Sanjay Patel, Tata Motors

I have had past experiences with other NGOs during my college, as well as with the Community Development department of Tata Motors, Pune. I was looking for a similar opportunity to work with NGOs on weekends. It’s a great opportunity as NGOs face many challenging problems on the ground level, which are sometimes technical as well as non-technical. These require you to understand their needs, constraints, etc and come up with innovative solutions. It also helps you to meet new people and widen your network.

I was expecting a lot of personal visits to the NGO Motopaws and working with their staff. This turned out to be an NGO run by college students and young professionals who are nearly my age. I was expecting someone older to be the founder, but it was not so. They didn’t really have an office. We mainly worked from home or through Whatsapp.

Motopaws was only active in Pune and it was planning to go national this year. Until then volunteers were recruited based on personal interviews, which took a lot of time. Our volunteering project involved understanding how the NGO recruited volunteers in Pune and how that policy could be scaled up and made national. Interviewing each and every volunteer all over India was going to be difficult.

We had to come up with a recruitment strategy to ensure the right volunteers were selected. We created a Google form for volunteers to fill, this data was logged in an Excel file and made available to the NGO team. Volunteers can now be sorted out according to their locality/city/gender/age, etc. Along with that, we came up with a slot system that will help allot slots to the volunteers when they can participate in a particular event, etc. We developed strategy documents, as well as a Code of Conduct for volunteers.

The idea of being part of an NGO, which was about to go national in a few months’ time was very thrilling. Our work having an impact at such a level was motivating enough to keep going.

The most funny incident was our first meeting with the founder and his team. It was scheduled in the evening at a Pune Bakery in Kothrud. When we (my project partner Zubin Trivedi and I) reached there, we looked for a man in his late 30s, along with his team whose members we expected to be around the same age. We didn’t find any. Rather we found some young college students – guys and girls waving at us as if calling us to their table. We were shocked to find such young students and professionals running all the operations of the NGO. That was very impressive!

It’s a unique opportunity to get involved in such an activity while working in a company. The Tata group has strong roots in the society, building activities. And while one is with a Tata company, one should definitely take advantage of this opportunity. My experiences, past and present, have helped me grow individually as well as professionally.