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The Storybook Project

The Storybook Project thrives on the most interesting, compelling, and inspiring stories of work and play at Tech Mahindra.

#RiseFromWithin: Making Social Responsibility Personal

The story of how TechMighty Ashok, over four years, completely transformed the village of Amachavadi and gave its residents new hope.


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#RiseFromWithin: Run Anywhere

Meet the dream team behind the flagship Run Anywhere marathon.


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#RiseFromWithin: Restarting a Heart

The story of how Subhansh, a cardiac technology diploma student at the Smart Academy for Healthcare, Mohali, saved a life.


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#RiseFromWithin: A Good Last Goodbye

TechMighties from Telengana and their pandemic journey— from feeding the hungry to helping victims be cremated with dignity.


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#RiseFromWithin: Beyond Pink and Blue

Subhrakanti Nayak, a trans-man hailing from Rourkela, Odisha and his experiences with childhood, sex reassignment surgery and more.


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#RiseFromWithin: Beyond the Bars

Tech Mahindra Foundation’s SMART skill development program for convicted inmates helped completely transform Pudhu Raja’s life.

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#RiseFromWithin: A Beautiful Mind

We bring you the story behind Mind@Ease – a fascinating initiative working towards creating equal access to equal mental healthcare.

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#RiseFromWithin: Making Social Responsibility Personal – Ashok Garla and the story of Amachavadi

"Sustainability has to be a way of life to be a way of business.” – Anand Mahindra

In 2017, TechMighty Ashok Garla and his family were on a road trip to Mysore. The journey was long, but the tranquil scenery as they traversed through scenic villages and towns, more than made up for the time spent in the car. While the visuals of the countryside were breathtaking, the driver remarked that the reality of communities living there was stark in contrast. They lacked resources and support, and the already dire situation was only getting worse.

Ashok wanted to help but didn’t know how to. Much like many others who could sympathize with the problems of farmers in India, he was struggling to find solutions.

This incident stuck with him for a long time. Growing up, his father had imbibed in him the importance of helping the needy and leading with kindness and compassion. In 2009, When his daughter turned 4 and they decided to celebrate it at a shelter for the differently abled, Ashok came face-to-face with his life’s purpose: individual social responsibility. He recalls that seeing the children’s faces light up in joy was something he would never forget and that there was simply no other life experience or job that would provide the same satisfaction.

It was these two life experiences that set the stage for the impeccable work that has transformed the lives of an entire village. A few months after their trip to Mysore, Ashok’s wife and daughter returned from a training session – by an NGO, the IDPMS (Initiative for Development through Participation of Marginalised Sections) Society – in Amachavadi, a village in Karnataka, India. Home to 1300 farmers, Amachavadi was suffering the dire consequences of a massive water crisis. There hadn’t been any rain since 2011; the cultivated land had reduced by more than half and some crops like banana and vegetables simply could not be grown anymore.

But now, there was a sliver of hope. The solution to their problems lay in the science of water conservation. The trainer of the NGO session was a farmer who had managed to restore groundwater levels for over 2000 acres of land by constructing borewell recharges – water conservation structures that replenish existing borewells.

However, with a single borewell recharge costing half a lakh to construct, how were they going to fund this project?

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world,” goes the famous quote by Anne Frank. Upon hearing the woes of these farmers, Ashok and his wife got to work right away. By reaching out to their small network of family and friends, they managed to raise around 1.2 lakhs. But their resolve to help Amachavadi did not waver; they knew they could create a larger impact with more help.

Farmer Veeraraja Nayak standing next to elakki banana trees that finally thrived after the second check dam was constructed, ensuring his borewell was recharged with water

That’s when Ashok reached out to Employee Social Responsibility Options (ESRO) at TechM for support in terms of funding and volunteers. As the name suggests, ESRO helps TechMighties fulfill their individual social responsibilities. Ashok took it upon himself to convince ESRO that this was a cause worth investing in. He assured them complete transparency and ownership, and at the end of the day, his passion for helping the villagers won them over.

