Practitioners Perspectives // October 22,2021

Perspective of a Servant Leader and the Impact of Social Responsibility

Featuring: Rajan Samuel , Managing Director – Habitat for Humanity

Featuring:

Rajan Samuel Managing Director – Habitat for Humanity

Rajan Samuel spearheads Habitat for Humanity’s vision of building a world where everyone has a decent place to live. He has over 30 years of experience in microfinance, housing microfinance and social development. Rajan inspires partners in government, the private sector and civil society to volunteer, donate, invest and advocate for decent, affordable housing and improved sanitation. He has worked in over 30 countries in Asia, Central Asia, Africa and the Caucasus, and has been instrumental in establishing 15 independent Microfinance institutions in 10 countries including rural banks, cooperatives, credit unions and non-banking finance companies.   

Was it choice or courage that led you to be a leader in the social space, especially at the grassroots level?

Well, it happened by design I would say. Two defining incidents in my college years identified my calling. I am grateful to have a career that gives me tremendous satisfaction to make a difference to the world.

But coming to the two incidents that made me think differently:

During college in Bangalore I had the opportunity to work with shelterless street children and provide them homes and importantly provide then with an identity. Later, another incident where I had the chance to rehabilitate leprosy afflicted patients by providing them a job at a brick kiln and give them a source of income was gratifying.

These two life changing episodes pushed me into a career where I would have the opportunity to impact the under privileged, make a difference to the community and see a smile on their faces.

How is this space different from the corporate scenario?

It’s pretty much the same. We have goals, targets, timesheets, weekly reporting. In fact, the rigour is more I would say. In the corporate sector the bottom line is profit, however in Habitat it is IMPACT. We strive to excel and want to be the best in what we do, and we work with zeal and commitment to transform the lives and communities around us. Our aim is to make our enterprise sustainable and scalable.

What are the business models you adopt?

Well, we have two models of funding:

The grants we get from Corporates, either through individuals or their Corporate Social Responsibility arm. And the other is the Service Delivery Model, where we charge for the services we deliver. For e.g: At HFH, we work in Orissa to complete unfinished houses under the structured household support services, where we provide alternate options for house completion and charge for the same.

What motivates corporates to partner with you?

The aspect of philanthropy in the corporate world was introduced by the TATAs and the spirit continues. From a guideline perspective, the CSR funding which is mandated when these organizations cross a threshold level of profits is a reason as well.

But that said, there are a lot of passionate individuals who want to sincerely help. See, there is this Charity Golf Tournament that we recently held, and we witnessed an overwhelming response. Another aspect is corporates come for volunteering as well. Some of the companies bring their teams to do volunteering work with us and this becomes a great place for collaboration and bonding. Such volunteers become donors eventually and our network grows.

We see that there is school collaboration, what are your initiatives towards building future leaders?

I love answering this question and yes, we work to build future leaders.

Rupee for Change is an initiative we have introduced in schools, where every child is encouraged to contribute a rupee to build a toilet for the needy.

Then there is Run Marathon where school children run for the cause and the donation goes towards building homes for the under privileged. We have tied up with Center for Creative Leadership, Singapore where the curriculum imparts how to contribute to the social change.

We are eager to hear about your Innovator of the year award?

The Asia Innovator of the Year Award is for the work we did with one of the most primitive communities in Tamilnadu, the Irulur community. This community of people have been on the move without a home for many decades. You can see a lot of them in and around Cuddalore in Tamilnadu. We worked with about 4500 families who have been rehabilitated and have a home finally.

How do you conceive and run campaigns?

Campaigns are indeed a lot of hard work and planning. Recently we ran a campaign called Sensitize to Sanitize. We came up with a brilliant idea to join hands with all the NGOs working in this space and conduct this event which impacted over 30 million people.

Favourite Book?

The Bible is always my favourite. Many leadership lessons come from it. And I strongly believe that a leader must influence others, and his/her style must be infectious in a positive way.

QUOTE IN FOCUS

Just like a corporate, we also have goals, targets, timesheets, weekly reporting. In fact, the rigour is more I would say. In the corporate sector the bottom line is profit, however in Habitat it is IMPACT.

QUESTION IN FOCUS

 

Since you are widely travelled how is the social responsibility scene differing across geographies?

Agree, my global footprint is far and wide. However, from what I have observed, India tops the chart in terms of working to uplift the under privileged. The awareness and engagement are far higher when you compare India with other countries. Something we should be proud of I daresay. There are a lot of NGOs operating at the grassroots level, the social enterprise sector is far more organized and all of them are leveraging technology smartly to seek benefits. It is a vibrant scene here in India, yes!

Rajan Samuel Rajan Samuel

Managing Director – Habitat for Humanity

Rajan Samuel spearheads Habitat for Humanity’s vision of building a world where everyone has a decent place to live. He has over 30 years of experience in microfinance, housing microfinance and social development. Rajan inspires partners in government, the private sector and civil society to volunteer, donate, invest and advocate for decent, affordable housing and improved sanitation. He has worked in over 30 countries in Asia, Central Asia, Africa and the Caucasus, and has been instrumental in establishing 15 independent Microfinance institutions in 10 countries including rural banks, cooperatives, credit unions and non-banking finance companies.

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In my career leading and building high-performing teams, I enjoy inspiring & coaching employees to unlock their potential for maximum performance. The team's success is my deepest delight. Global Coaching Lab provides the platform to put this into practice every day and fulfill my passion of making others great.




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