Points for People: A Laudable CSR Initiative
Iris C F Gomes
Points for People is a scheme that is presently fuelling the Tata Trusts’ plans to alleviate the debilitating conditions that poverty presents to the tribal people and farmers of India. The platform provides an opportunity for people to make donations by converting loyalty points earned through transactions with Tata Trusts’ partners into avenues of respite for the unfortunate. It also allows for online payments towards the same with all donations eligible for tax exemption.
The Central India Initiative by Tata Trusts aims at affording greater and higher quality opportunities to the underprivileged in central India and the tribal belt to better their lives by concentrating on the areas of water and sanitation, livelihood, education (digital literacy and children’s education), cancer care and the eradication of TB. Collectives for Integrated Livelihood Initiatives (CInI) is the nodal agency founded by Tata Trusts to oversee the development of plans in the aforementioned areas.
The programme, which was launched by author Amish Tripathi, was conceived by Brian Almeida, a man who wears many hats. Brian has a bachelor’s in Maths and Statistics from St Xavier’s College, Mumbai and a master’s in Marketing from Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management. He also has completed the Advanced Management Program (AMP) – Leadership and Management from Harvard in the year 2013. This Fellow of the Institute of Direct & Digital Marketing, UK, has been the co-founder and group managing director (1992 – 2013) of Direxions Global Solutions Pvt Ltd and currently has a consulting practice called Strategic Caravan, which focuses on building customer-centred businesses. Brian is the non-executive director of Cartesian Consulting Pvt Ltd, the independent director of HNG Float Glass, as well as being on the board of trustees for Shanti Avedna Sadan, India’s first hospice for those with terminal cancer.
With a career of creating loyalty programmes such as the British Airways Executive Club in India, Jet Privilege, PetroBonus, Taj Inner Circle, First Citizen's Club and so on, and a deep interest in philanthropy, it should come as no surprise that Brian co-founded Points for People. He says, ‘Having spent over 25 years in the customer relationship business and worked on some of the largest loyalty programmes in the country, one observed the need for brands and loyalty programmes to build real loyalty through relevant customer engagement and great customer experience, beyond the transactions. In our observations of offering rewards and experiences, we believe that donating loyalty points is in the top bracket in terms of gratification and member satisfaction along with the instantaneous nature of the redemption.’
The programme attempts to foster a culture of giving while providing a reliable and trustworthy partner like the Tata Trusts, allowing people to avail of a simplified process of donating, and reducing the burden on your pocket. Credit card or debit card loyalty programme points, airline frequent flyer miles, hotel frequent guest points and points earned through any customer or employee loyalty programme can be converted into donations. ‘Every individual would like to contribute to the overall development of society and help the lesser privileged, and the loyalty points offer this convenience without changing any of your spending habits or extra cash payments. It’s a simple utilisation of the extra or unused points for a great cause,’ says Brian.
Points for People has in less than a year of its launch not just raised a million but has won the Best CSR Initiative of the year award at the Customer Loyalty Awards 2018 held in Mumbai and has been a finalist in the category Best Corporate Social Responsibility Initiative at Loyalty Magazine Awards 2018 in UK. Brian says, ‘We expected a good response but have been extremely happy with the response we have received. It is reflective of research that shows customers want to engage with brands that are socially conscious and caring. The reason is simply that it is a win-win-win proposition. The loyalty programme and the brand win because they show the members the concern that the brand has for social causes. Programmes can define the value of each point for the donation, managing their points liabilities. Members have an extremely satisfied feeling that they have been able to contribute to society, as well as get a tax benefit (for Indian members). Programme managers achieve high engagement and success metrics linked to the programme and social causes benefit with an increased revenue stream for their projects through people participation.’
Brian believes that engaging people in this scheme is one way of motivating them to find the more generous, empathetic person within themselves. He says, ‘Points for People offers a seamless, least inertia method for a loyalty programme to contribute to doing something good for society. Points for People addresses all segments within a loyalty programme across the spectrum – from members who have large loyalty points balances and are probably HNIs (High Net Worth Individuals) that can very easily donate their points to members who have yet to earn a significant loyalty point balance and may not find any meaning in redemption for gifts but get great gratification from the fact that they have contributed to making another life better.’
Points for People has already formed links with the largest bank programmes in India and hopes to partner with most Indian and even global loyalty programmes. The goal is to bring in as many members of loyalty programmes as possible into the Points for People initiative. ‘We are currently tying up with one programme a month and already cover a reach of 100 million loyalty programme members. Our plans are not only to make it countrywide but also a global programme, and we are already present on a points exchange platform which will be going live soon.’
The increasing donations that these partnerships will bring will enable the Tata Trusts to take on more projects and causes, furthering the movement towards a productive and self-supporting society in India. Brian says of this undertaking in the direction of positive change, ‘Points for People has been built with the vision of allowing society to help society as it is only when communities help each other will we become a better society and race. It is designed to become a self-sustaining project that has the ability to generate a large amount of funds for unutilised loyalty points. This can only be positive and our association with the Tata Trusts ensures that the money received is well spent and utilised. The Tata Trusts are one of the oldest, and one of the country's most creditable philanthropic organisations that have dedicated their existence to improving lives.’