
A computer engineering graduate, Udani worked with Citicorp’s software division from 1999 – 2003, post which he pursued an MBA from Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad and joined AT Kearney. It was here that he felt the need to do more than just contribute money for social causes. He decided to volunteer at GiveIndia, which enables people to contribute to specific causes close to their heart. Over the years, it has taken 200 non-governmental organisations under its wings and raises funds for their different activities.
At the helm, Udani’s initial role was to handle technology; it soon expanded to creating processes, systems and programmes, and running the teams. After two and a half years of undertaking a variety of jobs at the organisation, including handling the vendors and taking care of operations, he was invited to join the organisation as vice president, strategy and chief information officer in 2008. In January 2011, he became its CEO.
Many people in senior positions have chosen to work for us at a fraction of what they could be earning.
Building the team
One of the core mandates for Udani was to stabilise the team. “We had a 90 per cent attrition rate,” he says. That was a burden on the system as people, once trained would take their skills elsewhere. As Udani stepped in, he sought to have a stable team of performers. And in the last one year, he has been partially successful in achieving this mandate – the attrition rate has dropped to 50 per cent. He also stresses on the fact that currently, there is clarity on what needs to be done at GiveIndia.
Some of his strategies implemented included giving every new recruit an identity card, a personal computer and an email address within three days of inception. A reporting supervisor is assigned so that the person does not feel lost and receives a timely initiation to the work culture. Most importantly, a goal for the first month is charted out. “The first month is the most difficult. It is important to help employees become attuned to the organisation,” Udani points out. Each individual has KRAs (key result area) and incentives are uniform across levels. He observes that those who perform in the first six months become more involved and start to enjoy their work, thus increasing their likelihood of staying longer at GiveIndia.
Currently, the organisation has 55 employees and aims to reach 60 – 65 by end of this year. “Recruitment is a very important focus area for me since we do not have an exclusive human resources department. Between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m., I conduct interviews before winding up for the day,” he adds. His role doesn’t end with recruitment; he takes an active part in motivating the team. “Many people in senior positions have chosen to work for us at a fraction of what they could be earning,” he says, proudly. And he believes that it his job to create a satisfying work environment, where such individuals can grow further.
The three Cs
Udani likens the work GiveIndia does to a stock exchange. In order to be listed, a company must meet the set prerequisites; at GiveIndia, NGOs are required to meet the set criteria. Its team conducts random checks on NGOs to ensure that its standards are being met. Maintaining these standards gives donors the confidence that the causes GiveIndia supports are genuine. Additionally, it affords them a choice of over 200 NGOs. Ensuring there is transparency in the way it operates; GiveIndia gives its donors a progress report about the cause of their choice. And that is the making of three Cs – convenience, confidence and choice.
The key difference in the way GiveIndia functions is that despite remaining a social venture, it has not lost sight of self-sustenance. Nine percent of the donations it receives are used for operational purposes. This number is fairly low, given that the global average is between 20 per cent and 40 per cent. This has been possible due to some of the initiatives taken by GiveIndia. Firstly, it has made a conscious effort to keep remuneration costs lower than a corporate, without compromising on the quality of its workforce. Secondly, there is a strict focus on implementing technology and following systems. Importantly, GiveIndia has kept operational costs at a minimum, for instance, its office is located in a municipality school, where the rent is subsidised.
Currently, there are three to four strong units that channelise Rs. 25 crore annually. Each of these is expected to sustain channelising similar amounts over the next three to four years. By then, GiveIndia also hopes to create three to four more teams that will generate close to the same amount. For this to happen, GiveIndia has floated a concept called mini-CEO. Aspiring employees can come up with seed ideas that will enable the organisation to meet this goal. The heads will be like CEOs, completely responsible for the project, working under the GiveIndia banner. If the ideas are promising, they will also be helped with teams and offered further support. This is to encourage social entrepreneurship within the firm.
Udani views his role as a natural progression from what his predecessors were doing. But he has also taken up challenging mandates and believes he is currently on the right track. His focus for the next few years will be to do those things better so that the organisation can stand out, not only for its contribution to society but also for its professionalism.
JUST ANOTHER DAY
For Udani, GiveIndia is as close to a work paradise as it gets. “I wake up with thoughts of GiveIndia,” he admits. “Despite checking work emails at midnight, by morning, it’s likely that my inbox is full again,” he says.
He travels by train to work and uses this time to either catch up on reading – and his interests have changed from fiction to leadership and management books. Or, he also uses this time to plan his day and week by chalking out specific jobs.
The first hour at office is for getting his work out of the way, after which he reaches out to the team taking stock of work in progress and intervening where required. These days, he mentions, evenings end up being reserved for interviews.
The journey back home is an opportunity to catch up with his wife on phone or some more reading. “Weekends in Mumbai effectively mean only half-a-day of unwinding with friends or watching a movie or shopping. What I call true leisure is when I can getaway for the weekend,” says Udani. And for a workaholic like Udani, these getaways are few and far between. Commenting on his style of working, Udani says, “I am quite hands on and the flip side is, sometimes I’m a bottleneck too.” Keeping this in mind, he’s working on delegating more jobs to senior employees and nurturing his successor.