In November 2012, Cisco Bangalore-based employee Aravind Sitaraman (President – Inclusive Growth) received the prestigious Rajyotsava award for his leadership of Cisco’s Project Samudaya, which helped rebuild 5 villages in the Indian state of Karnataka after catastrophic flooding in 2009. This honor is the highest conferred to civilians by Karnataka’s state government. The award reflects Sitaraman’s deep personal commitment to the well-being of communities in India, as well as his strong alignment with Cisco’s unique method of sincere yet strategic social investment.

Cisco’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts are defined by a simple equation: you + networks = impact multiplied. When the right person meets the right technology, it’s easy to do the math. Indeed, many of Cisco’s CSR efforts begin with grassroots enthusiasm like Aravind’s, which, when combined with Cisco solutions and best practices, can yield an outcome like Project Samudaya: an employee’s authentic, locally attuned passion for change is exponentially multiplied by the company’s resources and expertise.

Aravind Sitaraman Receives Award
Aravind Sitaraman receives the prestigious Rajyotsava Award from India’s government.

Aravind’s life and his philosophy of making an impact on society reflect the strong influence of his grandfather’s teaching on Indian philosophy and his mother’s fair treatment of all beings. He is also one of Cisco’s foremost inventors and is responsible for 57 of its U.S. patents. In Aravind’s view, the company’s commitment to innovation has a very beneficial impact on society. He notes: “Cisco is easily the best company I have worked in. The empowerment and freedom to innovate you have in Cisco has no parallel. Unlike many other companies, Cisco has a real opportunity to positively affect the world.”

VIDEO: Project Samudaya helps rebuild infrastructure while connecting residents
to high-quality healthcare and education.

In addition to Aravind’s business role at Cisco as President of Inclusive Growth, he originated and sponsored Project Samudaya, one of Cisco’s most successful CSR initiatives to date. This partnership was launched after devastating floods hit Karnataka in 2009. Cisco pledged US$10 million in cash, services, solutions, and equipment, working closely with government officials to maximize the responsiveness and impact of its investment. The project ultimately helped rehabilitate 5 villages that were hit hardest by flooding, building 3223 homes, 2 schools, and 1 state-of-the art healthcare center.

In addition to rebuilding, Cisco created new connections for people in remote villages who are too far from urban centers to access specialized healthcare and diverse educational offerings. Cisco Education Enabled Development (CEED) and Cisco HealthPresence technologies helped bypass geographic barriers, bringing quality education and healthcare to remote and underserved populations. Through these cutting-edge solutions, 6000 patients have been seen via remote telemedicine (as of February 2013), 4 schools were networked for remote classroom sessions, and 850 students have been instructed remotely three days per week (as of February 2013). Government officials were so impressed with the positive impact of technology on students that they partnered with Cisco to deploy the same model to five additional schools and four hostels run by the Karnataka social welfare department.

Cisco HealthPresence
Cisco HealthPresence connects rural villagers in Raichur District to doctors and specialists in Bangalore, 400 kilometers away.

Following these successes, Wim Elfrink, Cisco’s Executive Vice President and Chief Globalization Officer, noted of Project Samudaya: “It is a great honor for us to provide shelter to the badly affected families. And, as human beings, we all have to think of giving back to society with the most we have and the most we can provide.”

For Cisco, this means sharing the company’s core competencies to multiply social impact. By bridging the urban-rural gap with Cisco’s products, services, and expertise, the company can partner with governments just as effectively as it partners with industry leaders to deliver cutting-edge, transformative results. In every partnership, Cisco’s aim is always to collaborate in creating shared value, developing its own operations while helping companies and communities to do the same.

Remote Education
Through Project Samudaya, schoolchildren are able to take remote classes with teachers hundreds of kilometers away.

Once the groundwork was laid for Project Samudaya, which means “community” in Sanskrit, Cisco’s people stepped up with passion and dedication. Over 250 employees from our Bangalore campus ultimately invested more than 2700 volunteer hours, offering health and hygiene training for children in the selected schools in Raichur. Many of these trainings were conducted remotely using the Cisco’s TelePresence technology.

For some employees, Project Samudaya provided their first opportunity to visit rural areas and engage directly with poor communities. Many of these volunteers then carried the message of compassionate disaster response to their coworkers, friends, and families, demonstrating the power of the human network to amplify change organically.

Speaking to this transmission process, Elfrink said, “Every single member of my family is aware of this project, and we are happy to see it come alive.”

3223 New Homes
Through Project Samudaya, Cisco built 3223 new homes for villagers in partnership with other organizations.

Project Samudaya is best defined by its measurable results, offering a dramatic illustration of Cisco’s commitment to multiplying impact in all of its CSR activities. Positive outcomes of the initiative as of February 2013 include:

Project Samudaya Metrics

Read more about Cisco’s corporate social responsibility programs and employee engagement in the 2012 CSR Report.

And please share examples of civic-minded employees who multiply their impact on people and communities in the comments section below.