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Green Warrior

Youngsters are allowed to spend time during working hours on pet projects.

Rahul Sachitanand | Print Edition: September 19, 2010

The 65-year-old New Era School in Panchgani, a hill station in Maharashtra, hit the billboard with Taare Zameen Par, a movie built around a dyslexic child's troubles. For Hitesh Sharma, this was where he fell in love with nature long years ago. He had his first tryst with gardening and environment at the school - which he attended from the age of four - nestled in the Western Ghats.

But it wasn't until much later in life that Sharma found an outlet for his green interest. At Infosys Technologies far away in Bangalore. After spending two and a half years working on a software project for telecom gear-maker Nortel, Sharma had his calling. Rather than spend years just as a coder, he decided to follow his heart and join a fledgling sustainability team at Infosys.

The first person he approached was Rama N.S., the head of Infosys in Bangalore. "Infosys management is very supportive of these career track changes if you can provide them a working proof-of-concept of your plan," says Sharma, now 28. Infosys's contribution is valuable - it chooses to mentor with inputs from top managers, rather than just support the plan with cash, he says. So, in 2007, he became one of the earliest members of a special interest group or club called Green Connect.

From just three members then, the forum today has some 700-plus members and Sharma has even attended the Climate Summit at Copenhagen as its representative. Infosys allowed Sharma time during work hours to read up and experiment with biogas generators, study installations that failed and lean on in-house tech talent to make tweaks. Three months ago, a team he was part of installed two automated biogas plants fired by food waste in Bangalore and Mysore.

Employees like Sharma "want meaning in their work and they want to be part of decisions that affect them", says Infosys HR Head Nandita Gurjar. Seventeen people are working on community empathy projects similar to Sharma's. All without leaving Infosys.

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