From schooling to skilling, health to hygiene, funding to jobs, Tata companies are supporting India’s underprivileged communities in the quest for a better quality of life. By Cynthia Rodrigues

It takes time, willingness and dedication to undo social injustice and improve social equality. The Tata Affirmative Action Programme (TAAP) is a concerted effort to offer India’s scheduled castes and scheduled tribes (SC/ST) — historically an underprivileged section of society — greater opportunities to better their prospects and their lives.

The foundation of TAAP rests on the four Es — education, employability, employment and entrepreneurship — and Tata companies run programmes that address some or all of these aspects. The impact over time has been heartwarming as the TAAP effort has led to noticeable differences in the lives of beneficiaries. The positivity around the TAAP programme is a force for change, and the number of Tata companies case-tocase basisinvolved in affirmative action (AA) initiatives has been steadily increasing over time.

The TAAP programme is based on a robust framework of policy, execution, assessment and recognition. This year, 18 Tata companies participated in the external TAAP assessment.

The annual TAAP awards play a role in recognising the efforts of companies that are doing commendable work in AA. They also go a long way in inspiring other companies on the path to inclusive growth. This year, the TAAP assessments were judged by a panel headed by eminent scientist Dr RA Mashelkar; other members were Prof S Parasuraman, director, Tata Institute of Social Sciences; B Muthuraman, former MD, Tata Steel; Dr Mukund Rajan, chairman, Tata Global Sustainability Council, chief ethics officer, and head of international operations; and S Padmanabhan, executive chairman, Tata Business Excellence Group, and head of group HR, Tata Sons.

Companies that scored over 600 points in the assessment were awarded the TAAP jury award. This year’s winners were Tata Steel (winning for the fifth time in a row), Tata Motors (the fourth consecutive win) and Tata Power Delhi Distribution (a first time winner).

Companies that scored over a threshold of 60 points out of 100 in a specific category were recognised for significant adoption (a new category in the TAAP assessment). Among the large companies, Tata Power and Titan Company were recognised for their work in employability, and Tata Power and Tata Chemicals for entrepreneurship. Among the smaller companies, Tata International was recognised for efforts in employment, Tata Steel Processing and Distribution for employability, and Tinplate Company of India and Indian Steel and Wire Products for education.

The panel also felicitated companies whose projects have begun to show impact — Tata International, for the fight against social stigmas and towards better health and hygiene habits through the ‘Shuchita’ project; Tata Capital, for offering loans to SC/ST entrepreneurs; Tata Power, for ensuring that youth from SC/ST communities build capabilities at its skill development centres; Jamshedpur Utilities and Services Company, for empowering the Rajkiyakrit Oriya Madhya Vidyalaya through sustained and holistic engagement; and Tata Projects for sponsoring the education of 66 youngsters from class six up to graduation.

These innovative and interesting projects were selected as good practices by the TAAP 2017 jury, and Tata Review presents the highlights.

Education

Public private partnership model in education

Jamshedpur Utilities and Services Company (JUSCO) has worked consistently to promote the cause of education around its operations area in Seraikela-Kharsawan (SK) district, near Jamshedpur.

A local school, Rajkiyakrit Oriya Madhya Vidyalaya (ROMV) in Adityapur, near Jamshedpur, has benefited from a number of interventions planned by JUSCO since January 2014.

ROMV school in Adityapur, which is supported by JUSCO, was declared the best school in the district last year

The interventions, using the public-private partnership model, span the gamut of the school’s needs — ranging from improving the availability and quality of teachers, introduction of better syllabus and lesson plans, and streamlining of the examination and grading systems to improvement in the children’s hygiene habits. The company also contributed in improving school infrastructure through the creation of new science and computer laboratories, and the provision of new utensils for approximately 730 students for their mid-day meals. Earlier, there were only 150 plates for 650 students, an example of the inadequate resources of the school. This consistent and holistic engagement has improved the morale of the teachers and students, many of who are first-generation learners. Last year, the school was adjudged the best school and the principal named the best principal in the SK district. Four students won national scholarships, while another four won Navodaya scholarships. The school’s dropout ratio fell to nearly zero, and students’ grades in science, mathematics, English and Hindi improved. Most important, the number of girls being admitted saw a sharp increase. These improvements are particularly noteworthy when one considers that ROMV’s students are first-generation learners and 53% of the students hail from the SC/ST community.

