People’s Insights Volume 1, Issue 9: Mahindra Spark The Rise

Spark the Rise is a digital platform for motivated people to join forces and tackle the critical issues India faces. The platform is about creating and sharing innovative ideas.

Anybody with an idea can submit project plans or ‘Sparks’. Mahindra will provide grants to the eight best plans every month that fall under one of five categories – technology, energy, agriculture and rural development, infrastructure and transportation, and social entrepreneurship.

The platform hopes to ‘spark’ a positive change.

Mahindra wants to give a voice to individuals, groups, institutions, organisations, NGOs and businesses through the ‘Sparks’ or by participating in conversations, voting and funding projects.

Participants must be at least 18 years old and legal residents of India. They need to create their profiles on www.sparktherise.com, after which they must submit details of their projects. They can ask others for guidance and donations.

A press release on the Mahindra website  said:

Each entry must clearly state a project name, category, description and clearly explain who the project will help to ‘Rise’ and how it will achieve its goal. Participants can also note down resources already at their disposal and ask others for help related to funding, equipment, volunteers and expertise.

Every month, each of the eight projects will receive grants of Rs 4,00,000. Six of these eight will be selected by a jury comprising the finest business minds, such as Nadir Godrej, managing director of Godrej Industries. Two will be selected by the public through a vote.

After six months and six rounds, the top two monthly Sparks chosen by a public vote (12 in all) will compete for additional funding in the ‘Grand Finale’. Another six will be nominated by the jury. These six don’t have to be winners of earlier rounds.

The finale winner gets a grant of Rs 40,00,000 and three runners-up get grants of Rs 20,00,000 each.

As the Spark the Rise page suggests, entries will be judged on impact, feasibility and innovativeness:

Impact: How much will it affect the target group’s lives? How many people will it help? Is it a one-time improvement or a continuous/long-term change?
Feasibility: Does the project plan look achievable? If this Spark receives a grant, is it likely to succeed?
Innovation: Is this Spark creative or original? Does it demonstrate alternative thinking that we can learn something new from?

The concept is an extension of ‘Rise’ – the company’s positioning since January 2011. Mahindra elevated the communication platform through ‘Spark The Rise’. The campaign introduced in August 2011 was a multimedia movement pegged at Rs 18 crore over four to six months, across media channels and touchpoints.

What makes this campaign even more impressive is that digital and social media are still nascent in India. Most Indian brands use the digital medium to support traditional media, but Mahindra has done the opposite.

Rise was identified as a movement for people to stand up to the challenges faced every day. ‘Rise’ was considered an end, while ‘Spark The Rise’ was the means to it.

Managing Director Anand Mahindra said this about the campaign:

Rise is a simple call to action. We want to encourage people to be part of this movement and to engage with the idea of Rise – to think outside the box, to be inspired and ultimately to take action. A big idea often begins with a tiny spark of inspiration – a spark that can sometimes even ignite a revolution. Through Spark the Rise we seek to not only create a platform for ‘Sparks’ across the country to connect, collaborate and drive positive change but also lend financial support to the best idea

The insight was that Indians took great interest in nation-building because of the challenges they faced every day – lack of infrastructure, pollution, etc.

As mentioned on the site:

We’re all talking about What India needs to leap forward. Better infrastructure. Education for all. Sustainable energy. Support for entrepreneurs. But who will make it happen?

This is where Spark The Rise steps in. It provides a platform where Indians can make their voices heard and make a difference.

The platform also stresses the importance of working together to transform India through communication and collaboration.

The community enables connections between likeminded people. Whether it is finding volunteers, receiving and giving advice, or securing donations of equipment and funds, connections can be built in various ways.

The website’s news section states that winning the vote is just the icing on the cake; bringing about a positive change through connections is paramount.

In fact, in just over a month, thousands of connections have been made between Project Champions, volunteers, and experts. It’s an exciting community. Even after the voting ends, the microsite can be used to enhance, discuss, fund and support projects. It also features a discussion board for people to share ideas and participate in conversations.

As stated by Anand Mahindra:

Spark the Rise is a platform where ‘Sparks’ can start projects and ‘Volunteers’ can get involved in them to help people to Rise. By funding outstanding projects, Mahindra seeks to empower Indians to take charge of the future.

Spark the Rise promotes initiative and innovation by bringing stakeholders together to work for change. The platform is meant for all ‘Sparks’, not just those who receive grants.
As mentioned on the website:

Spark The Rise is a platform to drive positive change in the lives of stakeholders and communities around the world to enable them to Rise. It will enable people to drive position change by bringing them together behind innovative ideas and awarding the grant money needed to put them into action.

