INTERVIEW

VENKAT K. NARAYANA

Venkat K. Narayana, Kvn Foundation & Chief Executive Officer, Prestige Group

In a free wheeling chat Mr Venkat K Narayana shares his passion to help the poor & needy. Speaking to Amit Goenka he encourages the people to contribute to the society.

What is KVN Foundation, and what is its vision and mission? (Please provide the background of its genesis and with Prestige Group’s association with it?

Recognized as one of India’s most proactive NGOs during COVID-19, KVN Foundation was started by Mr. Venkat K Narayana in 2017 to promote several pressing causes including education, livelihood, women empowerment, creation of job opportunities and healthcare amongst underprivileged families and their children. Venkat, who has been giving back to society for over a decade now through various channels, decided to create a dedicated avenue with the KVN Foundation. Since its inception, the Foundation has undertaken several initiatives to add value to the community. The people behind the Foundation envisage children as the building blocks of the future, and hence have developed programs ranging from healthcare to education, to benefit them. To cite a more familiar example, FeedMyCity, an initiative to feed the families of daily wage earners across India during the COVID-19 lockdown was supported by the Foundation. With many donation points across the country, KVN Foundation has been successfully channelizing these funds to feed over 4.5 mn daily wage earners and their families. For this particular initiative, they created a team of over 400 volunteers and partnered with 120 organizations.

What drives the Foundation and who are the key people for its management and operations?

The Foundation was initially started by my wife, Nisha Kiran and me, to work on causes ranging from a merit-based scholarship for economically backward students with great potential, girl child education and their hygiene, women empowerment, creation of employment opportunities to healthcare. What drives us is the fact that there are imbalances across socio-economic, ethnic groups; urban and rural areas; women and men. Millions of people in our country, especially the young, are unable to reach their full potential in life because they suffer deprivations across multiple dimensions of human development and in countless little ways. We would like to help them achieve their full potential. Children as well as young women and men are critical agents of change, and we would like to help them find a platform to channel their infinite capacities to contribute towards the creation of a better world.

How has the Foundation contributed during COVID-19?

I wanted to ensure that no daily wage earner or his family would go hungry during the lockdown period. Along with my two friends, Ganesh K and Juggy Marwaha, I decided to launch “FeedMyCity”, a non-profit to help the city’s daily wage earners, migrant workers and their families survive the lockdown. Each person chose their areas of expertise such as collecting the data, managing the finances, digital marketing, communications, food production, logistics and distribution on ground, and more. We started with providing 500 freshly-prepared food packs per day to daily wagers and their families in Bengaluru, through the FeedMyBangalore initiative. However, within a day or two, we realised that there was a far greater need. Within seven days, we expanded operations to 5 locations across India, namely Hyderabad, Mumbai, Noida, and Chennai. With each passing day, the numbers kept increasing until finally, we were serving over one lakhs meals per day from the 500 we had started with. We also decided to distribute dry ration and milk to families including the dabbawalas’ families in Mumbai.

Hungerbox, an industrial B2B kitchen partnered with us nationally, to cook the meals. We identified and made a list of over 25 distribution centres in each city where help was needed, and where the needy/daily wagers were concentrated. We tied up with HungerBox, our catering partner, to open multiple kitchens across the distribution centres. And everyone followed all hygiene and safety protocols – safe preparation of food, packing and transportation of the food in a hygienic environment and adhering to the strictest forms of social distancing. In all, KVN Foundation was successful in raising enough money to put together and distribute hot meals and dry ration to over 4.5 million migrants, daily wage earners and their families during the COVID-19 lockdown period. We received massive support from donors and celebrities. Over 100 corporates and 60,000 retail donors came forward to support us. Also, students from across the country got together to organise 2 FeedMyCity virtual live concerts – where talented students and CEOs from across India performed to help us raise funds for this cause. Many well-known corporates and celebrities also endorsed our work to help spread awareness.

A school of thought believes, the concept of ‘giving’ should become part of school and college curriculum in India. What are your views?

Of course yes! We did this through the FeedMyCity Live Concerts, where students from across the country got together to perform live and help raise funds for the cause. This initiative created both inspiration and empathy in them, to work on a cause that was bigger than themselves and where they were instrumental in impacting so many lives. We need to teach our children to be responsible citizens who not only take care of themselves and their families, but also help the less fortunate. Introducing them to the concept of ‘Sharing’ from an early age will teach them generosity, empathy and create a desire in them to help improve someone else’s life. They will grow up with greater compassion and maybe in future, even lead discussions / initiatives to help attain greater social change. Further, they will also learn how to behave with people, be courteous and considerate with them and be more disciplined, which will eventually help them grow as professionals as well.

CSR, as an activity has many dimensions. What needs to be done to ensure that there is more help to the needy?

 

Much of the progress occurs through volunteerism itself. We need to increase awareness and create additional intervening bodies to make institutions more credible, effective, inclusive and accountable.

Is KVN is primarily working in South (in Karnataka-Bengaluru) or does it have branches across the Country? What kind of an investment (capital, infrastructure, people training, logistics (transport)) has KVN Foundation done to run the operations, Please share data and future plans?

We are a pan-India foundation, headquartered in Karnataka. Through our various chapters, and with the support of our volunteers, we are serving the needy across the country. The Foundation raised over INR 15 crore in just 60 days, and we plan to effectively deploy these funds to promote the causes we support.

What are your expectations from the government in terms of policies and levies?

It should help:

  • In the identification of the right causes to focus on • Recognize the work of NGOs, and encourage them to do more
  • Encourage more and more NGOs to contribute in supporting noteworthy causes