#4 Our sustainability trigger, with Sanjay Lobo, CEO of onHand

This week we talk to Sanjay Lobo, MBE, CEO of onHand - the impact app, all about how onHand helps companies and teams to have a positive impact in the world, as well as their own challenges and triumphs as a purpose-driven business.



Hi there. Welcome to another episode of the Ecos Send podcast. This is the podcast from us at Go Square, hosted by [00:01:00] me James, and it's all about us going on a journey to being a more climate conscious business. Each week I'm speaking to other people who are leaders in some way on this, on being more climate conscious, whether that's business leaders, people who know a lot about the climate.

Or people just trying to make the world a little bit better on the climate front in whatever way they're doing. And this week I have the absolute pleasure of being joined by Sanjay Lavu from on Hand, and really excited to have you on the show. Hi Sanjay. How are you doing? I'm really good. How about you?

I'm doing great, thanks. I was gonna say a little bit about you, Sanjay, cause I believe you. Quite an incredible journey from what I can tell you. You trained as a solicitor initially, and then you were on the exec team@lastminute.com and then Vistaprint and doing some amazing stuff there. But now, now you are running on hand.

I was introduced to it as being the Uber for doing good. Uh, but if, if I was gonna give you, I think the official [00:02:00] summary, it would be the award winning platform to encourage companies to have social impact, which sounds pretty. Cool. And also you are a first of the podcast. You're the first person that I've spoken to, not just on the podcast, but ever that's got an your services to people.

So I'm in awe already and I feel humbled to have you on the show. So I dunno if you wanted to start off by just filling in any details that I might have missed there. Love yourself. I do a quick background on me saying, you're right. I started off as a, as a lawyer like 20 odd years ago when I started.

And I was lucky that I wasn't intentional. I just stumbled across or was hired by a company. I kind of discovered the internet when it was kind of new and it was a new thing, right? So this is. Amazon didn't exist. Google didn't exist, but then they started and I joined a law firm and kind of like clicked onto this.

The Internet's gonna be massive and we wanna be the forefront leaders of that. And so got involves, I guess in the e-commerce and technology world, very early stages as a lawyer, helps a lot of companies do funding grounds and that [00:03:00] sort of stuff. And then went in house at a certain point, joined a company called Travelocity, uh, online travel agent, massive in the states, and they wanted to come to Europe.

And couldn't break in. They tried to break in themselves, couldn't do it, and ended up buying last minute.com, which back in the nineties in the northeast was like, I guess back then it was like Airbnb and I was lucky. I got the opportunity to run the legal team over@lastminute.com. I still my twenties, very early young, really young to have that opportunity, which was Ace.

But after a bit, I guess I like it was, felt like a dumb tech law. It's like, well, where'd you go from something like that? That cooler brand running their league. And I jumped shit and I was on the exec board, which, which was great as well. It's just insight, so incredible talent and that talent's got on to do so many amazing things, you know?

Yeah. People like Brent Home Man, new run, founders Factory, and absolutely. It was just cool to see them in action. And from there I joined a smaller company. I was Vistaprint. They were growing their online print company. They were growing really fast. And the speed they were growing at meant that anyone coming in who'd done some [00:04:00] management had, you know, some common sense about and got asked to do many more things straight away,

So I joined them as a lawyer. But then I think within three months I was asked to figure out how to do a call center. How do we, how can we have a call center as you do, right? Right. But build a call center for Vistaprint. It was like, that means go and find the. Design a building, build the building, and then spin like two to 300 people.

Wow. And there was completely crazy, like, I'm a lawyer. What? What do you mean ? And then, you know, very quickly I wasn't doing law anymore, embarrassing things, but ran marking for as well, which felt like a massive leap. But it was a journey That's you just whiz through about five different careers there,

Yeah. Right. It was nuts. It was absolutely nuts. Yeah. I left, joined a much smaller startup. Uh, 2017 just didn't work out. I massively clashed with the founders. I, it's not unusual, but I left after six months and then wasn't planning on doing too much else. I thought I could consult and enjoy my life and enjoy my kids and all that.

