Successful leaders maintain that empathy and kindness have been their greatest lessons from the global pandemic. COVID-19 saw many shining examples of people, especially corporates and leaders, coming forward to help those impacted by the virulent wave.
A recent report by CRISIL revealed that pandemic-related efforts dominated spending in the last fiscal. It led to corporate India crossing ₹ 1 lakh crore in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) spending merely seven years after it was made mandatory by the Government. A staggering 40 per cent of this is estimated to have been incurred in the past two fiscals.
Consumers and young recruits are becoming more concerned with social and environmental issues. As a result, companies are ramping up their focus on social responsibility. Consequently, CSR has evolved from a buzzword in organisations to a purpose that unites responsible corporates to enable and build an equitable society. Many socially responsible and for-profit companies join and even lead the movement to tackle critical issues affecting humanity.
At RPG Group, social responsibility is at the heart of all our initiatives and forms an essential part of our tenet of Touching Lives. Our mission is to drive the holistic empowerment of communities through sustainable initiatives for maximum impact. RPG Foundation continues to lead and execute the Group’s social outreach programmes, giving wings to our dream of building a better India for all.
When the pandemic crippled the world in March 2020, RPG Foundation and other Group companies swung into action to tackle critical challenges in India. The endeavour was providing relief to the sector that was affected the hardest – frontline workers and vulnerable communities.
RPG Foundation helmed various noble initiatives, such as donating over 10,000 PPE kits, 1.25 lakh gloves, 50,000 N95 masks, and 500 litres of sanitisation liquid to frontline workers and Government authorities. It transformed various factory canteens across 20 locations into kitchens to provide over 5.5 lakh hot meals to migrant labourers. RPG Foundation also partnered with the Maharashtra government, NGOs, and other corporates, in Project Milkar, a unique initiative for eradicating hunger. Over 7,300 ration kits were donated to the underprivileged in Mumbai.
The rapid rise in COVID cases last year overwhelmed India's hospitals and medical infrastructure. Hospitals and government authorities were provided with over 75 COVID testing booths and 50 ventilators manufactured and funded by the Group.
The more virulent second wave earlier this year stretched India's health infrastructure beyond limits. RPG Foundation and the Group’s leaders adopted a two-pronged approach to counter the catastrophe — providing immediate aid to mitigate the lack of oxygen supply and bolster the country's healthcare infrastructure.
“The past year has brought us all closer. The top management provided constant support in the form of their valuable time and insights. Employees from various Group companies also contributed their efforts to turn our ideas into reality. The unified efforts have resulted in amazing results, as evident from the impact that we created.”
Radha Goenka, Director, RPG Foundation
Over 100 oxygen concentrators were procured for distribution. Additionally, portable liquid oxygen cryogenic tanks were donated to a civil hospital in Gujarat. KEC and CEAT supported organisations and hospitals by regularly providing oxygen equipment, ambulance, and other infrastructure needs.
The RPG Group launched a unique initiative — ‘Go-To for O2’, to address RPGians, their friends and families in dire need for oxygen. Under the initiative, an in-house portal developed by Zensar located oxygen concentrators across an area of over 40 hubs in 17 states. The software code for this portal was also made available to other companies, organisations, and communities to help alleviate the oxygen crisis.
RPG converted factory and training institutes across the country into emergency quarantine centres to mitigate the shortfall in beds. KEC converted its training centre in Butibori in Nagpur, Maharashtra, to an isolation centre for COVID-positive members from the community. The welfare centre at CEAT's Bhandup unit in Mumbai continues to function as a community vaccination centre.
With the pandemic seemingly within control, RPG Foundation aims to move from crisis mitigation to bolstering the country’s healthcare infrastructure, especially in the rural and semi-urban parts of the country.
RPG Foundation has partnered with the Government of Maharashtra and the National Health Mission (NHM) to create unique 'Fever Clinics.' Often attached to a hospital, the mobile clinics offer primary support for respiratory ailments and double up as OPD and sample collection centres. The innovative minds at RPG Group created the model of these clinics and got it approved by the NHM within a record ten days. The clinic comprises of a consultation room, a window for dispensing medicines, and a window for collection of swab samples. In addition to providing infrastructure, RPG Foundation also trained and hired Fever Clinic Operators, who are helping operationalise the clinics. These candidates have been trained under RPG Foundation’s Swayam programme.
A total of 100 Fever Clinics have been installed in rural and semi-urban Maharashtra. Through these clinics, the team has endeavoured to provide relief to rural residents who, otherwise, had to travel long distances to avail essential medical services. While the clinics were pressed into service mainly to combat the pandemic, RPG Foundation is hopeful that they will continue to serve the rural community even beyond the pandemic.
COVID-19 has caused a sharp rise in India's unemployment levels, with women being affected disproportionately. Swayam, the flagship programme of the foundation, attempts to bridge the gap by providing women, especially from disadvantaged backgrounds, with occupational skills and training to make them employable. The programme imparts training for working in the transport/logistics, construction, IT, and healthcare sectors.
Radha shares, “The pandemic led to an acute shortage of healthcare staff and medical facilities. To address this issue, we are training 6,000 women as healthcare workers in 2021 under our employment vertical, Swayam. Since 2016, the vertical has successfully trained over 13,500 women as healthcare workers. Many of these trainees were hired by hospitals to administer COVID care.”
Under the initiative, RPG Foundation has also developed a digital portal and app called 'Swayam Connect.' The app helps career progression in the healthcare sector with access to jobs, courses, and Government schemes. The platform brings together all the stakeholders of the skilling ecosystem – from trainers to candidates and recruiters. The app currently has over 8000 beneficiaries and 56 employers listed on it.
Within a month of the lockdown's enforcement in 2020, Pehlay Akshar Foundation, training 8,000 teachers of the Brihanmumbai Mahanagar Palika schools, converted its program delivery mechanism to the online medium. The Foundation is committed to training one lakh teachers across Maharashtra.
With schools being closed during the pandemic, the team stepped in to help children with their education by conducting functional English training online. In addition, the Pehlay Akshar Magic Classroom moved to television. Content curated by the Foundation was aired daily on the Doordarshan national network in partnership with the Government of Maharashtra. One of the most-watched educational programmes on television, it positively impacted over 28,000 students across the state. The content is also available on Pehlay Akshar’s YouTube page.
Pehlay Akshar continues to break barriers in the field of education, by creating accessible and engaging content for children across sectors. It has used innovative methods such as the 'A Story A Day' campaign to make spoken English a reality for every child. Describing the campaign, Radha says, “It is encouraging to see RPG employees along with celebrities such as actor Sonakshi Sinha and cricketer Ajinkya Rahane add to the large bank of over 900 stories created by 'A Story A Day.' I am extremely happy that these stories will now be aired on All India Radio as part of the daily story initiative.”
Going forward, RPG Foundation will renew its social responsibility focus with a three-pronged approach – employability, education, and its newest initiative – heritage.
Radha explains, “With exciting projects in the pipeline, I look forward to continuing my collaboration with all RPGians to make our programmes relevant to all stakeholders and add value to the community.”