GS Ravi Kumar, CIO, Gati Limited, on his website, Vhelpconnect.org, that helps institutions in need get basic infrastructure. By Shweta Gandhi
GS Ravi Kumar has been working in the IT industry for over 25 years. Though IT is his passion and love, he still felt there was a void. He soon realised social work could help him fill that vacuum. As part of his social work he was involved with various schools and it struck him that most institutions were all in need of very basic infrastructure. “What we had to offer wasn’t always what the institution was looking for,” says Ravi.
“I visited schools, and would see children sitting on the floor, bending down and writing,” he says. “Sometimes the schools wouldn’t have purified drinking water, toilets, blackboards, etc. At some of the orphanages and old age homes there was a need for very basic items like blankets, cooking utensils, plates, etc. That’s when it struck me that what they required was essential infrastructure. They needed a platform for them to record their requirements so that they could be provided with the same. Also, the platform should be scalable as it needs to be rolled out on a large scale, in terms of geography and number of institutions.”
People often feel the need to help others and wish to donate money. But they are also wary that the money might not actually reach the person in need. In most cases the money is used to take care of one child or an old person but does not addressing the basic needs at large. So Ravi decided to use his IT background to help make a difference. He launched a website, Vhelpconnect.org, where people and organisations can contribute by procuring the items needed and in quantities convenient for them. This way they would directly meet the infrastructure needs without any money exchanging hands. This is something he has been working on when he’s not busy being the CIO at Gati Limited. His prowess was recently recognised at CIO Power List 2016, where he was awarded as Digital Icon and Logistics Icon. Here, he tells us about his new digital project.
Tapping into a need
VHelpConnect will be a large-scale roll out, where institutions in need register their needs and corporates who are looking to contribute as part of their CSR and volunteers can also register and connect. “The website will serve as a single platform to connect government registered and recognised institutions such as schools, old age homes, orphanages, and schools and homes for the differently-abled with corporate donors and volunteers willing to help,” says Ravi. VHelpConnect is currently in the beta stage. “It will be rolled out full-fledged very shortly,” says Ravi, who has been conducting small pilot tests by asking friends and family to use the site. Fourteen schools have already registered with their needs at this stage.
“Many times, I hear from various companies who are not sure where to spend their money for CSR. VHelpConnect will serve as an important tool for the same,” says Ravi. So, if a school says they’re looking for a certain number of chairs and tables, the donors will be able to quantify the need and give accordingly after procuring through their purchase department at well-negotiated rates. “People don’t know whom to ask and where to donate. This website will bridge the gap,” he says.
No exchange of money
The site will not accept any money from the corporates or volunteers for this service. And neither can people just donate money. The idea is to help provide fundamental facilities like toilets, benches, chairs, blackboards, etc. “One, this will impact the entire school or the institution in need. Two, there is no cash directly involved, which makes things a lot more transparent,” says Ravi.
Ravi has not received funding from any corporates or individuals for this project. “I have only had friends and peer inputs guiding me and helping me along the way,” he says. He is hoping his CIO peers and friends in the fraternity will help in registering their organisations or institutions they are working with. He is targeting to help at least 100 institutions fulfil their requirements through this website by the end of the first year. His wife has joined him in this social endeavour, and together they aim to use VHelpConnect to change many lives.