Then on hand came around the idea. Yeah. The idea at the time was how [00:05:00] do you connect local people who want to do good with an older person who needs some help? You know, really basic help, like changing a light bulb or taking their bins out, or getting a meal in, or just, you know, basic compan. Stuff that's actually is really hard to match today cause there's so much demand and not enough volunteers.

Yeah, and the idea wasn't mine. It came out of an incubator with a bunch of charities who kind of thought, well, we've got it wrong on how we're recruiting volunteers. We make them go through so much training and then they have to commit to the same time every week for six months. And then they volunteer.

And then what's like, well life works like that. Everyone's life on demand based on your location and instant. Well, what if we could. An OnDemand platform like Deliveroo, but it's not a takeaway. You're browsing for, it's doing good in your local community. And that got me, it's like couldn't, couldn't stop thinking about it.

So joined up and started to start running that and making that roof. That is, that's amazing. What a journey That is incredible. I only came across on hand, well we came across on hand relatively recently. I, but it was from [00:06:00] very similar kind of sense of collective desire in the team. Do more good things.

We try to be good people generally, but we were finding you can have a lot of desire and hunger to do good things, but at the end of the day it does come down to trying to organize yourself to get to places or, or where do you even start. And when we came across on hand, it took out so much of that laborious nonsense that gets in the way.

The good deed you wanna do and yeah, it, I must confess it's not as sponsored by On Hand podcast this, but it might as well be Cause I'm just such a big fan, so I, I guess how long's on hand be going then? Uh, we start 2019, so we're almost right. Yeah. February, 2019. So yeah, next year we, we get into our fifth year, which is really cool.

It's been, been hard work, but to get into our fifth year, we're delighted. That's incredible. So I guess with On Hand itself, it started. With trying to [00:07:00] connect older people with some help, but it's broadened out from there now. Right? Like there's all sorts you can do, right? I mean there's the last time I changed on the app, there's endless numbers of missions, both local, remote like Yeah.

And that's kind of partly led us onto the climate side of things too. What are the other things that people who are helping out with on there? We, we massively spread, so you, you are right. We started an older adult help, help our older neighbor. But as soon as we started working with businesses, and that arose during Covid, we used to be a B2C offering.

Anyone could sign up and do good, which you still can, but it's a subscription model now. But businesses started approaching us to say, Hey, we've sent all of our people home for lockdown. They're all our hybrids. Can you help us engage our employees? And that felt like a light bulb moment for us because we've been struggling with our business model.

It was, well, how do we, how do we actually make enough money to survive? Yeah, we're charging someone like myself to get help for my dad or charging my dad directly and overnight. With Covid, it was, okay, we're [00:08:00] charging the wrong person. Like literally the older person, let's not do that. Let's charge the businesses that want engage, engage their employees.

And that was light bulb moment. But as soon as we started working businesses, we realized. Employees care about older adults. Sure. But they also care about so many other issues that are going on, youth mentoring, climate crisis, clearly homelessness, food, poverty, you know, all of the big things that are going on.

So we have expanded massively into, I guess we, the biggest issues that face society and the climate. So you can get youth mentoring, you can do eco cleans, you can do food drops of food banks, you can donate tech clothing, various other things. There's work for schools. There's lots, lots of ways to do societal good.

And during 2021, we start thinking about, well, why are people, why are companies coming to us and wanting to do good? Um, and essentially it's all about impact. And as we had those kind of conversations with businesses, we realize, well, we already can't get that far in this conversation without climate coming up.

Right. Very squarely. If your [00:09:00] company's trying to have impacts, yes, it wants to have local community goods. It probably wants to do lots of social good as much as it. But it absolutely has to be doing something on climate. Mm. And so, uh, we thought we should expand into eco Eco good as well. And you know, I guess there's the rise of ESG in the background, right?

Environmental social governance. So if we could address the E and the S in ESG and help employee helping companies get their employees engaged in those, could that be a neat solution? And the first thing we did is we started planting trees and we made that as a reward for doing good. So first time you did mission on the app, Hey, we're plant a tree for you.

And every 10 mission you did. After that, we plant another tree. And very quickly a company forest could, could grow. And I think the way we do it now is we'll plant a tree for every employee every month in addition to rewarding good they do you, uh, the good they do. So that was the first step. And then very quickly from there we started thinking about, well, what if we can encourage.

