Book Review — A Silent Revolution: The Journey of the Srinivasan Services Trust by Snigdha Parupudi

October 17, 2021 1:30 AM

A Silent Revolution challenges existing ideas about CSR while detailing how the trust started by TVS Motor Company chairman Venu Srinivasan bucks the trend

A Silent Revolution: The Journey of the Srinivasan Services Trust by Snigdha Parupudi

By Aashish Aryan

Depending on where one looks from, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has a different shape, size, goal and impact. From the company’s point of view, very often, it is giving back to the community and contributing to the all-round development of its employees. From the bystander’s lens, however, most CSR work is seen only as a task that companies and conglomerates undertake because the government mandates it. That any and all CSR work is just to offset the bad karma that corporate greed brings.

Snigdha Parupudi’s book, A Silent Revolution, challenges these notions from the word go. The book, which details the journey of Srinivasan Services Trust, talks about how CSR must not be a yoke forced upon the shoulders of the company but a collective responsibility of the corporate and the community.

Founded in 1996 by Venu Srinivasan, the chairman of TVS Motor Company, the Srinivasan Services Trust (SST) has, over time demonstrated with success why it is important to follow in social service the same strict management principles applied to factory floor and office suites, Parupudi writes.

The book teems with anecdotes and stories of communities coming together to work with SST, while also explaining why the functioning of this company-run trust is very different from other non-government organisations that also function alongside them.

For example, in the very beginning, Parupudi writes about how a leaky tap had the villagers petitioning that SST fix the tap instead of themselves. The incident forced the Trust as well as its then chairman and former Indian Administrative Services officer Ashoke Joshi to change tack by asking them to contribute to the development of their communities as well.

The idea, writes Parupudi, though revolutionary, faced its share of challenges as people would question if TVS Motors, the company backing the trust, did not have enough money to complete the tasks they undertook. With time, however, the communities where SST worked, understood the concept behind them being asked to pay and would regularly contribute, starting initially with 10-15% of the project, which then gradually went up to as much as 40%.

The book can also function as a ready reckoner on why, despite the presence of so many NGOs on ground in rural India, there is very little sustainable development that has been achieved over all these years. Most NGOs, Parupudi says in her book, choose to work only till they need to provide some sort of relief, or provide food following a natural calamity. The book also talks in detail about why SST, unlike many other company-run trusts and NGOs, choose to partner with the government and ensure last-mile delivery instead of targeting and downplaying their schemes.

For all its easy narration, the book could have done with more statistics and data, explaining how SST has, in just over two decades, managed to run and operate an NGO that does not helicopter in only when there are tragedies. The absence of images, bars and graphs to break the monotony of uninterrupted narrative is, sadly, a missed opportunity.

A Silent Revolution: The Journey of the Srinivasan Services Trust
Snigdha Parupudi
HarperCollins
Pp 376, Rs 499

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