July 2012 | Cynthia Rodrigues

The IQ and EQ of happiness

The Tata brand is being enriched and enhanced by engaging with the youth through socially relevant and meaningful initiatives

India is many things to many people, but when today’s corporate leaders look at India, there is one very strong demographic reality that stands out — India is a youthful country where children, teenagers, and men and women below 35 comprise as much as 41 percent of the population (according to the 2001 census).

It is to this vast segment of the population — the citizens, decision-makers and leaders of tomorrow — that the Tata group is building bridges and connectors. To this end, the Tata group has, over the years, initiated a number of youth-centric programmes that are specifically aimed at building strong connections with the youth segment.

There are several such initiatives across the Tata group, but the four key branded ones are the Tata Building India school essay competition, Tata Crucible quiz, Tata First Dot (powered by NEN) and the Tata International Social Entrepreneurship Scheme. These engagement mechanisms provide the youth with a unique perspective into the Tata ethos and culture and enable them to engage with the Tata brand in a more meaningful and socially useful fashion.

The significance of such engagement is explained by Tata Sons executive director R Gopalakrishnan: “Our brand track surveys showed that the connection of our brand was not as strong with youth as it was with the older generation. We realised that the youth of this millennium were aspirationally very dynamic. There was a potential for forging a stronger tie with the Tata brand.”

Atul Agrawal, vice president, Group Corporate Affairs & Media, Tata Services, explains further, “Youth are the decision makers and stakeholders of the future. They comprise a very important audience cluster for us. We have, therefore, tried to engage with them in meaningful ways that enrich their lives and are significant and relevant to us.”

The four pillars
Each of the four mechanisms or branded properties, developed to connect the aspirations of the youth with the brand message, are connected to a Tata value. Thus, while Tata First Dot inspires young people to strive for entrepreneurship, the Tata Building India essay competition encourages schoolchildren to reflect on matters of national interest.

These branded properties have evolved with time, and been honed with inputs from commissioned research, the feedback of participants and the learning and experience of Group Corporate Affairs (GCA), which manages the properties. Mr Agrawal says, “We chose these engagement mechanisms for their uniqueness. We also ensure that we are able to manage the property in terms of the format, execution and monitoring. We want to create something that belongs intimately to Tata.”

As the properties have grown, each has developed its own personality. Mr Gopalakrishnan says, “There was nothing tying them together with young people. So we evolved the message of Happy India from a statement made by JRD Tata on receiving the Bharat Ratna [India’s highest civilian award] in 1992. At the time, he had said, ‘I do not want India to be an economic superpower. I want India to be a happy country.’”

The Happy India concept is based on the need to connect with youth while providing them significant experiences that encourage them to be better citizens by thinking about the needs of the nation. It is an aim that the four mechanisms have successfully achieved.

Test of fire
The Tata Crucible business quiz is a knowledge initiative. Hosted by quizmaster Giri Balasubramaniam, it started as one of many events conducted in 2004 under the Century of Trust commemoration, which marked the 100th death anniversary of group Founder Jamsetji Tata and the 100th birth anniversaries of JRD Tata and Naval Tata. The idea for the quiz came from Shamala Padmanabhan, general manager, corporate communications, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS). Ms Padmanabhan had successfully organised quizzes such as the TCS IT Wiz earlier.

In its very first corporate edition, which comprised separate tracks for Tata employees and non-Tata corporates, the quiz received a huge fillip from the excitement generated in its audience. A specific demand from the large student community in attendance, particularly those from B-schools, gave rise to the first Tata Crucible campus quiz in 2005.

The success of the quiz, a team-based contest of two participants per team, indicated that the format had potential. And so began a quiz that has grown incrementally over the last eight years. Feedback has consistently proven the popularity of both editions with audiences.

Heartened by the response, GCA developed the quiz further. Besides going to a greater number of cities, the quiz also became the first branded property to go international with the Campus Crucible being held in Singapore in 2007 and in the UK in the following year. This was done as part of the group’s branding efforts within international geographies where it has a significant presence.