Employees using the app to actually change their lifestyle and change their behavior slightly, to be more eco-conscious and more [00:10:00] sustainability focused. And I think there's lots of services that do that, just try and encourage that behavioral change. But what if we could actually show an employee what the CO2 e reduction was by taking that action?

And so most of the eco pledges we have on the app, so we've got a whole bunch of things you can do on the app from, you know, very simple, I'm gonna use a reusable cup to something that's more difficult if you're gonna go on holiday. Don't take the plane, take take a train, and so you see the massive amount of CO2 E production or change the way you eat.

I'm not saying you have to go straight away to be in a vegan. We have that mission on the app, but if we can encourage the meat either just to swap out two meals a week, two meaty meals to a veggie meal. And show them the CO2 reduction, but we thought that would be pretty neat too. So that, that's what we do now.

And what we've seen is we get really good engagement, really good repeat rate, like 90% repeat, which is great. Wow. What we're now seeing is there's a lovely crossover between if someone starts on social goods, almost 70% of them will crossovers do eco good and vice versa. So we think the way of, I guess, influencing behavior, [00:11:00] which then lends itself really nicely to getting people onto that climate.

We haven't started it yet, but we also think about, well, what's step one? What's step one on that climate journey? And is it, you know, the really basic and what's the coffee cup you use? Think about that and how do we get you to step five, which would be something like swapping out meaty meals for veggie ones, but what's step 10?

What's step 10? And is that wars right into your mps and how you've already changed a pension and patch even further. You've given them scenarios were. Yeah. Wow. It's actually fascinating hearing about it from my background of working in software a lot. You know, you talk about these user journeys, but when you're talking about a user journey for someone in the on hand app, it's about changing behaviors that then all add up to being societal change, which is pretty, pretty, is an incredibly powerful thought, isn't it?

That sort of small changes you, your team are making can. Incredible consequences. Absolutely gets outta bed. And we only started the climate pledges, we started them last year, this time last year. And we've done about a hundred tons, well over a hundred tons of CO2 reduction in that time, which is cool.

[00:12:00] And you know, we feel like we, we already just started that part. Yeah, absolutely. And I think actually in many ways we've followed that similar kind of journey, I think, because we. I forget what we initially were trying to do, but we wanted to do something on being her better company and on hand was there to fulfill that.

And I know a lot of the team, like I started with, I've book in a call, I have every week a call with an elderly person who wanted, was feeling, you know, the people list themselves as wanting to have some company and I'm often the only person she might speak to on that given day. And that was certainly where I got started.

And. For us as we progress, like, well, not only have we started changing our whole business and product and everything, but we, we as a team have started doing lots of social get togethers that might previously have been like, let's go have lunch together, but now it's, let's go have lunch, but also do something in the local area and doing a lit pic or doing all sorts of things like tidying up the local park or [00:13:00] things like that, which I can totally see that crossover of.

You do one good thing and then before you know it, you are making all these changes in other parts of your life. You never would. Thought about it feels good as well. Right. Thought about ethos right from starting was, um, we had this little slogan. It was do good, feel good, and, and there's, there's something about that.

We, we don't particularly push it as a point. There's a wellbeing aspect to it that's probably, we don't speak about it. I couldn't agree more actually. You know, it's hard enough getting people to sort of respond to an email, let alone go and change their behavior. Right. How do you, how have you, what are the various things that have worked and maybe not worked on that front?

Yeah, right. So most companies that come to us, most of them already have something in place like, uh, volunteering policy. It's just not working. It's, it's the pos in place. Maybe it's one or two days off that their staff can take, but they're getting an uptake that's like five to 10%. And that, and that uptake is, is is that low?

Because it's, well first of it's hard to find the opportunities and if you do find the opportunity, [00:14:00] uh, and haven't arranged it and all that kind of stuff, typically, you know, that, that group based thing, it's like half a day or full day out the office. Really hard to do. And so I guess we approach it differently.

