Someone suggested I talk more often about my country, my culture and my traditions. It is a background that permeates my thoughts, reflects my beliefs and, for the purpose of this story, speaks in my writing.
There can be no contours defined for the 3.28 million square kilometers of the country I belong to – India. It is a country that is a true embodiment of diversity: rich countryside to relive the serenity of nature and relax the fast paced city life that holds in store innumerable dreams of people who are constantly running around seeking to carve a niche. Being a part of the country that has an inherent capacity to absorb yet outshine the rest, as many as 2939 traditions being practiced within the single unified territory - it all makes me feel grounded with a unique sense of individuality. From the microscopic phytoplanktons to the deadly sharks, the deep blue ocean is a home to all. That fascinates me and so does my all-embracing country that has a unique space for each of my 1.2billion brothers and sisters.
I think I am blessed. I am sure the others feel the same too. I was born and brought up in a cozy little township called Rourkela with not more than 6 lakhs of residents. The grass was so green and the air so pure. It was bliss - the joy of the innocence of childhood were best felt there. I grew up and got lost in the chaos of competition. I landed in the city of lakes, atleast that was how it was known as earlier – Bangalore : the IT city. Spread over 366 square kms, Bangalore supports 60 lakh residents, with me being one of them. This is the city with absolutely no space to flounder. The rush is straining yet enthusing. There is a sense of urgency all around. The need to rush spares me no time to stand and stare. It is like clockwork, my life and the activities intertwined. But then there is a need behind this transmutation from Rourkela calm to Bangalore rush. I cannot afford to lose a minute, I am racing against competition in my aspiration to be a nurturing parent, supportive colleague, efficient worker, caring spouse, unperturbed boss, understanding employer. The list does not end; it goes beyond, straining me of all my virtues to leave behind a dull and drab person who would just want to retire to bed each night with an everlasting hope of a better tomorrow.
For those of you who have not seen what Bangalore holds in store, you must visit this link. http://www.discoverbangalore.com/FantasticFacts.htm
There is a method in the madness. The traffic is unusual. The horns keep blaring aloud, motor bikes try to wriggle their way out amid the four wheelers, heavy goods vehicles have no patience for the person behind the driving wheel of the tiny vehicle infront and the blinking traffic signals sometimes see people flout them for the tiniest reason guiltlessly. Senior citizens wait endlessly for the traffic to slow down so that they can cross the road safely. Young pedestrians run at the first possible chance to cross lanes, knowing so well that they are risking their lives. I recall my old friend who visited India from Germany after almost 10 years - he was stupefied with the tremendous horn usage.
Despite all the chaos, there exists an infallible enthusiasm, a fervid romanticism that draws people closer. It brings a smile on my lips when I see a couple strongly grasping each other’s hands lest they part in the traffic. The lip smacking street food entices one and all. How often have I stopped by to relish the egg roll in that little stall around the corner of my street ! The joy and warmth of returning home after a hard day’s work is immense, no matter which hour of the day it is. Everyone has a motive behind their headlong rush. I love to talk about Bangalore, I feel I belong to it, despite the fact that it does not give me any respite anytime.
And I equally belong to the organization I work with - Wipro. A truly global company that it is, it employs more than 100,000 associates from over 70 nationalities with 72 plus global delivery centers in over 55 countries. Wipro’s services span financial services, retail, transportation, manufacturing, healthcare services, energy and utilities, technology, telecom and media. The focus has been on business transformation with matchless innovation in service delivery and business models.
The unwavering commitment towards the green cause has for long formed the charter of Wipro, deeply ingrained in philosophy and action. Eco Energy business and Fit For Life - the Wellness program resonate in unison, in spirit and action, with the organization’s commitment towards ecological sustainability. The ‘freewheelers’, as they prefer to be called, form an integral component herein. They are a bunch of cycling enthusiasts who cycle to work every day. Their passion is deep. Such is the infectiousness of their enthusiasm that the group has grown from five to 100 in just a year.
Each day brings a new hope for them. Often they echoed the need to reach out to one and all to instill the faith and touch a chord that will long vibrate - a thought that is conceivable and worth exploration, an idea that is all pervasive yet contemporary, an action that will speak louder than all the words.
From the power of imagination and innovation, a thought was uttered with much confidence yet caution by one of the freewheelers- ‘Encourage cycling - integrate cycle with our policy’ and bring back the natural rhythm of life that is entangled within the hackneyed chores of the mundane world. The little thought was powerful enough, and it led to the genesis of ‘@ Wipro We Cycle’ initiative.
It made me reminiscent of the days when as a kid I used to cycle down to my school or even the fun cycle rides I had with friends in the warm sunshine after school hours. That gave a sense of liberation. I could feel the wind on my face then. It has been a while, a long while since I felt a part of nature. As I grew up, priorities get reprioritized and I felt the pressure to perform. I find that the wind on my face has been replaced with the synthetic air conditioning of the room where I spend more than half of my day. Life has moved faster and to keep with its pace, so have I. There has been no time to ‘stand and stare’. Laptop & mobile have become my lifeline now. I feel a wistful yearning to hear the lively twitter of birds above the din of incessant traffic.