Mahindra considers all Indians as stakeholders and aims to involve everyone from a grassroots level.

Stakeholders are called upon to make a change for other stakeholders. Customers, communities can suggest ideas that can make a difference to other stakeholders such as the government, employees enhancing the corporate reputation of Mahindra and internal stakeholders like investors and the management.

Anand Mahindra said:

When you say you’re a purpose-driven company, it’s still a one way communication. What we’re trying to do is move from talking to people to creating a conversation with stakeholders, and spark the ‘rise’ in consumers.

Two years ago, Mahindra decided to delve into its history and culture to discover what the group had become. The four core qualities that came across after consulting employees, customers and communities were integrity, compassion, diversity and empowerment.

Rise is a value system that is about hard work, ambition, creativity and initiative. These qualities are something that stakeholders share and believe in.

Rise defines what it is like to be part of Mahindra for all the 120,000+ employees across 100 countries and through the diverse products and services.

As mentioned in the blog ‘The story of Rise’ :

We live Rise through our internal culture of accepting no limits and alternative thinking, and we live Rise through our products and services that enable people to build a better future. Whether you’re a small businessman insuring your growing company, a family looking for a comfier car, or a Fortune 500 company navigating information security in the electronic age, we provide the tools you need to succeed.

Crowdsourcing creates a sense of belonging and ownership, enhancing the relationship between stakeholders.

Crowdsourcing works for Mahindra because it aims to build connections by sparking conversations around project plans. It also builds a relationship between the brand and potential customers.

While crowdsourcing is not new, social media has taken it to another level by turning consumers into brand advocates.

Mahindra chose social media as a platform as it has sparked several discussions around projects, created connections between volunteers, supporters, followers and project champions and provided a platform for people to showcase their skill sets through projects, increasing their visibility.

While several brands, such as Kit-Kat and Starbucks, are turning to customers to help them develop products, Mahindra used crowdsourcing keeping the bigger picture in mind.

Mahindra empowers people by allowing them to shape their future through Spark The Rise sourcing business ideas.

A report published on Celsias,  New Zealand’s guide to sustainable business and corporate citizenship analysed why crowdsourcing was important for corporate social responsibility (CSR):

When asked why crowdsourcing is valuable for CSR programs, 36 percent of respondents said it highlights new perspectives and diverse options; 25 percent said it helps build engagement and relationships with key audiences; 22 percent said it invites clients and customers from non- traditional sources to contribute ideas and opinions; and 16 percent said it helps bring new energy into the process of generating ideas and content.

Other brands crowdsourcing for corporate citizenship include Ecomagination – GE’s commitment to imagining and building innovative solutions to environmental challenges while driving economic growth.

The Intel Innovators Contest looked at funding the most innovative ideas in technology through crowdsourcing.

Spark The Rise is a massive hit, becoming the first initiative of its kind conducted on such a massive scale in India.

The first month saw more than 300,000 visitors and 2,000 entries.

The ripple effect on the web led to thousands of conversations across social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, with participants asking for votes and supporters asking friends to fund projects.

Six rounds have been completed so far.

With Spark The Rise making waves, other brands are likely to follow suit. If they can create solutions that impact thousands just like Mahindra has, they will profit from it as well.

(MSLGROUP’s People’s Lab crowdsourcing platform and approach helps organizations tap into people’s insights for innovation, storytelling and change. The People’s Lab crowdsourcing platform also enables our distinctive insights and foresight approach, which consists of four elements: organic conversation analysis, MSLGROUP’s own insight communities, client-specific insights communities, and ethnographic deep dives into these communities.

As an example, 50+ thinkers and planners within MSLGROUP share and discuss inspiring projects on corporate citizenship, crowdsourcing and storytelling on the MSLGROUP Insights Network. Every week, we pick up one project and do a deep dive into conversations around it — on the MSLGROUP Insights Network itself but also on the broader social web — to distill insights and foresights. We share these insights and foresights with you on our People’s Insights blog and compile the best insights from the network and the blog in the iPad-friendly People’s Lab Quarterly Magazine, as a showcase of our capabilities.

As you can imagine, we can bring the same innovative approach to help you distill insights and foresights from conversations and communities. To start a conversation on how we can help you win with insights and foresights, write to Pascal Beucler at pascal.beucler@mslgroup.com.)

Rooshabh Doshi

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