“Powering an inclusive future for all” is Cisco’s purpose statement. I always emphasize that this is the purpose statement of the company and the CSR organization. Cisco has always been about doing good and driving impact. It’s part of our culture and woven into all we do. When India became the only country globally to mandate a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) law, we saw a great opportunity. Section 135 of the Companies Act of 2013 prescribed that two percent of average net profits by eligible companies operating in the country be directed toward CSR activities in authorized focus areas.

The India Cash Grant Program

The India Cash Grant Program was conceptualized to drive problem-solving through innovation and the use of technology. Focus areas include critical human needs and crisis response, education, and economic empowerment. We have always prioritized providing individuals and communities access to opportunities, to help individuals meet their basic needs, gain skills, or find employment in a digital economy. Our focus is also to build digital capacities of professionals which not only have an immediate impact for their beneficiaries but a long-term impact on the entire ecosystem. In partnership with nonprofit and nongovernmental (NGO) sector players in the country, we aim to drive greater outcomes, creating a more inclusive future for all.

I recently wrote about all the relief efforts championed by Cisco as part of the second wave of the pandemic. Today, I would like to draw attention to three grants from the India Cash Grant Program that highlight the role of technology as a cornerstone to driving impact in the society.

Cisco’s thingQbator

Cisco thingQbator is our flagship investment under the Grants Program. Present in over 18 universities across the country, the platform is designed for young innovators to fulfill their entrepreneurial dreams via virtual makerspaces. The program’s mission is to combine emerging technologies and business incubation with the maker space culture, where students can learn about new digital technologies and build solutions to real-world problems. Over the last two years, the program has generated thousands of ideas from students and has played a defining role in over 300 student teams creating working prototypes of their solutions. Over 15 teams have followed their startup journey either by being incubated or incorporated as a private company. Take Raahee, for example, an app-based product that provides emotional first aid to individuals. They currently have over 400 users and are well on their way to creating a mark in the mental and emotional health space.

Building Blocks for Learning Math

Most children in government and low-income private schools are exposed to math learning for less than 2 hours a week. Moreover, many lack a learning environment at home. We partnered with Akshara Foundation to create Building Blocks, a free application that provides access to math practice and learning to children from grades one through – five in five different languages. The content created has also been used on Diksha, a central and state government initiative to provide access to quality digital content in the country. As of July 2021 , Building Blocks has been downloaded over 400,000 times, and Diksha has seen more than one million content pieces downloaded.

Social Alpha

Krishi Mangal, our flagship project in agriculture in partnership with Social Alpha, aims to address the challenges of smallholder farmers through technology-based innovations. Krishi Mangal follows a two-pronged approach to support deep-tech innovations, a Scale-up Accelerator for AgriTech startups, and a Digital Innovation Platform for collaborations across the agriculture and allied value-chain. The five selected startups are solving critical issues in the sector using blockchain technology, IoT advisory, and big data analytics, to name a few.

Together with our NGO partners, we are excited about the future and our potential to drive greater outcomes. Our purpose statement “Powering an Inclusive Future for All” is our north star. Learn more about the India Cash Grant Program.

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Harish Krishnan

Managing Director, Public Affairs & Strategic Engagements

Cisco India & SAARC