The things you can do on. At the most basic level could be like no time at all. Literally no time. An example of that would be, we have food donations on the app as an action to take. And, you know, most supermarkets these days have a donation point in the store. So if you're doing your own shopping, well, why not do a food donation at the same time, literally zero time.

And then so we start off with, well, how do we take, it's called micro launching. How do you take the, the, the lowest time suck as possible to get someone started? And then we also have the whole like a bunch of talks on the app as well. You know, 10 minute chat with, I don't know, the founder of Bean talking about homelessness and why he's got involved in homelessness and the amazing model he has.

It's a 10 minute chat, which when you listen to it, you'll really like you to want to take an action chat. The founder oeo, talking about food waste. You know, you listen to that chat, you wanna go and take some service food to a food bank, [00:15:00] which by the way is another mission on the app. So very subtly get you involved very quickly.

Yeah, yeah. And then the other thing that's worked very well for us is we've learned so much about how to launch in company. And we would've done this with you, James, at Go, where we realize, well, we really need to talk to teams about what it is and get them involved and start doing that. And that was. And then we realized, well, what if we go in and we get people to download during that session?

Yeah. And if we use QR codes, so they're just scanning things on their screens and then if we not just get 'em to download, but accept that first mission. And it could be exactly those first, as I talked about, Hey, don't worry about jumping in, just listen to this talk, which we know will lead to a mission afterwards.

Yeah. Get people to download, accept the Michigan on the first launch, and ideally have that in our all hands kind of team event. You get great traction straight. Then we know most people come back and repeat. So the engagement piece from there should work really well, actually. Incredible. That secret sound.

No, it's so, cause I remember reading, you know, from more the tech and startup side, I remember reading about companies like [00:16:00] Stripe in the payment space, trying to get companies to adopt an API and change the way they accept payments and doing things that don't scale. Or supposedly you're not worrying too much about the scalability.

It. To the point where you're going round to people saying, install this thing, I'll help you get it over the line. And I think that's something I love about what I experienced with the Onhand process. We're just gonna get you over the line to start and once you start you'll see what it's like. And I think from what I realized, like from we've done these missions, I think you are touching on that before, like doing good and feeling good.

I almost feel a bit guilty about ha receiving. Praise ever for doing any of the stuff on on hand because I feel so fulfilled when I have just, you know, when we've done a little pick and each of the team's got a bag full of litter that would've otherwise been sort of floating around, probably ending up in a river somewhere.

Yeah. And it's just makes you, you sure you're holding a bag for the rubbish, but you [00:17:00] feel great about it, and I think one of those things where, No one's as far as I can tell, no one's losing. It's rare in life where you have things where it's just win, win, win, win for, you know, on hands winning cuz they're achieving their mission.

You as an individual are winning. The company that signed up is winning the world, the planet is doing better as well. And it's just quite a beautiful thing. I think. on some level. Yeah. Yeah. And you know, it wasn't the original design, but it's worked out really nicely and various factors came into it, like covid driving businesses towards.

And that model then became really clear that, that that could be a scalable model that, like you say, is a total win all rounds. It's actually interesting, isn't it? It's come up on so many conversations over the last year or so, covid as challenging and it was forcing some, forcing various things to change, such an unexpected rate.

And for you folks, it sounds like it could have been. It [00:18:00] was, sounds like it maybe was a difficult time, but one that forced some rethinking of the fundamentals. Absolutely. Forced, massive changes to the business and made that switch from B2C to b2b. Really clear for us was an opportunity that I think for the first time we saw that this could be a scalable business and one that's sustaining.

Yeah. Huge change from Covid. Yeah. I was gonna say, one of the other things on the employee engagement thing that I love is that there's. Element of competitiveness to it. After that call, I remember we had the on hand onboarding call and you feels good about doing something good, but immediately it turned to I'm gonna beat you.

I'm gonna, I'm gonna get more, more trees planted than you . Yes. It feels to that very hungry nature in each of us. Yeah, we're quite happy we, the gamification, cause it's still version one of what we do on gamification. So there's, I think there's much more we can do to keep up that competitive vibe. But yeah, it works.