The company’s other initiatives include the setting up of a pre-school for children aged four to six years, a book bank, the organising of an annual sports day and an annual medical camp for the children, counselling by a professor from business school XLRI and training by company employees on safety, communication skills, etc.

These sustained efforts have made a tremendous difference, not just to the quality of education provided at ROMV, but more importantly, to the lives of hundreds of students.

Education

Helping kids stay in school and go to college

Students studying in rural areas are often deprived of facilities that their counterparts in cities take for granted. The situation is much worse in the case of SC/ST children hailing from poor families. These children have the potential and the will to study but are typically held back due to lack of financial resources.

It is the lives of such students that Tata Projects has been seeking to brighten for the last 10 years. The company sponsors their education from class 6, all the way through high school up to graduation. The financial support is of immense benefit, especially at the critical stage when the children transition from primary school to middle school.

Tata Projects started this practice in 2007 — at the time there were 14 students studying in the primary section of two schools it had adopted. The children studying in these schools hailed from Kandlakoya and Sutariguda villages in Medchal Mandal, Hyderabad, close to the company’s reverse osmosis manufacturing plant.

Prasad Menon, former chairman, Tata Projects, distributing scholarships to scheduled castes and scheduled tribes students as chairman S Ramakrishnan and managing director Vinayak Deshpande look on

Over the last 10 years, the number of students supported by the company has risen to 66. Of these, 37 are in high school and 29 in college, including seven who are studying engineering. The project has cost the company nearly 1.55 million so far.

The support is provided in several ways. The Chairman’s Scholarship of 10,000 per annum for college is awarded to two students who have secured the highest marks in class 10. There are other scholarships also available.

Tata Projects appoints and pays mathematics and science teachers to provide special coaching after school hours as additional support for students with learning difficulties. Employees volunteer to teach school subjects and provide computer coaching. The company counsels students and parents on education and career-related matters, and supplies books, shoes and stationery material to the students.

For the students in these two schools, the company’s support makes it possible for them to stay on the path of education and with brighter prospects at the end of the road.

Employment

Women’s health and hygiene get a boost

When it comes to health and hygiene-related issues, women in rural India are the worst off. In December 2014, Tata International’s leather and leather products manufacturing unit in Dewas, near Indore in Madhya Pradesh, teamed up with Mumbaibased hybrid social enterprise Aakar Innovation to make sustainable solutions available to women. Aakar, which comprises Aakar Innovations and Aakar Social Ventures, helps women to produce and distribute affordable, high-quality, 100% compostable sanitary napkins within their communities. These napkins go a long way towards helping women practise healthy menstrual hygiene.

The Tata International-Aakar initiative led to the setting up of Shuchita, a self-help group run by women from SC/ST and other economically-weaker communities. Shuchita is now making a radical difference in the lives of hundreds of women. The venture has been built on the strength of a capital of 650,000 invested by Tata International.

In Dewas, Shuchita’s efforts are helping women to overcome the social stigma and restrictions that are often associated with menstruation. Today, Shuchita manufactures 1,100 sanitary napkins a day. Branded Anandi by Aakar Innovation, the owners of the brand, these napkins are the first 100% bio-degradable pads available in the low-cost market for women in villages and urban slums. Tata International’s Shuchita has enabled the manufacture and sale of Anandi sanitary pads in Dewas.