Mr Agrawal explains, “Singapore is an English-speaking country and a hub of education in South East Asia. We therefore decided to pilot our quiz in Singapore.”

In recent years, Tata Crucible has been getting significant media exposure. Currently, both corporate (non-Tata track) and campus editions are being aired on the weekend evening slots on CNBC TV18. “The broadcasts, spread over four months for each edition, ensure that Tata Crucible remains in the minds of people,” says Mr Agrawal.

The quiz website www.tatacrucible.com offers convenient online registration for the events. Since 2009, the website also carries an online weekly business quiz with its own award mechanism. It now has a community of over 35,000 registered users, apart from those who attend the ground events. Since 2011, Tata Crucible also has a YouTube channel and a dedicated Facebook page that has registered over 30,000 likes. The intellectual stimulation that Tata Crucible has come to epitomise provides a platform where India’s youngsters sharpen and display their cerebral skills.

A class of nation builders
The Tata Building India school essay competition also owes its birth to the Century of Trust celebrations, when the large-format travelling Century of Trust exhibition and Keepers of the Flame, the Zafar Hai film on the Tatas, were shown to schoolchildren. Mr Agrawal recalls, “We wanted to take the message of nation building and the role of the Tata group in the industrialisation of India, as expressed in the film, to a larger audience. Alongside, we considered an activity that would encourage youngsters to think about national issues.”

The result was the Tata Building India school essay competition, where students write their essays on a topic of national importance. The competition starts with the screening of an inspirational movie on the Tata group's initiatives for nation building, which serves as a stimulus.

At the end of the film, the organisers conduct a short quiz, and hand out illustrated classics on the lives of JRD Tata and Jamsetji Tata as prizes. “Last year we distributed over 100,000 such books in English and Hindi,” says Mr Agrawal.

The competition debuted in the English language for students from classes 6 to 12. Essays are judged at the school, city and national levels, and prizes for winners and runners-up given out at every level. Classes 6-8 are judged together, as are classes 9-12, to ensure fairness in judging. The first year's national-level winners were taken to meet APJ Abdul Kalam, the then President of India, at Rashtrapati Bhavan.

The team subsequently commissioned research among students and teachers in participating and nonparticipating schools. The research revealed that participating schools had a better understanding of the Tata group on parameters such as nation building, pioneering, trustworthiness, etc. Mr Agrawal says, “The feedback convinced us that the competition, although a single engagement, was working well and could be consolidated and expanded.”

The competition was later extended to more schools and cities, and to languages such as Hindi, Bangla, Gujarati, Marathi and Tamil. Research studies revealed similar success in Hindi, Bangla and Gujarati, although the most satisfactory results were seen in English. In 2010, the competition was extended to Oriya and Kannada languages. The high point for the winners of all the editions is the invitation to Delhi for the felicitation ceremony and the opportunity to meet a national dignitary and visit Rashtrapati Bhavan.

“We found that the competition left behind a positive impression towards the country and the Tata group,” says Mr Agrawal. “Even students who were not interested in writing the essay enjoyed the film and schools appreciated the fact that students were motivated to think about nation building.” The competition has reached out to over seven million children in six years. The team’s intention is to take the competition to more schools, cities and languages.

The launch of a website, www.tatabuildingindia.com and a Facebook page help GCA to engage students further through quizzes, contests and information about inspiring Indians and Tata leaders. With over 70,000 likes, the Facebook page is clearly popular among students for its regular Informative updates and online competitions.

Bonds across borders
The seeds of the Tata International Social Entrepreneurship Scheme (ISES) were sown during the visit of Mr Gopalakrishnan to the University of California, Berkeley. The university had a programme that integrated innovation and social entrepreneurship to develop sustainable solutions for the challenge of poverty.

Mr Gopalakrishnan realised the need for a programme that enabled foreign students to experience the corporate sustainability initiatives of Tata companies in India. Such a programme would help promote international understanding and enlighten students on the group’s activities. Later, the University of Cambridge also displayed an interest in the programme.