It seems to work really. I think it's a fascinating thing there where, I [00:19:00] mean, for us, one of the things we feel is that there's so many approaches you can take as a tech business, as a software business to gamify things, to influence behavior. And I think in many ways, so much of those things have been to make individuals more happy, successful, feel better, companies, more successful, but something about.

The combination of the climate crisis that we need to tackle. Yeah, there's so many extremely expensive ways that can be tackling that, but a lot of it comes down to individuals changing behavior, individuals raising awareness, and. I just think that's such an interesting Venn diagram, whether it's competition, gamification, doing things that don't scale and triggering that behavior change.

I'm curious as to how you maybe see that progressing in the future. Maybe not just on hand, but. Wider businesses. Are there any other businesses you see where it kind of caught your attention at [00:20:00] all, sort? Yeah, absolutely. We look at a couple of other businesses a lot and admire a lot. Oio is one of our hero from from day one.

How do you have a technical company that's so vastly engaging? I've lost count on what their user numbers are, but it's a number of million users now across the planet. Earlier is the food. Right. That's it. Well, and actually what's interesting about them is, is very much started as the food sharing app, and I think it's spread into more general sharing.

So there's much more you can do on the app now. And I wonder, I wonder if that be part of their journey. It's more of. Sharing economy certainly got that massive focus on food, but we absolutely admire them. Saw them as a leading light for technically when we started. And another one that emerged for us and we found really interesting was, was ecology.

Ecology plants a lot of trees and they're planting millions a month, which is incredible. And you offset with them too. And I'm, I'm not convinced by offsets, their model is, it's so engaging and it's got so many users point and their growth rate is just astronomical. And that that can only be a good. Yeah.

Yeah. And so as [00:21:00] I think of those as two leading lights that we look at for, I guess engagement, engagement of people in communities, separating that from, you knows cops happening, you got politicians and all that world leader stuff that's not quite taking the action we need. Yeah. How'd you get the actions?

And it's, it's, it's via the os and the, the, the apologies and hopefully on hand, uh, playing a part in there too. Yeah. Um, and then, I think for us it's going back to that, that user journey we, we touched on before. So if, if we can get people interested enough in the topic that they take the actions and those actions are building out that, that's, that feels like step one.

Great. And then if we can get them interested enough to understand enough about what's going on in climate change, I think most folks. Think it's complex and there is so much stuff out there, it's really hard to know where to start on educating yourself. And there's probably a ton of fake news that comes out of the big old companies and all that kind of stuff that's massive distracting and actually causes most folks to think it's complex, but really it's not that complex.

It's [00:22:00] not that complex. It's the planets. Heat heats to a certain degree actually becomes unstoppable, and at that point when it becomes unstop, I think someone else described it as we're toast, and that's, it's literally true. It's as as, I'm gonna go on a run here, but as you get , the extremes of temperature change, you'll have uninhabitable parts of the planet, which means you'll have mass migration on a scale never seen before.

You'll have a massive rise in xenophobia and racism because people will want to come to your country in massive, massive volumes that'll lead to wars at a certain point. And then you layer on, you've got food for shortages because of drought and all that kind. At a certain point that becomes unstoppable.

It's the heating of the planet is you cannot control it after a certain point. And once you understand those points, then you kind of go, okay, pot, unless we do something about it, piece of education, that's the journey I'd love to get our users to. Cause it feels like, okay, we've got people able to engage on the app and they like engaging on that.

It's great. And they know, they like taking the actions that are societal [00:23:00] good. It makes them feel great. That's great. Can we now take the step further? To help on that education process. Sure. And a step beyond that would be, well, what are the, you know, not even radical, but slightly radical ideas beyond that, which would be Well, how proactive you go with your politicians.

Yeah, yeah. And, and so forth. And hey, if we get to a scenario where we think even further actions needed, you know, I, I do think it's a community movement that can really change what happens in the world. Absolutely. It's incredibly inspiring, motivating to hear you talk that through Sanjay. If you could get people onto that journey, my understanding is that, you know, there's so much we can do as individuals, but at some level, You need to influence the powers there be in the world.

You need to influence the major corporations, you need to influence governments. And that doesn't happen with just one person standing outside and hoping for the best. Well, I've been optimist too, so I don't think the UK is doing enough. And you know, clearly we've got going on and [00:24:00] politicians and MPMs not not attend.