In just the first year, IDPMS and TechM, in a collaborative effort, constructed 13 borewell recharges for the village. To ensure that these borewells don’t run dry, four check dams were constructed that helped water percolate to these recharge systems. Recently, a 700-metre-long canal that runs through the farmland was de-weeded, deepened and widened, benefitting over 14 farmers and 54 acres of land. Ashok recalls fondly that the moment they finished constructing the canal, there was huge downpour of rain— almost like a symbol of their lives, finally, changing for the better.

The past five years, however, haven’t been easy. In the beginning, Ashok’s lack of expertise was a huge hurdle, and he didn’t feel confident owning the project. But with his heart set in the right place and the mentorship of the NGO members, he was able to learn quickly. With the NGO needing funds, and Ashok needing “domain knowledge” as he calls it, this collaborative effort helped bridge the divide and create real, positive impact. 

The team is set to construct two more check dams this year, and Ashok is hopeful of finally fulfilling his life’s purpose. 

With one village transformed and thousands of destinies rewritten, he’s just getting started.

Here are a few TechMighties that Ashok would like to thank. We salute your efforts! :

  • TechM Bangalore ESRO team – Manjunath B N, Viswanath Nidumukkala, Visala, Vivekanand, Seena – for being a part of the team that made a difference
  • Bangalore Location Council – Valsaraj, Haridas, Atreyi, Ramya for the encouragement and support
  • CS team – Prashanth, Kannappan – for coordination and logistical support in arranging vehicles
  • Tech Mahindra Foundation - Naima Urooj – for helping with funding approvals for travel to Amachavadi village for tree plantation drives

#RiseFromWithin: Run Anywhere

Let’s take a moment to reminisce simpler times.

Before 2020, before the pandemic, before adulting. If we could describe childhood in one feeling, what would it be? For a lot of us, it’s the feeling of pure joy during recess when we ran for miles across the playground, feeling utterly exhausted but deeply content. Our lifestyles have completely changed since then, especially since we started working from home last year.

Imagine if we could bring back that feeling? That’s exactly what the team behind the Run Anywhere marathon set out to do, and we’re proud to say that they’ve succeeded with astounding results.

2021 marks the 75th anniversary of the Mahindra Group, and in celebration of this iconic milestone, the flagship Mahindra Run Anywhere Marathon was developed by the Josh and CIO teams at Tech Mahindra. Flagged off on the 28th of July, this event had associates from the entire Mahindra family, including our portfolio companies, coming together in the name of wellness. Much in tune with our 75th year, this challenge was not about speed or our opponents but rather our endurance and the distance we travel together. Prizes were given out every day, bringing the number of awards to a grand total of 125.

From Gwalior to Glasgow, Copenhagen to Coimbatore, they’ve united the Mahindra family in the most beautiful way possible. With over 160,000 kilometers traversed so far, this Marathon serves as a stark reminder that nearly anything is possible when TechMighties around the globe resolve to Rise, together.

As we enter its homestretch, here are some of the challenges the team faced and meticulously resolved.

When erroneous data collection by different phone models threatened to hurt the integrity of the competition, they immediately set up a helpdesk of 12 determined individuals to verify data and bring runners back to the race. They also asked users to download two other applications that track and update the correct data, ensuring that the leaderboard remains accurate, and every runner is given a fair chance. They knew internet connectivity would pose a problem, so they designed a system which collects data regardless of connectivity. This would be synced to the server once the connection was restored.

Winning is important, but wellness even more so. Top runners were not allowed to sleep less than seven hours a day; the team behind the Marathon ensured that participants’ health and wellbeing remain the top priority. To protect them from burnout, there was even an upper limit of 60 kilometres per day. In a 51-day race, motivation is key, and the team kept morale high by awarding different winners each day. This small team handled 50-60 emails every day since the start, with the aim of leaving no query unresolved.

No matter the problem, the team found a solution. Even while working behind the scenes, they’ve kept the spirit of Rise alive, and for that, we applaud them.

Here’s to making the world our playground, yet again!

