Habitat India has partnered with Wells Fargo since 2014 to provide 20 families with new homes in the wake of Cyclone HudHud and 4 families with disaster-resilient homes with sanitation units post the 2016 Chennai Floods.

Recently, we helped 120 families post Cyclone Amphan with Temporary Shelters. In the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak, we served 1815 families in Bengaluru, Chennai and Hyderabad with Hygiene and Family Essential Kits.

Habitat India is grateful to be able to partner with Wells Fargo to build a better India together!

The interview below is with Arindam Banerrji - Managing Director and Head, India & Philippines, Wells Fargo International Solutions Private Limited (Wells Fargo India). 

What does a typical workday look like for you?

On most days, I start my morning with a round of golf. The exercise helps me get my day off to a good start and I feel invigorated and charged to take on the challenges of a work day. A large part of a regular day goes towards working with my leadership team in evaluating different parts of the business and looking at how we could be more efficient while delivering greater value to Wells Fargo.

People are the pulse of any organization so I also spend a fair amount of time in both formal and informal exchanges with employees. It helps me understand what we’re doing right and what we could do differently. Conference calls often go late into the night so I do try to take a couple of quick breaks through the day. And most often, before I know it the hours have melted away and it’s time to call it a day.

What are the values that you personally feel are most important for life?

Being transparent, doing the right thing at all times and being collaborative are what I hold close to my heart. These are values that guide my every day actions and my long term decisions.

Could you share which issues i.e. lack of decent shelter, poverty and so on, in India that you feel particularly passionate about? Why do you feel so moved about these issues?

I believe having a safe, healthy and affordable place to call home is essential.  It is after all, what defines the foundation for a person’s well-being, his sense of dignity, and economic opportunity.  Unfortunately, for India’s poverty-stricken areas, having a decent home can be extremely difficult, if not impossible.  With the onslaught of Cyclone Amphan last year and other natural disasters, the sad reality is that families can be easily uprooted and left without shelter and access to basic necessities.  Even as we continue to make traction as a country and make a mark in the global platform, it is unfortunate that there are still many communities that are left vulnerable and struggling to make ends meet.

What made you, and Wells Fargo as an organisation, choose to support disaster-affected families after Cyclone Amphan, and COVID19-affected families?

Disaster response, including relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction activities, is one of our Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) thematic areas that also aligns with our global commitment of supporting our communities by building a more inclusive and sustainable recovery for all.

During unprecedented times like these, we knew we wanted to come forward and do our part in helping affected communities.  This is not just helping in the short run, but a commitment to extending support so that families situated in these areas can soon recover and rebuild their lives.

Why did you choose to support Habitat for Humanity India’s work in disaster response?

Habitat for Humanity is a pioneer in helping provide disaster resilient shelters, improved sanitation and access to water in affected communities. These also happen to be some of the most critical issues that our country faces.  Wells Fargo and the Wells Fargo Foundation have been partnering with Habitat for Humanity since 2014, enabling them to build disaster resilient homes for families affected by typhoons and floods in recent years.  Our Wells Fargo employees have also volunteered with Habitat for Humanity India in activities that have helped homeowners build their homes.

Could you tell us about what you imagine a safe and decent disaster-resilient home can achieve for a family in need?

When disasters hit, communities often suffer from a double tragedy — the loss of loved ones and the loss of their most valuable and, sometimes, only asset: their homes. Underprivileged families do not have the capacity nor resources to rebuild their homes and do not have any form of shelter or stability.  They are the ones who take the worst hit during the disasters of any kind.

Disaster-resilient homes are more than just infrastructure; they create a sense of belonging as well as security for a family unit. They also lay the foundation of support -- physical, mental and even emotional -- during trying times to keep families safe. Being able to live in safe and decent homes shouldn’t be a privilege – it’s a basic human right.

What are the values that Wells Fargo feels are most important, that contributed to the organisation supporting Habitat India?

Our CSR approach focuses on building strong local economies, helping communities thrive and a commitment to inclusive growth of communities where we operate. We believe this aligns well with Habitat for Humanity’s vision which is geared towards building strength, stability and self-reliance through affordable housing and sanitation facilities.

Could you talk to us about corporates committing and supporting NGOs and non-profits across the country?

I believe that partnering with NGOs and non-profits not only makes for a well-rounded organization, it is also what gives an organization its heart. The capacity to care about the communities where we operate is only made stronger when we work together with NGOs and non-profits whose goal is to advocate for vulnerable and undeserved communities. Corporations have the capacity and resources to extend support and long-term, sustainable commitment and must do so, if we want to make a lasting impact in the communities where we want to help.

Do you have a message for other individuals like you, leaders in the corporate world, about how they could help rebuild the country?

It’s important to lead from the front, which basically would mean that as leaders we should set an example for others to follow and emulate. I personally believe that every little bit counts. So if I could, by my actions and beliefs influence our employees to be more socially-conscious and contribute towards making the world a better place for those privileged, then I have already taken a big step forward in the direction. In addition I actively contribute and participate in leadership forums where we brainstorm on the direction we need to collectively move, to impact the industry and thereby enable the country to progress. Being part of these forums also gives you a better view of what other corporates are considering and it becomes easier to join forces with like-minded leaders in recommending policy changes that benefit the community at large.