Published: 04th April 2020
How Raj Janagam and Co are ensuring Telangana's corporate samaritans know exactly whom to help
Co-founder and Advisor of T-Social Impact Group, Raj N Janagam and his team of 15 members are coordinating between donors and CSR wings and the needy day and night to mitigate hunger amidst lockdown
When on March 24, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the 21-day lockdown to combat the spread of Coronavirus, the first thought that occurred to Raj N Janagam was creating a Netflix watchlist. Little did he know that he won't even have the time to open Netflix, let alone catch up on movies. It all changed after he received a call from Jayesh Ranjan, Principal Secretary, Industries & Commerce and Information Technology Departments, Telangana, asking him to help channelise the CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) efforts pouring in so that it can help those people who are really in need of it. Since then, Raj has sprung into action to mediate between donors and the needy.
Hyderabad welcomes you
Wondering who Raj Janagam is? Let us introduce you. With a passion for social entrepreneurship, Raj moved to Hyderabad from Mumbai in 2013. Since then, he has been working in the development sector. He started T-Social Impact Group (T-SIG) with Jayesh Ranjan to improve CSR funding in the state, and is currently an Advisor for the same; he had set-up Surge Impact Foundation to support social entrepreneurship and currently, is the CEO at Atal Incubation Centre - International Institute of Information Technology. "To help the needy in the ongoing lockdown has required the coming together of my network and experience that I have built over the past years," he shares.
Packing | (Pic: Raj N Janagam)
Upon being entrusted with the job of coordination between donors and those in need, where did Raj begin? "When I looked around, it was utter chaos. People were fleeing, migrant workers were stranded, though the number of Annapurna Centres (set up by the government to provide free meals to the poor) was steadily rising, whatever we were doing, was not enough," he shares. When he started asking people in his network, 'How can we help?' he was naturally inundated with calls. But the problem was that many were ready to help, but they would turn up to distribute food at places where people had already received meals. "When I personally went to distribute food, a few outright refused because we were giving the same dal chawal, some said they had eaten while others just wanted to sleep. We have dealt with many unique problems," he shares.
Currently, the model they follow is that Jayesh Ranjan receives calls from corporates who want to help, directs a few towards Raj, who then works with them to direct their efforts in the right direction. For example, when Dr Reddy's Laboratories called with the intention of helping with dinner, within two days, he directed their efforts towards supporting Akshaya Patra Foundation, who were already serving lunch. With Dr Reddy's support, Akshay Patra increased the number of centres and also started serving dinner. They together have delivered over 10,000 meals every day. Having led T-SIG, there were other corporates whose CSRs approached Raj directly like JLL India who launched Feed My Hyderabad initiative. Novartis set up a kitchen and is providing dry ration too. How's that for coordination? Currently, they are working with Anant Maringanti from Hyderabad Urban Lab to set up a portal that will visually represent where the help is needed in the city.
In a day, Raj and a couple of his friends were able to create a centralised ticketing and dashboard system which all the volunteers use
The show must go on
Raj also coordinated with IAS officer Divya Devarajan to direct dry ration into shelter and old age homes. He worked with the District Collector of Hyderabad, Shweta Mohanty to help stranded migrant workers. And the list goes on. All this is possible not because of his efforts alone, but also because of his team of 15 members, currently working remotely and helping with the coordination. But there are still challenges they face. "I get calls from corporates saying, 'We want to offer 10,000 meals, just tell us where'. I want to tell them please, understand the needs before you offer the solution. Who are you doing the charity for, yourself or others? If you are doing it for others, do what they want," asserts Raj, whose days nowadays start and end with calls.
While states like Kerala and Odisha are being praised from all corners of the country for their efforts, what Telengana deserves praise for is empowering the District Collectors and decentralising the power and the transparency they maintain in their efforts, Raj feels. He also appreciates how the government handled the Raheja Mindspace breakout in a calm manner. "Another corporate has agreed to donate 2,000 N95 masks in emergency wards," smiles Raj as he shares their latest achievement and adds, "There have been demands for PPE kits too and we need to look into that too." He hopes that he is able to help other cities, not just Hyderabad, soon "For which, I need more support from the government as we would be needing vehicles to transport relief material," he says.
When food was served | (Pic: Raj N Janagam)
Raj also wishes to work with the police department and the healthcare system and understand what their requirements are. And for now, he is glad that he and his team are able to bridge the gap between CSRs, philanthropists, NGOs and organisations and those who are really in need. "We can become a zero hunger state with steady efforts and can maintain the status even after the lockdown," he concludes.