#RiseFromWithin: Restarting a Heart

Today, we bring you the ‘heartwarming’ story of Subhansh, a cardiac technology diploma student at the SMART Academy for Healthcare, Mohali. Set up by the Tech Mahindra Foundation (TMF), SMART Academies are vocational training institutes that aim to make students future-ready in the fields of healthcare, digital technology, logistics and more.

It was just another day, until it was not. Subhansh was deeply engrossed in his online class at the aAcademy, when his focus broke, thanks to the screams of panic in the neighborhood. Naturally curious, he stepped out to check, only to see a huge crowd gathered nearby. Wading through the sea of nervous people, Subhansh saw a middle-aged man lying unconscious on the road.

Now, one can believe that the will to help is inherent in everyone. It’s the skill that most lack. This causes panic, chaos and uncertainty. In this case, for instance, it reflected in the form of people screaming, getting restless, taking fatal actions like trying to give the man food and water, which could further make matters worse, and so on.

A bright student in his trade, Subhansh wasted no time and checked the man’s pulse. He remembered what he learnt at the Academy and immediately understood that it was a heart attack. At the same time, the first-year student also realized that this is exactly the kind of emergencies that he was training for he was in the business of saving lives, and this was his moment.

One of the youngest members of that gathering, Subhansh swiftly took the lead. With people’s support, he laid the man on a flat, ventilated surface and started giving him chest compressions. Many people watched in disbelief, others in shock and still some in wonder. Some tried to stop him, some murmured. However, Subhansh had a plan, backed by his knowledge, training and experience at the Academy. He didn’t stop. At the same time, he signaled someone to call an ambulance. In no time, the man was on his way to a hospital.

“We could revive him only because of the CPR that Subhansh performed in time,” said the doctor who attended to the man at the hospital. Upon hearing this, Subhansh almost broke into tears. He missed his session that day, but he learnt an important lesson: “This incident made me realize the responsibility I carry on my shoulders as a healthcare worker. At the same time, I understood the value of knowing basic first aid, not just as a professional but as a layman, too”.

This story was shared by Tech Mahindra Foundation on World Restart a Heart Day. The Tech Mahindra SMART Academy for Healthcare trains young people to save and prolong lives (and support India’s working generation in myriad other ways), and Subhansh’s story is just one of the 100,000 stories of success that we’ve written so far.

To know more about the Foundation and its work, visit techmahindrafoundation.org.

#RiseFromWithin: A Good Last Goodbye

2020 will be deeply remembered for two things: the war and the warriors. With over 24 million positive cases and more than 822 thousand deaths globally, and the way the pandemic has overturned our daily life in small and big ways, we need no elaboration on the war. That said, it has also brought to the fore, and in many cases, birthed, some great warriors, who started and continue to fight gloriously in the war against Coronavirus. India has reported more than 3.3 million cases and 60 thousand deaths over this entire period, with the southern state of Telangana having some of the highest number of cases in the country. It is from the state's capital, Hyderabad, and one of the biggest TechM locations that we report this heartwarming story of TechMighty Surendra Uplenchiwar, who ventured out to help people in a simple way, but instead came face to face with a larger purpose that awaited him.

During the first wave of COVID-19, Surendra and friends set up Feed the Needy, a 10-member voluntary organization through which they distribute ration and food packets to people in need when the country went into lockdown. Their purpose was simple: 'help people while safeguarding their dignity'. The team started to help people in Hyderabad, gathering support from like-minded people and institutions, pooling in their own resources wherever needed. It was a successful, satisfying venture until one of the team members experienced something life- changing: the challenges a family faces when one of them succumbs to Coronavirus in a private hospital, and the remaining are home quarantined.

"A simple thing, like collecting your loved one's dead body, transporting it to a cremation/burial ground and performing the last rites in a manner that accords dignity to the deceased becomes the most difficult task. Families can't even grieve peacefully or be together, and they often have no time, resources or a state of mind to go through it" says Surendra. This adds to woes like lengthy paperwork, high costs of ambulances (₹25,000-45,000 per transfer), access to the site, and unavailability of a family member and support personnel to perform the rites. This was when the team thought about starting a special 'last ride' ambulance to transport bodies from hospitals/homes to cremation/burial sites. With generous help and support from the Cyberabad Commemorate Police Department – led by VC Sajjanar IPS, Commissioner of Police and Vijay Kumar, DCP Traffic – the team immediately started their journey.