Tata ISES was launched in 2008 with nine students from the two universities. Today, London School of Economics and University of California, Davis are also a part of the programme. About 70 students have participated till date in Tata ISES. Tata organisations involved include Tata Steel, Tata Consultancy Services, Tata Chemicals, Indian Hotels, Tata Motors, Tata Power, Tata Teleservices, Tata Coffee, Tata Capital, Titan Industries, Tata Quality Management Services and Tata Medical Centre.

Mr Agrawal says, “It was a partnership between the students, the university and us. The idea was to help them understand community initiatives and how business impacts development.” In turn, Tata companies get an international perspective on their projects.

The universities select the students and prepare them with orientation workshops and basic conversational skills in Hindi. The students are expected to share their learning with other students at their universities, who form the target audience for following years.

Although the group is small, the programme is very resource intensive. The expansion of the programme, therefore, becomes a function of the scope for offering more meaningful projects to the students. On the demand side, it depends on how many universities are willing to sign up. Mr Agrawal says, “We have to ensure a fit between the student’s discipline and the company’s project. The nature of the experience is also very important.”

Tata ISES has been greatly appreciated by interns, universities and participating Tata companies. The beauty of the programme lies in its potential to touch both the interns and the beneficiaries of Tata’s projects in life-changing ways.

Power to the youth
Tata First Dot, powered by NEN, is an initiative specifically aimed at encouraging student entrepreneurship in India. A national recognition and mentoring platform for student startups, it was launched in 2011 by the Tata group in partnership with nonprofit organisation National Entrepreneurship Network (NEN).

The initiative, which is aligned with the Tata group’s long history of entrepreneurial and pioneering activities, supports student ventures through mentoring and guidance. Tata First Dot conducts regional-level workshops, competitions for best student entrepreneurs, seminars and mentoring programmes through the NEN campus network.

In the first phase of the programme, 10 campus workshops were held in September and October 2011, which were attended by over 500 students and aspiring entrepreneurs. The workshops, conducted by expert speakers, were designed to help students refine their business models and strategies. Students were also invited to send in nominations for the Tata First Dot competitions.

The second phase of the programme comprised two competitions:

  • Tata First Dot National Competition, with jury-based evaluation of top five winning ventures
  • Tata First Dot People’s Choice Competition, with online voting for five winners

The competitions received a significant amount of interest and participation – there were as many as 202 valid entries. Tata First Dot actively used online and social media tools to connect with the student community. Its Facebook page has registered 4440 likes and the Twitter account has 1500 followers. The people’s choice contest received 60000 online votes.

The third phase of the programme consisted of a two-day seminar and workshop held at the SSN College of Engineering, Chennai, in January, 2012. The event was attended by 700 students, and included several Tata speakers and a keynote address by Kishor Chaukar, managing director of Tata Industries. Student entrepreneurs who have been shortlisted now receive mentoring support through the NEN network.

Commenting on Tata First Dot, Mr Agrawal said, “We are delighted to launch this new programme in partnership with NEN. The talent showcased on this platform, depicts the powerful entrepreneur mindset of the young people of the country. Through this initiative, we hope to challenge and inspire their entrepreneurial thinking, which should enhance new business creation and economic development of our nation. ”

A social connect

The four branded properties are on several social networking sites such as Facebook, in keeping with the aim of creating an online community of enthusiasts and participants and engaging with the target audience in meaningful ways across all media. GCA is now engaged in maximising the reach of these engagement mechanisms without losing sight of the capacity for creating positive change.

British prime minister and author Benjamin Disraeli once said, “We live in an age when to be young and to be indifferent can be no longer synonymous. We must prepare for the coming hour. The claims of the future are represented by suffering millions; and the youth of a nation are the trustees of posterity." The Tata group’s efforts in creating these branded properties indicates the success with which its people have imbibed the truth of these words.