Breaking Boundaries: Induslnd Bank Para-athletes Champions

By auther pic. Faiza Ruksar Arif

December 27, 2019

Breaking Boundaries: Induslnd Bank Para-athletes Champions

IndusInd Bank Team with the Programme Athletes

Induslnd Bank Ltd is a booming business and banking conglomerate that caters to the banking needs of clientele all across India and has emerged as a forerunner in the market place for profitability, productivity and efficiency. Commencing its operations in the year 1994, IndusInd Bank has grown ceaselessly as an organization driven by a sincere zeal to give its customers, banking services and products at par with the highest quality standards in the industry. The IndusInd bank boasts of more than 1000 branches and over 1,800 ATMs spread across the country. The Bank also has representative offices in London, Dubai, and Abu Dhabi.


IndusInd Bank's motto “Good Ecology is Good Economics” highlights their commitment to sustainable economic growth and the need to engage with stakeholders at the grassroots level. The Induslnd CSR wing seeks to enhance environmental and social performance. The social responsibility initiatives are compartmentalized into the broad thematic areas of- Rural Development and Inclusiveness, Environment Sustainability, Preventive Health Care and Areas of Special Interest. One of their most celebrated and rewarding programs is the IndusInd Para Champions Program. IndusInd Bank believes that sport is a dominant cultural force that speaks a universal language and can attract, mobilize and inspire. Backed by this belief, they collaborate and innovate with organizations dedicated to propagating inclusiveness and social development through sports. The focus is to provide talented individuals from marginalized sections of society access to opportunities and facilities that will empower them thereby enabling holistic social and psychological development, while also elevating their economic status.


According to the Census Report of 2011, 2.68 crore individuals in India are differently-abled and constitute 2.21% of the country's population. Lack of infrastructure and opportunity coupled with social stigma has relegated them to the periphery of society, forced tosub-standard quality of life. On the other hand, gender ratios within sports also remain highly skewed due to the social expectations that come with being a woman, making it highly difficult for women to consider a career in sports. It is against this backdrop that Induslnd chose to work within the ambit of sports, specifically with women and differently-abled athletes.


The IndusInd Para Champions Program seeks to support, recognize and encourage differently-abled athletes by offering them sports scholarships in collaboration with Go Sports Foundation. This PAN India program offers scholarships to 45 athletes and covers their performance needs, travel, rehabilitation and strength training, injury and medical needs. The program started in 2015 when Induslnds implementing partner Go sports foundation setoff on a nation-wide search for gifted athletes from the financially strained strata of society. The program caters to differently-abled sportspersons from a multitude of sports. Strategies are customized for each player to maximize performance. The program carefully assesses the needs of each sportsperson and curatessolutions and resources in collaboration with different stakeholders. The uniqueness of this approach is the flexibility and methodologies adopted to train and groom players. This process of support involves ensuring access to specialized equipment, appointing qualified and professional trainers, physiotherapists and counselors and lastly, using media as the medium to document and spread these stories of change.


The beneficiaries are neither established sportspersons nor pre-groomed individuals but chosen from a pool of talent, lacking infrastructural and financial backing. The process of selection is rigorous and meticulous where the organization critically evaluates thousands of applications received from all over India. The criteria for selection is not solely based on their ability and aptitude to compete but also considers their socio-economic conditions. Community mobilizers, local and state sports institutions and coaches play a vital role in scrounging up the right candidates for the scholarship. While the program's core is to enable specialized sports training and curate participation opportunities for the differently-abled, it also lays special emphasis on their holistic development. The organization painstakingly ensures that this process of holistic development is uplifting for the para-athletes and includes counseling the parents, educating the para-champions on sports education, anti-doping testing, inculcating financial literacy, injury management to ensure that the beneficiaries are confident and independent enough to take care of themselves during and post the Paralympics event. The program envisages educational and soft skills development through exposure- where the beneficiaries interact with international performers to learn about the road to becoming a professional athlete. Furthermore, media exposure helps build the confidence of the beneficiaries while also granting them visibility and acceptance as professional athletes of tomorrow.


The project succeeded in empowering the para-athletes and also positively impacted the community and society at large. The athletes overcame great odds and persevered, astoundingly bringing in numerous medals, awards, and accolades of recognition. Health and performance of the para-athletes have emerged as markers of impact. Efforts were taken by the program coordinators to ensure that the para-athletes were able to accomplish the personal goals they had set for themselves at the beginning of the program. Externally, the organization continues to cultivate dynamic workshops and educative sessions for the sports community. Each para-athlete groomed and supported under the program has emerged as a success story through their transformation into a confident, self-reliant individual with budding employment opportunities and increased respectability within the sporting world and extended society. Since the project was expected to yield long term impact, Go Sports also began giving monthly stipends to the performing athletes to encourage them to venture into sports as a fulltime career.


One of the key learning outcomes of the program has been to re-evaluate the mapping of needs of the para-athletes given the diversity of disabilities and sports specializations. The program also showcases the importance of educating athletes on procedures like consequences of doping, injury management, etc. As the program continues to gain momentum and garner visibility, numerous corporates have come forward to offer financial support. The overarching goal of the program is to create awareness within the community. Showcasing the prowess of differently-abled people will act as a catalyst for disability rights by ensuring integration in society, equality of opportunity, and accessibility to resources and environment. The para-athletes will become exemplary role models for others who want to follow in their footsteps. In 2017, Induslnd Bank was rewarded for its efforts towards empowering para-athletes, blind athletes and women athletes and won the Apex India Excellence Awards 2017 in CSR for sports.


The Indian sports industry is growing rapidly, presenting growth opportunities to all the stakeholders of the sports ecosystem. The trend of Indian athletes excelling in international arenas coupled with increased investment in the Olympics sports has added to the popularity of the sports rapidly. The desire to empower sports is reflected in India's global vision as well. NITI Aayog, in its action plan 'Let's play- An Action Plan to achieve 50 Olympic medals', has made several recommendations for sports infrastructure and development through Private and Public Pvt. Partnership, hosting international events and devoting portions of school expenditure towards maintaining and enhancing sporting infrastructure. IndusInd Para Champions Program is one innovative endeavor aimed at bridging the gap between talent and opportunity. It has helped shift focus towards athletes with special needs and even set precedence for further investment and advent into supporting sportspersons from different walks of life. In the words of social change veteran Nelson Mandela, "Sports has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sports can create hope where once there was only despair."


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Impact-Story is a series on development and CSR interventions leading to some impacts on the ground. If you have a project, innovation or intervention that has changed the lives of a few people or a community, please share a brief note at csr@ngobox.org. Our Team will get back to you after validating the information for a detailed coverage. 


Faiza Ruksar Arif is a content specialist and researcher based in Bangalore who has worked extensively on curating curriculum and educational programs for adolescents in Telangana. With a Master’s degree in Gender Studies from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Faiza is on a mission to improve social realities by equipping women and other marginalized sections, with improved access to health, education and livelihood opportunities. She also dabbles in artwork and is passionate about issues pertaining to mental health and minority politics.


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