Changing their mind about attending gives you, gives you a slightly include on what they're thinking, but other are doing stuff in France, dropping out of a, a climate treaty that funds big oil recently. That's big stuff that's going on in the US is big. So I'm Ansis there's, there's changes of foot and I think we can influence it more.

Yeah. And there's not much point in being anything other than an optimist, I think . Yeah. See, that is actually fascinating. I feel like we've almost whizzed through this episode already. . Yeah, yeah. No, no, no. It's absolutely, absolutely incredible. I, I, I feel like anyone listening is gonna want to, to hear more of you.

Any hearting thoughts in terms of any advice beyond all of the advice you've already shared for anyone? I think sometimes it can be hard to. Where to start on this stuff. I've got one good idea of why you might recommend people going start their journey, but any suggestions there? Yeah, I mean, you, you're pointing it on hand, but yeah, absolutely.

On hand is a, is a [00:25:00] good place to start and, and I would say that for anyone that's listening that can influence a business, our rates for getting a business involved are pretty low. But beyond that, there's, on the education journey I started was something like, and this is gonna sound to some folks, it'll sound extreme, but the reading I did was extinction rebellion.

and hey, they've been around for a while. I think media portrays 'em in a certain light, which, you know, most people think is out there a bit, but if you read their science, it's, wow, it's backed by the most prestigious universities. It's backed by the ipc, it's backed by folks from nasa. The credentials they have for the science they write is incredible.

And I say science, which may again put people off cause people think science and stuff is complex, but they actually have a, on their site, they have. Very large white paper about climate change. And that is, I can't remember how many pages are, but it's very in depth. But they have a summary document. It's a word document you can download.

It's just a few pages and it really simplifies what's going on in the world and climate change and why it becomes unstoppable and what you can [00:26:00] do to, uh, to change stuff. And if I was gonna recommend one action that listeners could take us, Hey, hey. Go and have a look at that summary, um, extension Rebellion site.

Have a look at the summary on climate change on their site, on the science. Once you see the science, hey, you know, it's really easy to start that kind of conversation with your friends, with your family, and certainly, you know, stop folks who doubt that it's happening and all that kind of stuff. So yeah, that would be my, that would be my top tip.

Absolutely. Well, thank you very much, Sania. I know what I'm gonna do after this episode. It's finished recording. Thank you so much for sharing that. Great. And we'll that by the way, in the show notes for the, for anyone listening, is there anywhere anyone can go to if they wanna learn more about you? Sanja?

I know we got the Be on hand website. Be on hand.com uk I think is the, the site isn't there on hand. The site's be on hands.co uk. Yeah. Link to us so you can follow us on LinkedIn. We share a lot about what companies are getting up to on LinkedIn. Yeah, we also have lots of things that we try and promote on LinkedIn [00:27:00] about the kind of campaigns that you can do for social good or climate staff and, and feel free to connect into me two on LinkedIn.

Really happy to connect with folks there. And hey, one last thing. If anyone's listening and they'd like to hear more or think, you know, their teams might be interested in hearing. Really happy to do these kind of talks in group settings. We talk a lot about societal change. We talk a lot about crs and ESG topics like climate change.

Really happy to do those kind of talks for our groups. Don't have to be a customer or anything like that. We love telling people about what we do and how to influence change. Amazing. Wow. Well, thank you so much, Sanja. It's been an absolute pleasure having you on the show. I think anyone listening is gonna be inspired and motivated to go make a little change no matter how small in their own lives to make things a little bit better.

So thank you very much. Cheers. Pleasure. Thanks very much. Thank you, Sanjay. And thank you for listening to the podcast. We bring these out every week. That's the goal. If you've listened and you've enjoyed the show, please. Give us a rating on whatever app, [00:28:00] app store, podcast store you're listening through.

It really helps us spread the word. As Sanjay mentioned, every single person making a small change, it, it all add.

Creators and Guests

Sanjay Lobo
Sanjay Lobo
CEO onHand, Tech for Good Entrepreneur of the Year 2022
#4 Our sustainability trigger, with Sanjay Lobo, CEO of onHand
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