"Disease and death don't discriminate, and neither do we" the team says. "When we went out to feed the needy, there was no caste or religion, just people. Here again, when we deal with something that involves such strong sentiments, we only see a strong purpose – of letting people say one last goodbye in a dignified way". The free service started as a pilot project limited to Cyberabad limits, transporting dead bodies in a safe, timely and respectful way, for 10 hours every day. They now run two ambulances and are working towards securing a fully equipped ambulance (with oxygen cylinders and other support) to help people during the crisis.

A team member recalls, "One day, a woman called to ask if we can transport her husband from the hospital to the crematorium. He'd had multiple organ failure, and she wanted to know if the doctors could remove the ventilator, so he could be taken for his last rites. We had no words to console her, only some actions that could help". With monetary help from friends, families and supportive humanitarians, they have helped over 50 families bid dignified final goodbyes to their loved ones.

"Yes, there's a lot of taboo attached to the pandemic, and when a death happens, the situation only worsens. We have tried to put humanity above everything. We do struggle for funds, time and support, but that has never stopped us. We are willing to fund the initiative from our pocket if no one helps us – at least for as long as we can". The team's work has won them appreciation internally and beyond Tech Mahindra.

At the same time, Feed the Needy continues to work on the initial idea they set out with that people don't go hungry because of the pandemic. In addition, they have also supported people affected by floods in the Mulugu district by giving them clothes and other utilities.

To know more or to support the initiative, contact Surendra Uplenchiwar.

#RiseFromWithin: Beyond Pink and Blue

In a 2015 Frontline article under the growing up trans series, Sarah Childress talks about the programming that humans undergo from the cradle and how they behave according to the rules assigned to their biological sex. "Boys are supposed to like trucks, act tough, and excel at math. Girls are supposed to like princesses, wear dresses, and be nice. Everything that a kid sees, everything in consumer culture, almost without exception, is reinforcing stereotypical understandings of what it looks like and feels like to be male or female", she mentions. With a small but growing number of people coming out as transgender, the notion that gender is linked to biological sex is being challenged.

Meet Subhrakanti, for example. He was the first of three daughters born in the Nayak family of Rourkela in Odisha.

He, daughter, yes.

From a tender age, he identified himself more as a boy than a girl and inclined towards things that one would normally associate with boys: from choices in clothes to toys, preferences in games to activities, and general interests to social behavior. His early years were difficult; people forced him to act in a 'girl-like' way, and he'd hate it. On his first day at school, Subhrakanti felt discomfort concerning his gender identity for the first time. He wanted to dress like boys and sit with them. The differences and discomfort continued to grow as he hit puberty and started noticing that his physical and psychological selves did not align. He spoke to his family and friends, who initially thought he was just a “tomboy”, but later realized that there was more to it.

"I used to read voraciously about gender, concerning my unique self. While I read, I also discussed it with people around me, slowly educating both myself and them about sex, gender, and sexuality (yes, they're different). My family and friends graduated through the phases of shock, disbelief, awareness, acceptance, interest, support, and finally pride in who I was (or perhaps going to be)", he says. Subhrakanti feels that a positive response to his feelings from his innermost circle helped him cement the decision of undergoing a sex reassignment procedure at an early age.

"Their support was out of this world,” says Subhrakanti, speaking about his parents. This was around the time he finished college and landed a job with Tech Mahindra. He was lucky to have a team that understood, respected and supported his decisions. As Subhrakanti settled down in the job, he strengthened his resolve to go under the knife.

"Honestly, I was scared, too. I feared the needles, knives, injections, hormones and post-surgery procedures, but the want to free my soul and live with the gender I identify more with was above any pain", he mentions. The surgery was successful, and he recovered quickly, finally becoming what he always wanted to be.

