This article has been written by Sneha Asthana, pursuing the Diploma in Business Laws for In-House Counsels from LawSikho.
Following the 10 Principles on Sustainable growth given out by the United Nations and the creation of Section 135 of the Companies Act, 2013, several large-scale companies have begun using their resources efficiently towards their corporate social responsibilities. Section 135 clearly explains that any company making a certain amount of profit or having a certain amount of turn-over in the said preceding financial years must invest, at least, 2% of those profits in societal welfare. Several categories have been given under the section where companies can invest, such as eradicating poverty, hunger, increasing job opportunities, promoting education, equality and ensuring environmental safety. Section 135 highlights in detail the plethora of choices Companies have to invest their profits in, which are broadly given out in the 10 Principles on Sustainable Growth by the UN.
While most companies were seen participating in CSR activities post the creation of the law, several large-scale companies were found doing the same, in lesser intensities, from early on. One such company is the widely scattered company Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd. The rate of their societal contribution was not recognized before, however, that didn’t stop them from contributing. The company has been known to create job opportunities for a vast number of people residing in rural areas. Post the mandatory law, the Company rolled out several versions of their Corporate Social Responsibility Policies drafted by experts to ensure their resources are used efficiently to give back to society.Mahindra & Mahindra and it’s corporate social responsibilities
Mahindra& Mahindra Ltd is a federation of companies known to all for their widespread involvement in 22 different industries such as Information Technology, Aerospace, Automotive Industry, Farm Equipment, Insurance Broking, Real Estate, Logistics, and of course, Steel, the first industry they dove into. Being a company from the big league, it falls under the umbrella of Section 135 of the Companies Act, 2013, thereby, having to invest mandatorily in CSR activities.
Their stand-out mission of ‘Rise For Good’ has allowed Mahindra & Mahindra to create a Corporate Social Responsibility Policy, which has been updated regularly according to the changes in the law. According to this policy, Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd has put their primary focus on helping girls, farmers, and the youth in matters of education, health, and the environment. The policy also declares that the company may spend up to 5% of their profits for all the administrative activities related to their CSR and any profits arising out of those activities will be recirculated into the same Funds or in a separate Fund for such purpose. The company also declares that 50% of its funds will be managed by the CSR Council which will focus on long-term and high-impact projects and the rest of the 50% will be managed by the Auto and Farm Sector of the Company which focuses on local needs of the people.
What are the initiatives taken by the company?
Aligned to their mission of ‘Rise for good’, Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd has devised several programs that have allowed them to build a better society. This study focuses on some of the said programs –
- Nanhi Kali
Nanhi Kali, meaning ‘Little Bud’, is a sponsorship program started by Anand Mahindra in 1996. The program was initiated by the company to ensure girls have a minimum of 12 years of school education. A program devised with a twin objective of providing help to the girls of our country and allowing people to sponsor them, Nanhi Kali has reached over 4,50,000 underprivileged girls across the country from Tamil Nadu to the remote locations of Darjeeling. Through this program, the Company was able to help these girls consistently through the pandemic as well by equipping them with adaptive software learning. While most of India has a digitally challenged population facing various problems because of it, the Company has successfully provided these girls with Digital Kits having tablets that have the Mindspark, educational software, created by Educational Initiatives. This allows girls to learn Mathematics, their mother tongue, and English, from class 1 and Science, from class 6 onwards. Other than this, the children also get kits containing stationery, school bag, rain-coat, and sanitary napkins. Nanhi Kali tutors are also women from rural areas who are trained in particular subjects so they can teach and earn their bread through that.
According to their 2019 – 2020 reports, the following numbers were supported
Community Associates – tutors
In addition to this, around 6,805 Academic Support Centers were also opened up by the Company to aid the tutors and children.
Nanhi Kali witnessed several success stories from its inception. One of them being of a little girl named Brundha, who was studying in Class 4 when due to her father’s ill health, she was asked to discontinue her studies so she could supplement his income by doing domestic work. It was on one of the field trips of the Nanhi Kali team that they met Brundha and after seeing her passion for education and dislike for her work, they convinced Brundha’s parents to rejoin her in a school nearby and took care of all her expenses. Her parents were reluctant at first but changed their minds after being invited to one of their meetings and being made aware of the benefits of the program.
Another girl that soon transformed into a Nanhi Kali was Santra Maida, a resident of the Ratlam corners. Her family was mainly dependent on their agricultural income to survive and the meager amounts of income they earned through seasonal labor. Santra had resigned to her fate of agriculture and labor and had given up on education. However, when Santra was found by the Nanhi Kali Team, they counseled her and her parents on the importance of education and the benefits of the same. Now, Santra has completed Class 8 and her parents are very impressed and proud of her inclination to studies.
- Mahindra Pride Schools and Classrooms
This project aims to train the youth in centers to enable them to earn their livelihood. It provides training to the young population of India. It started as one Center in Pune and it has expanded in other regions like Telangana, Chennai, Maharashtra, etc. The training methodology under this program targets students who have passed 8th grade at least and are mostly from the age range of 18-25. The training includes not only academic knowledge but also practical exposure of taking students for on-field training. Several renowned groups are chosen for placements like Marriott, McDonald’s, Wipro, Dell, etc.
The Classrooms section of the initiative primarily focused on replicating the idea of Mahindra Schools on a more in-person basis by providing knowledge and education to such students who require education urgently. The education provided in these classrooms mostly inculcated knowledge of Polytechnics to increase job employment in the said areas.
