‘We want to truly save our tigers’

It was under his guidance that Aircel has become a household name with their thought-provoking advertisments on the pessimistic status of the majestic wild tigers in India. The impact of this successful endeavour of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has spread across the nation, from schools to power corridors. Sandip Das, Director Incharge of Indian Operations at Aircel Limited, spoke to Hardnews in an e-mail interview

Aircel's 'Save our Tigers' is a very unique campaign. What inspired you to launch such a campaign?
Tigers used to stalk the countryside where I lived many years ago and sightings were common. I have spent many a night at my father's knee hearing stories of this magnificent animal. When you see pictures shot during the British Raj, where these animals were mercilessly slaughtered, something inside us Indians dies. Everyone in the company feels the same way and we are connected with our heritage as the other billion people of this country.
 
We are a telecom company.  Mobile phones reach people. We saw an opportunity to create awareness amongst people to 'Save the Tiger'. At the rate we are going, two years from now even the remaining 1411 will perish.  Nobody seems to bother!  The last cheetah was seen in 1952.  If we don't act now, we will lose all the tigers in the wild.

What are the components of the campaign?
The emphasis of the campaign is to effectively reach people.  At the heart of it is an emotional TV film which has touched millions. There are other outdoor and press movements that will support the 360-degree effort including a specially developed website 'saveourtiger.com' to guide people on what they can do to support this cause. This is the tip of the iceberg. There will also be a lot of background work to support the infrastructure for the cause outside of the media glare.

Is it just a media campaign or is Aircel involved in other aspects of tiger conservation?
Saving the tiger is a long-term commitment and a core part of Aircel's CSR platform.  Besides, this campaign which is raising awareness of the urgency of the situation concerning our tigers and encouraging the public to support conservation, Aircel has also partnered with WWF for initiatives to save the tigers.  Saving the tiger is also a vital step in preserving the bio-diversity and natural capital of India. As we go forward, there shall be more actions towards supporting the cause. One company cannot alone do it.  We also have to support the infrastructure and the unsung heroes who can really do it.  You will see us doing more of that.

Your company has been involved in 'Save our Tigers'. Would you continue with this campaign? How?
There is something peculiar about us that sets us apart and endears us to these causes. It encourages the average Indians to speak up, write, increase their knowledge about tigers, visit tiger parks and donate to the cause. It is critical to understand and support what really works. It goes beyond building fences and identifying pug marks.  It is a whole ecosystem.

What kind of support have you got from the society and your customers?
The response has been overwhelming from all segments  - be it children wearing badges to more than 1,50,000 people signing up on the Facebook Stripey the Cub Page and the "saveourtigers" website, to adults writing, celebrities tweeting and showing the care.

How important is CSR activity like this for a company like yours?
Aircel is not fussed about being a commercial juggernaut. Our DNA is different.  We have a great desire to be respected for what we do or stand for.  Our aim is to enrich our customers' lives and you cannot keep environment out of it!  We are proudly Indian and for us our country's legacy is our pride.  The tiger is the symbol of our nation. We have made a start and we are committed!  We want to truly 'Save our Tigers'.

 

This story is from the print issue of Hardnews: APRIL 2010