Subhrakanti describes his journey as a spiritual one. "A lot of it came from reading, research, communication, and being sure of what I always wanted. I was very lucky to have supportive family, friends, and colleagues", he adds. His mentors at TechM find him to be a highly efficient team member with great feedback from peers, seniors, and customers alike. He's as courageous, honest and likable in his professional dealings as he was when he let us share his story with the world.

We also got a chance to put Subhrakanti through a quick 10-question-rapid-fire interview, and his answers inspire us:

  • Dreams: To be financially independent at an early age, so that I don't have to wait till retirement to enjoy the good life with family and friends
  • Likes: Spending time with myself and the needy. It helps me meditate and stay positive
  • Dislikes: Negativity and animals being killed for taste/superstition
  • Fears: Ending up hurting myself or someone else. I tend to bottle my feelings up when I go through any emotional trauma; I regret it later
  • Inspiration: Family, friends and Emma Watson
  • Moments and memories: Many … Every moment I spend with my loved one's today becomes a memory for tomorrow
  • Life goals: Becoming someone who my family, friends and colleagues are proud of. An honest, talented, hardworking, inspiring and smart man who lives life with a great deal of dignity and is very down to earth … Someone like my father"
  • Love and relationships: Of course, I'd want to love and be loved and maybe even get married one day
  • Ideal life partner: Emma Watson for the beauty with brains that she is, and for her personality (the way she advocates for human rights and social justice)
  • Message for the world: "The world is made up of all kinds of people, and that's what makes it beautiful. I'll live the way I am and will respect the way others are, too. We've got one life which we should be lived to the fullest … while being grateful for every small act of kindness anyone has done for us.

We discovered Subhrakanti's story through an email conversation with Sayantan Jana, his mentor at TechM. We were inspired by his sheer courage and we publish this under The Storybook Project with his generous inputs and gracious permission.

#RiseFromWithin: Beyond the Bars

47-year old Pudhu Raja is a convict at Puzhal prison in Chennai. 11 years ago, he was put behind bars for a not-so-serious crime. His life in jail paused all that he aspired to be beyond a convict – including his passion for painting.

Many miles north in New Delhi, Tech Mahindra Foundation(TMF) was celebrating the 7th anniversary of SMART, its flagship skilling initiative that has trained and placed thousands of young people in modern-day jobs, enabling them to be self-reliant and build a dignified career for themselves in a trade of their choice. As the team discussed exploring new avenues where SMART could make a difference – beyond their regular audience of youth, women, people with disabilities, and more – they came up with the idea of extending it to prison inmates.

Yes, it would be the road less taken. An experiment of sorts.

But then, if successful, it would also be an opportunity to repurpose a tainted life and give them another shot.

In April 2018, TechM Foundation teamed up with its partner SEESHA and the jail authorities at the Puzhal prison to launch a SMART Skill Development Programme for inmates who served a term for minor crimes. The idea was to provide them with career-based training, connect them to with employers and facilitate job placements to help them once they were released. In no time, the inmates started training to become professional four-wheeler drivers with the hope to begin life anew.

In addition to learning to drive, PudhuRaja started painting again. Realizing his passion, the Foundation organized an exhibition of his work at TechM Chennai. This humble effort helped him sell 40 paintings and accumulate a sum of ₹27,000. Pudhu used it to fund his father's medical treatment while still being in jail.

Chetan Kapoor, the COO of TechM Foundation, visited the program at Chennai recently. In a heartwarming Facebook post, he shared his experience. He said: "I walked out of jail a few hours ago. An overwhelming experience, as I was visiting the Puzhal prison in Chennai where we're running the #TechMahindra SMART Skill Development program for convicted inmates. These inmates, most of whom are in for not-so-severe crimes, are being trained to be four-wheeler drivers so that they can hope to start a life of dignity once they are released. We started this center as an experiment around a year back, and after some initial hiccups, it is now emerging as one of our most exciting projects at Tech Mahindra Foundation. The real challenge lies ahead to ensure the acceptance of these SMART students once they are out there, ready to be hired as drivers. We are hopeful that this simple attempt of ours at reforming lives will resonate with the world outside in general and employers in particular. Among the inmates was a middle-aged person who speaks fluent English and another who is a wonderful artist. All of them get emotional while talking about their families. And all of them are overjoyed to be a part of this."