Their latest report shows that over 25,000 families have achieved sustainable living through these schools across 7 states and around 50,000 youth made employable across 8 states. People across the country credit the said training program to have increased their earning capacity. One such lady is Kanmani who sold flowers to manage her and her widowed mother’s expenses. Upon meeting an alumnus of the same initiative, Kanmani enrolled herself for the 3-months training ITES training program. Shortly after the training was completed, Kanmani was hired by Hewlett Packard with a package of over Rs 300,000/- per year. Through this, she was able to live with her mother comfortably and worry-free!
Hunnar is another program that was created by the Company to increase employment opportunities for women in automobile and vehicle repairing by providing them with appropriate training and education in the same. The program focused on livelihood training projects in collaboration with Skill for Progress, ESOPs (Employee Social Platforms), The Kherwadi Social Welfare Association, and Ashok Leyland. A total budget of Rs 0.7 crore was put in for the program. Several women from their vocational courses in auto sales & service, diesel generators training, driver training, and ITI Upgradation.
Reports suggest around 3188 people benefited through this program in 2018-2019. The Initiative was also given recognition at the 8th India CSR Awards 2020 for putting in generous efforts to educate women from the most remote corners of the country.
- Wardha Farmer Family Project & The Araku Project
Covering the most important source of income in India, the initiative was started in 2015 to help farmers in facing severe agrarian problems. The project holds a budget of Rs 5.20 crores and is based in Vidharba, Maharashtra, which is known as the farmer suicide capital in India and. It focuses on rural development and enriching farmers’ lives through comprehensive agrarian solutions in pomegranate and coffee cultivation. The project devises solutions to drought problems by introducing an efficient drip irrigation system, the use of mounding to shield monsoons, and proper methods to ensure the water retention capacity in the soils is maintained well.
Another initial project to help the farmers in tribals regions of the Eastern Ghats, Araku was the Araku Project. The strength and vigor of Adivasis were always a good canvas to work on. Hence, the initiative was taken to help them as they also faced intensely low literacy rates and sans agriculture, they had no alternate source of income. The Araku tribals mainly grew Arabica Coffee which required them to use several bio-fertilizers, bio-pesticides, and bio-medicines. Natural predators and related methods to use them as pesticides were also picking up greatly. The Adivasis of Araku were able to benefit from this initiative as they were provided with complete knowledge of these practices, financially aided for the same, and could avail 24/7 help from the teams regarding all cultivation-related problems.
After having their teams do thorough research, it was found that the Pomegranate, also known as the Ruby Crop was their most selling crop in the region. Hence, certain biodynamic agricultural practices were used to revive the dead soil and ensure the soil was able to hold the required amounts of water. This helped attain better immunity of the plans and better-quality fruits as well. It has been more than two years since the biodynamic methods were used for soil and plant health and the farmers are witnesses to the miracle of technology that strengthened their crop to withstand the droughts they had to face in between.
In regards to the coffee farming in Araku, many people got a taste of great success. One of the stories is of Killo Sibbo, who earned Rs 11,000-12,000 cultivating coffee on his 1.5-acre farm, in 2003. However, in 2005, when the Araku Project made him inculcate biodynamic agricultural practices, he began earning up to Rs 2,00,000 annually on his 2-acre farm.
- Sehat ka Batua (The Health Purse)
Sehat ka Purse is a program that provides ambulance services, regular mobile dispensaries, medical camps, cancer care programs, holistic HIV–AIDS program, Mother & Child care, immunization outreach, nutritional support, providing safe drinking water, awareness camps, pest control services, and infrastructure development. This project was created in partnership with Cancer Patients Aid Association (CPAA), Global Cancer Concern India, Swajan, and others. The initial funding of the project was about Rs 2.59 Crores. The project spreads over Maharashtra, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, and few other states.
The main idea behind the initiative was to make women aware of the rising breast cancer cases which ultimately lead to fatalities because women aren’t aware of the symptoms from beforehand. The initiative triumphed as it took a simple practice of women putting their purses in their blouses and turned into educational methods to keep a check on one’s health. Women were provided with beautiful purses that had instructions and directions of self-examination printed on them to serve as a reminder of a regular check-up and they were even vocally explained the instructions of the same.
While there are accurate statistics to prove the efficiency of this initiative, when studied broadly, several women were made aware of one of the most common diseases that attacked their life, which is an accomplishment in itself. Women tend to overlook their health concerns and that’s why the simplest way of educating them is through their lifestyle practices which is why this could be considered as the most creative initiative. More than 1000 villagers are given support through this initiative for availing of various services like ambulance services, consultation services, etc.
Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd. has declared publicly that the focus of their CSR activities will primarily be for the benefit of the youth, girls, and the agricultural sector. Their main division of CSR activities into Education, Youth Training, Agriculture and Health helps them clearly distinguish the initiatives taken by them. The above-mentioned initiatives have also been picked from the four major divisions as said forth by the Company. This allows them to follow clear directions and anchor on certain critical issues.
While the case study focuses on their initiatives and the wonderful outcomes of the same, one may not help but notice the unfortunate situation that a company so resourceful has only decided to give back to society by helping them in a few serious issues. It would be a good argument to say that the company is only selecting few issues so they can focus their present resources generously on these activities but on the contrary, it is important to see that a company like Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd, so big and so useful to the society needs to expand their help to reach the more remote sections of the society and diversify their educational and training institutions. Not only does the education sector of their CSR requires improvement but increasing the efficiency of energy would also help the Company widen its platter so a wider crowd can benefit from their activities.
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