While I hear the hue and cry over saving and appreciating nature, I have still not done my due. I feel obliged to, certainly. For a couple of weeks, the concept and impact were mooted upon. Democracy of opinion does exist. ‘Is it strong enough to effect a far-reaching change?’, ‘Will people be excited enough to buy a cycle?’, ‘How would the tax benefits be accounted for?’ These were some of the questions that were intensely debated. It was the conservatives versus the liberals. The concept was evaluated by the taxation & legal functions as well. Views exchanged and opinions sought. It was a dilemma that had to be resolved sooner than later.
The power of innovation has triumphed since times immemorial – the idea saw the light of day to everyone’s delight. The approval by the senior management came through.
The policy changes enable employees keen to buy a cycle to do so. Thus, any Wiproite today can purchase a cycle under the relevant schemes available – either direct reimbursement or through an interest free loan. This initiative was brought under ‘Wipro Advantage’ a program that enables Wipro employees to avail exclusive discounts/deals on various products/services.
Now when there is an opportunity by my side, I shall firmly support the cause. Brainchild of one and reared by others, the concept acquired the mindshare of all. It is simple yet meaningful for a policy maker to enable employees to savor the benefits we are entitled to, and at the same time support the overall direction and philosophy of the organization. After all, a righteous blend of the two is what we have to achieve as an objective.
It is astonishing how a little thought by a young cyclist surmounted all challenges to reaffirm the wise old saying - ‘All big things start small’. The concept soon snowballed into a massive affair generating tremendous energy and optimism all around.
Much to the surprise of many, there exist Wipro veterans who refuse material gifts in lieu of completing twenty years with the organization. They would rather wish that plants 10 times their years spent with Wipro are planted. The urge is immense – worth a thought for the others who must experience the innate thrill people get in making these little contributions towards the cause of nature to action it themselves.
As the policy firmed up with the nuances from legal and taxation getting incorporated, the ‘freewheelers’ too spread the word around to the larger audience. The idea gained strong foothold even before the launch. The enthusiasm clearly reflected in the efforts of one and all. The Communications team was completely on its toes to ensure effective promotion while the Operations team persistently drew out the modalities involved to ensure all checks and balances are in place. HR team whole heartedly enabled the entire linkage to formalize an all-pervasive yet simple initiative towards physical as well as environmental health.
An important component was negotiating exciting deals for Wiproites. They had to be the best ones to excite them enough to buy a cycle. In the course of discussions with multiple cycle vendors, I came to know of some very interesting and thought-provoking facts on cycling. Interestingly, some of these vendors were die-hard cyclists themselves, and that resulted in them becoming subject-matter experts. The facts were too compelling for me to not to research the web to report them here!
David Hay, a distinguished lawyer has written a paper comparing cycle vs. automobile energy use, and found that bikes are 2/3 more efficient than cars even after factoring in the energy to produce the extra food the cyclist requires. Cycling is a great exercise, around 117% more efficient than walking (so says the web). Interestingly, around 15% of the Japanese commute by cycle. Europeans too bike in their cities very often. Around ten cycles can be parked in one automobile parking space and around 100 cycles can be produced for the same energy and resources it takes to build one medium-sized automobile. I think it is time we seriously contemplate having separate cycle tracks in India too.
We saw tremendous support from the vendors and were able to negotiate irresistible cycle deals. The launch was planned. Invites sent. The communication plan was rolled out.
The outcome of these efforts saw daylight when the policy was launched. There was a buzz created all around by the cycle camps put up by vendors. Employees test-rode, and we could hear frequent outbursts of laughter with their friends yelling and teasing them on their lack of experience of cycling after so many years. The atmosphere was lively and fascinating. One could see the yesteryear youthfulness brimming to the rim. Around 100 employees were provided free cycles to ride around the campus and spread their infectious enthusiasm.
I can still hear people applauding. Interestingly, ‘@ Wipro We Cycle’ has brought people from across functions & teams together too. Employees have formed groups to go out and purchase cycles, banking invariably on the knowledge of their other group members. Collaboration is yet another positive consequence of the whole initiative. The value has been immense.
I feel satiated, a sense of achievement prevails when I spot someone commuting to work on cycle. Their exuberance is so overwhelming. I can actually perceive the innate thrill that the driver of a four wheeler experiences and the admiration s/he surreptitiously holds for the fervor and energy oozing out of the passionate cyclists.
I do hope that we see more such ideas kick-starting, shaping up and contributing to the larger cause. After all, that’s about keeping the Spirit of Wipro alive.
- Written by Shreya, a true Wiproite
Post the inception of thought in Sep 2010, the initiative was launched in Nov 2010.
Exchange of thoughts with an open mind was very helpful. Benefits of the concept overruled all challenges.
Suresh, Yateesh and other Wipro freewheelers
have been instrumental in developing the innovation from the concept stage.
Would like to specially thank Iain Ewing (Ewing Communications, Singapore)for his valuable inputs on the content.