In the 11 years that he spent in prison, Pudhu has transformed himself completely. He learned to drive, returned as a painter, and now, he looks forward to leading a dignified and purposeful life in the years that await him. From rehabilitation to reskilling, he's had a journey to remember, and a destination to look forward to. He's only one of the many inmates who've benefitted from this unique program and are waiting eagerly to start a new life.

With inputs from Tanish Maheshwari, TechM Foundation
tanish.maheshwari@techmahindrafoundation.org

#RiseFromWithin: A Beautiful Mind

June 2020 was a tumultuous time for India and the world: we were grappling with a public healthcare crisis, and we faced uncertainty at both home and work. There was a sudden spotlight on mental health in the country, exposing the dire lack of education and accessibility of mental health resources among the Indian populace.

And that was what led to the Tech Mahindra Foundation team creating Mind@Ease – a platform that serves as a one-stop shop for mental healthcare services for those needing professional help and intervention. The application was built in collaboration with Makers Lab, Tech Mahindra’s innovation hub.

Being in touch with over 100 NGO partners in 11 cities, the foundation team knew that there was an urgent need for mental health counselling for all strata of society. The platform proved to be the right solution to help those dealing with the effects of the pandemic and ensuing lockdowns. After some research, they realized that there were several service providers equipped to provide psychological and mental wellness counselling; alas, they were small and didn’t have the means to reach a larger audience.

The team got to work right away. First, they had to educate themselves; the team did ample research about mental health, the implications of the pandemic, and the current need for counselling. The team was then aware of the ground-level reality and public perception they were up against. “There is no place where people who experience mental health issues can seek support— talk to someone, get guidance and counselling. It’s also a kind of taboo, especially with men; they would rather keep it under wraps and deal with it alone,” says Mrinal Roka, TMF, who has been working behind-the-scenes at Mind@Ease for the past year.

The team continued their evaluation for providers who would be featured on the platform. There were certain criteria that they had to meet; counselling had to be available in various languages at low or zero cost. Their goal was to reach out to every section of society, and the quality of providers was key in ensuring accessibility. They began with a list of 100 providers which was shortlisted to 50. Finally, they zeroed in on 20 providers who are currently partnered with Mind@Ease.

Within 30 days, the website was up and running – a Herculean feat achieved by a team dedicated to creating positive change. There are various categories within the website, catering to a diverse set of needs. One can avail career counselling, stress management guidance, psychological help, and read up on educational material. There’s even a dedicated section for children where parents and counsellors work together to support their growth and development. Two important features that set this initiative apart are its anonymity and ease of accessibility. “One good thing about tech right now is that you don’t have to declare to the world that you’re reaching out to get some counselling. Choose to remain anonymous, set up a counselling meeting and maintain privacy,” says the team.

Earlier in 2021, this initiative was recognized by the World Health Organisation for its focus on mental healthcare. With WHO ramping up efforts in the mental and social well-being space, they decided to partner with Mind@Ease to bring much-needed resources and care to frontline COVID warriors – one of the most vulnerable communities in recent times. You can view this collaboration here.

Gearing up for the future

One of the largest obstacles they face is the stigma attached to mental health counselling that, sadly, still exists in India.

“Most of the other work we do, like skill development for youth, education and teacher training, are all accepted and recognized requirements that we address through our work. When it comes to mental wellness, there is the additional obstacle of the “stigma attached” to seeking counselling for mental wellness. Mental wellness is something that’s not understood very well among the masses. Unfortunately, in the past, many people who have such issues are looked down upon,” says Chetan Kapoor, COO, Tech Mahindra Foundation.

However, the team is optimistic that change is on the horizon. They’re determined to create a positive impact across communities and rewrite thousands of destinies. “I know this is what we’re up against. A sustained campaign – by making a start somewhere – and following it relentlessly – that is how we’re going to get results.”

You can visit Mind@Ease at https://mindatease.techmahindrafoundation.org/

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