By Rusen Kumar
MUMBAI: Mrs. Sandra Shroff has spent 45 years in Chemical Industry. She is the Vice Chairman of UPL. She is also at the helm of Enviro Technology Limited and Bharuch Enviro Infrastructure Limited as Director. Apart from the growth of her company which is her top priority, she has been closely associated with ICMA (now known as ICC), FICCI, Assochem and CHEMEXCIL. Instrumental in resolving the problems faced by the chemical industry throughout India, over the last three decades she has been a major contributor to the rapid industrial growth at Ankleshwar and Vapi in Gujarat. In conversation with Rusen Kumar, Editor of India CSR Network; Ms. Sandra Shroff, Vice Chairman of UPL shared her views and way forward to the CSR at UPL Limited. She says, “The government must trust us to do a good job, and leave us to do it.” She proudly said, ”Children getting education in the schools make me passionate about CSR. Edited excerpts:
What does CSR mean to you?
Enlightened self-interest. We cannot expect the government to do everything, we have to get on and get the things we need to be done.
Give us a brief understanding of work that you have done for society.
We Started a School Gnyan Dham, which is now a CBSC School and one of the best in South Gujarat. 1,600 students, and a market leader in the area. We also started a Hospital which was called Niramey Hospital, which is now a 200 bedded hospital serving the needs of Industry. Mr Shroff goes to take consultancy from Dr. Singh the head of the hospital.
You started doing for society even when UPL was a small company and you were trying to establish your business. What was the reason and motivation?
We needed so much infrastructure, I felt the need to see that infrastructure, when I realised that Government was not equipped to provide the type of infrastructure we required, I got on and started providing it, leading a band of merry workers, who all got their shoulders to the wheel and worked together. The type of atmosphere is not there anymore for doing selfless work for society, we were a dedicated bunch of people.
What makes you so passionate about CSR?
Children getting education in the schools make me passionate about CSR. Seeing children being taught, getting their awards on Parents day, winning quiz programmes make me passionate about CSR. Seeing the hospital treat my friends and colleagues, give immediate and all import treatment when it is most needed and sending them to hospitals in Mumbai.
What are the major learnings/takeaways from your 45 years CSR journey?
It is a long uphill task, you must have patience, you will meet opposition. Government wants to control everything we do, which is so counterproductive.
What is it that you most proud of?
My Gnyan Dham School, the Eklavya School that we have adopted. The Institute of Chemical Technology that we have established which has such good results in 6th year of operation, 100% passing, top of the Gujarat Technical University, without getting the best students as we were new, only those who could not get admission anywhere else were willing to come to us.
What goals did you set for yourself in respect of giving back to society?
I continuously stretch the goal posts, and fortunately I have a family that allows me to do this.
How do you define leadership success in CSR field?
Start doing things, and others follow.
Can you tell something that you have learned while working for society and needy people?
Everyone is needy to some extent. So our needs are different, and poor people’s needs are much more simple than ours. All they need is encouragement, some help.
What steps do you take to motivate others to be socially responsible?
Do things and hope that they follow my example.
What is your view on Government of India’s emphasis on CSR through CSR act?
The government must trust us to do a good job, and leave us to do it. I find too much control does not bring out the best in people, unfortunately the Bureaucrats are still in the same mould, i.e. controlling and not enabling. They look to find ways for us not to do things and not ways for us to do things.
How do you encourage social and ethical behavior with your peer group and business community?
What do you do to ensure you continue to grow and develop as a leader?
Every day I learn something.
What is one characteristic that you believe every leader should possess?
Understanding and patience.
Do you lead from intuition?
From the front. There is nothing I will not do.
How do you react to criticism?
Some times with irritation and even anger, but I am getting better, I listen and take it on board, and often adopt what others suggest.
According to you, what is biggest social challenge that need to be addressed urgently through CSR?
According to you, what are the various challenges faced by corporates if they have to do good work in society?
The government looks on and does not help, they in fact want to control everything we do. When infact we are doing their work.
What is your advice to CSR managers of country?
You need patience, and then more patience.
What would you recommend to companies, what should they factor while initiating impactful CSR programmes?
Take up projects where government funds are available, work really hard to get them, execute the programs honestly and with the best quality, be it check dams, repairing a school, or building a road, and ensure that our tax payer’s funds are spent properly and honestly.
(More about Mrs. Sandra Shroff: Actively promoting social infrastructure such as hospitals and schools, she is renowned for the establishment of institutions that are ranked among the best in South Gujarat. As a Trustee of the Gnyan Dham Vapi Charitable Trust, the Ankleshwar Industrial Development Society, Sandraben Nursing College and the Ankleshwar Rotary Educational Society, she spearheads their various social upliftment projects. Mrs. Shroff’s sensitive mind and emphatic attitude towards life are also evident from the fact that she has adopted the Model Eklavya Residential School at Ahwa, which is a school for tribal children in the Dang district. She is also involved in umpteen social and welfare activities such as building of village schools, providing tube-wells to villages and helping the tribal farmers with better methods of farming and agriculture. She is also the President of the Burns Association of India and has the honour of being a member of the National Integration Council which is attended by the Prime Minister and chaired by the Home Minister. Mrs. Shroff has spent more than five decades in India and is well conversant in Hindi, Gujarati and Kutchi languages.)
Rusen Kumar is the editor at India CSR Network.
Disclaimer: The thoughts captured in the interview is solely that of the interviewee. The views expressed by the author in this feature are entirely his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of India CSR and its Editor.
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