Tata International has teamed up with Aakar to produce and distribute 100% compostable sanitary napkins

Shuchita supplies sanitary napkins to a girls’ school in Dewas and to three anganwadis (rural mother and child care centres) around Dewas, through the Madhya Pradesh government’s Ministry for Women and Child Development. It has attained 55% capacity utilisation and the desired quality. Aakar supports the initiative by ensuring consistent supply of the raw material (agricultural and plant material) required to manufacture the pads.

The Shuchita initiative is an examplar among projects that tie in aspects of women’s health, social development and employment.

Employment

‘Power’ful jobs for the youth

Jobs in the power sector demand specialised skill sets and getting skilled talent is difficult. To overcome this challenge, Tata Power set up the Tata Power Skill Development Institute (TPSDI) to train young people to meet the HR needs of companies, vendors and contractors in the power sector.

The first TPSDI centre was a success and today there are five such skilling centres across Tata Power’s operational units, from Trombay near Mumbai to Maithon in Jharkhand. The centres impart skills in electrical, mechanical, renewable energy and allied areas.

The quality of the training is high and TPSDI has become the official training partner for the Indian government’s Power Sector Skill Council. Since its inception, TPSDI has trained nearly 14,000 youth, including 3,200 who come under the affirmative action programme. More than 55% of the youth have received job placements.

So far, Tata Power Skill Development Institute has trained nearly 14,000 youth for jobs in the power sector

The hallmark of TPSDI’s training is its emphasis on including youth from scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and minorities, by working with civil society organisations such as NGOs, cooperatives, foundations, charities and voluntary associations. SC/ST youth and youngsters from families below the poverty line benefit from priority in admission and concessions in the payment of fees and hostel accomodation where available. Tata Power’s target is to achieve 35% participation from SC/ST communities in TPSDI; it has already touched the 25% level. It plans to hold exclusive batches for affirmative action trainees.

TPSDI will reach out to industry bodies and government institutions to mobilise more SC/ST youth. It also plans to train youth from Kadachimet, the tribal village that it has adopted in Palghar district of Maharashtra.

By skilling youngsters and enabling employment, TPSDI is opening new doors for India’s youth.

Entrepreneurship

Financial support for budding entrepreneurs

Tata Capital’s corporate lending business has taken big strides in affirmative action. The idea first emerged when managing director Praveen Kadle visited a trade exhibition of the Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DICCI) and saw several good examples of entrepreneurship. Impressed, he asked the corporate finance division to reach out to entrepreneurs through DICCI.

An elaborate selection process saw the company contacting 200 DICCI members, requesting loan applications, along with introductions, business and loan details, and business plans. Of the 30 who responded, eight entrepreneurs were chosen as beneficiaries.

The funding process was Tata Capital supports entrepreneurs through subsidised funding and mentoring Entrepreneurship Tata Capital Financial support for budding entrepreneurs customised for the AA initiative. In the selection process, Tata Capital paid greater attention to the personality of the entrepreneur, the business model and potential for scalability rather than a detailed credit evaluation. The assessment of the individual’s character was necessary as the company was moving away from its traditional stringent credit assessment norms and need for collateral in assessing the cases. Additionally, the loans were offered at a subsidised rate of interest with a moratorium wherever required. So far, Tata Capital has sanctioned about 45 million, and disbursed nearly 16 million.

Tata Capital supports entrepreneurs through subsidised funding and mentoring

Senior leaders from Tata Capital have acted as mentors to guide entrepreneurs on aspects such as deployment and usage of funds, growth of the business, etc. A framework to regularly monitor the units has been put into place. Additionally, a structured training programme on entrepreneurship and financial management was organised for the selected entrepreneurs.

The company also provides working capital loans to other entrepreneurs belonging to backward classes who are working as vendors to Tata group companies under its order funding scheme. The loan amount, repayment tenure and moratorium sanctioned under this scheme are determined on a case-to-case basis. Through this unique scheme of support, Tata Capital is seeding and enabling new avenues of livelihoods and commerce in the community.