Serving over 1.6 Million beneficiaries everyday in 13,759 schools in 32 locations across 12 Indian states, The Akshaya Patra Foundation is an iconic GOI initiative with an unprecedented scale. Vijay Kumar, Director – IT, opens up on how IT has plays a crucial role in the success of world’s largest mid-day meal program.
Operating at such an unprecedented scale, how crucial are ICT technologies to the entire TAPF initiative?
We serve over 1.6 million beneficiaries across 32 locations. The enormous task of supplying nutritious meals to over a million children across India every day is made easier by ICT. With all the areas of functioning depending on data and accuracy in data, ICT ensures that all processes are executed in a smooth manner. It is imperative that all the data points have authenticated data. At Akshaya Patra, we are using the best options available to achieve this, including Microsoft Platform on operating system, Office, and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP). In helping us pull off this enormous task consistently, ICT is helping us do our bit in advancing social development.
“A strong IT infrastructure is a basic requirement when it comes to data generated by millions of transactions across a huge supply chain like TAPF.”
The Akshaya Patra Foundation
What are the technologies that you are leveraging in the organization?
A strong IT infrastructure is a basic requirement when it comes to data generated by millions of transactions across a huge supply chain like TAPF. At Akshaya Patra, the supply chain is just one of the facets that make the whole initiative one well-oiled unit tirelessly feeding children and ensuring them a bright future. We have deployed Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) and migrated our servers, applications, ERP, storage, etc. to private cloud services. We have deployed Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) for all transactions and Management Information System (MIS). We are now introducing new HCM-Payroll Systems, covering complete HCM requirement, including Performance Management.
Can you enlist some of the challenges that you faced and were able to overcome through new deployments?
Lack of proper infrastructure was one of the challenges we faced as we scaled up our operations. As the servers were old and there was no proper storage space, it was difficult to expand and enhance any application despite the increasing IT load. Deploying IaaS and moving to private cloud services helped tackle this problem. Now we have private cloud with central servers at Bangalore and pan-India connectivity.
Similarly, in areas where internet connectivity is an issue, we have deployed multi-protocol label switching (MPLS) and an internet lease connectivity line to datacenters and branches for a seamless transaction on ERP and other software. Connectivity in remote branches though, still remains a challenge.
Which other areas do you see where IT and Digital can be leveraged in social welfare?
There is immense scope to leverage IT for social welfare. May it be finance and marketing or production, operations, and logistic, every area should have a data driven approach as data speaks for transparency. Any organisation that is data driven and transparent in transactions inspires trust, which, in turn, translates into support for the organisation’s initiative.
What are your future technology plans for The Akshay Patra Foundation? Are there any deployments in the pipeline?
We are planning to implement Mobility Solutions to track school attendance, supply chain and delivery, requirement gathering and feedback from schools, and vehicle movement details. We are also in the process of implementing SALES FORCE CRM for all Fundraising Activity and common Data for all Donor Care and MIS. Plans are in the pipeline to use the AUDIT TOOL for conducting audit across 32 locations with Central Repository and MIS.
What is your advice to NGOs and Social Welfare organizations on how to leverage IT for the betterment of the cause?
In its position as the implementing partner of the Mid-Day Meal Scheme, Akshaya Patra is a part of a remarkable Government Initiative which attempts to fight classroom hunger. The Government is well ahead when it comes to leveraging technology. The Aadhar initiative is an apt example of the same. There are lessons to learn from the implementation of the initiative and use of data to maximize the benefits derived by beneficiaries of various Government schemes. If NGOs and social welfare organisations can use data effectively, they will end up doing a lot of good for people in need.