CSR is something that has to be carried out with constructive synergy and work: Shabana Faizal

Leadership interview of Shabana Faizal, the Co-Founder and Vice Chairperson of KEF Holdings Limited.

By Rusen Kumar

CALICUT: Faizal and Shabana Foundation led by Shabana Faizal its Co-Founder and Vice Chairperson of KEF Holdings Limited over the past 10 years, since its establishment in 2007, has embodied itself in over 25 programs and projects which has impacted thousands of lives in India and the Middle East through 20 million USD (Rupees 127 Crores). Here we present before our readers the interview of very prominent personality Shabana Faizal, who shares of the various philosophies and practices of Faizal and Shabana Foundation, practices, life touching programmes and offers a glimpse of the roles and responsibilities in rebuilding society. Shabana strongly believes, “CSR is something that has to be carried out with constructive synergy and work with counterparts who share our belief for enhancing outcomes, reducing demand on resources, and achieving a higher impact on the society.”

Interview was conducted by Rusen Kumar, Editor, India CSR Network. Happy reading!

Please give an overview of journey of Faizal and Shabana Foundation.

Our foundation was founded in 2007, as a charitable arm of KEF Holdings, to extend our expertise and innovations through holistic interventions in Education and Youth Development, Healthcare and Wellness Support, Regenerative Sustainable Development, Humanitarian Aid and Assistance; Community Outreach and Support; and Art and Culture Development to empower the underprivileged and help them build better lives for themselves and their families.

The Foundation works closely with other stakeholders in government, business and other local organizations to promote initiatives that benefit the community. We have accomplished a decade, having successfully launched sustainable initiatives and partnering with programs across sectors to positively impact the lives of people and the community across India and the Middle East.

Say something about the philosophy of your foundation.

Foundation has a strong belief that by introducing sustainable programs and positive interventions, we are providing building blocks for people and communities to be empowered and build their own positive and happy future.

By focusing our efforts on basic human needs, we aspire to create remedies for social problems at their grassroots. We develop innovative approaches for breaking the barriers that inhibit human development. Our aim is to be a catalyst towards building a more equitable, positive, happier and better tomorrow for all, for generations to come. For the past decade, we have worked relentlessly to stay committed to our vision and have been able to directly and positively impact our society, economy and environment.

Do you have long term vision, and mission for CSR of your organization?

Foundation established with vision of – Giving to Create Impact, focusing our efforts on picking projects which will bring about a paradigm shift in the lives of the people that it touches.

The foundation also takes up work in the field of sustainable livelihood creation, environment conservation from time to time. We are also on the path to improvise our solutions and methodologies for implementation including adapting to suit a community without causing hassles to their culture and beliefs and also to fine-tune the solutions to make them more suitable for resolving the specific problem at hand. Modularization and standardization of our approach enable to progressively reach larger number of people within the same time period.

The mission of the Foundation is rooted in a set of values that span social justice, service, inclusiveness, relationship, integrity, competence and collaboration.

Provide some insights about your corporate social responsibility initiatives in India.

Over the past decade, we have initiated 25 programs and projects which has impacted thousands of lives in India and the Middle East through 20 million USD, which is remarkably more than the mandated allocation of 2 percent as stipulated by the government of India. The Foundation’s model on public education and village development is gaining wide acceptability, as partners and government bodies see the impact it brings. The education model started in Kerala and now implemented across hundreds of government and aided schools in Kerala is gathering interest in other states with one school opened in Tamil Nadu and another initiated in Karnataka.

The Foundation sustainable village development program in Krishnagiri, Tamilnadu has over 6000 villages under its umbrella. Through the model the Foundation runs various interventions including a school, vocational classes in English, computer skills, tailoring classes, organic farming and introduction of new techniques in cattle rearing. We are also worked with the community to create better low-cost housing, sanitary areas and cultural fairs and activities.

We also work extensively to provide humanitarian assistance during natural calamities to support the need of the hour. The Foundation has provided aid during multiple natural calamities including the Flood Relief in Kashmir and Chennai amongst other areas.

We have marked 10% of our yearly business profits from KEF Holdings to support the foundation’s initiatives. The next phase will see us collaborating with like-minded partners both through fundraising and knowledge partnerships to further grow the Foundation’s impact.

What are your ongoing CSR projects?

Foundation in collaboration with the Government of Kerala developed the PRISM program (Promoting Regional Schools to International Standards through Multiple Interventions) to improve the standards of government schools through planned interventions. The Government Vocational Higher Secondary Schools for Girls, Nadakkavu in Kozhikode (Calicut) was the flagship school that was renovated as part of this program at a cost of Rs. 17 crore. With expertise in precast and prefabricated construction, we remodeled the entire school within 95 days (planning and execution). The school houses high-tech classrooms, science and computer labs, new toilets, an industrial sized kitchen and a dining room which can accommodate over 2,500 people at a time, staff room, gymnasium and an indoor stadium housing basketball and volleyball courts and three badminton courts, astro turf hockey and football ground. We were able to finish the project in time for students joining after the summer holidays.

Today, this school been ranked among the top 3 government schools in India within 2 years of its refurbishment and is now seen as a model project for building schools across the nation.

Looking at the successful Nadakkavu model, Kerala Government has decided to replicate the same model across 1000 more government schools in Kerala by 2020. More than 250 schools have visited Nadakkavu and learned from it and of these at least 65 of them (as on March 2016) have taken up initiatives to replicate the model. Of which at least 6 of them are large projects. The fact that the present Government has announced the scale-up of the Nadakkavu Model to 1000 more Government Schools is testimony to its impact and success.

The Foundation is also working at the grassroots with the 8 villages that surround KEF’s Krishnagiri facility. Apart from working on imparting life-skills and vocational skills to the villagers, the Foundation is also working towards health and sanitation facilities in the villages. Moreover, KEF Infra One is also hiring local talent with a view to up-skill and educate people for job opportunities at the facility.

Additionally, we also work with the Sports and Education Promotion Trust (SEPT) launched in 2004 in Kerala. The trust supports football training for children from an early age, which in turn helps them compete at an international level.

Do you have CSR Policy? What are your focus areas?

We do have a policy to ensure we bring the best for the society. Planning is very essential and we plan our entire process including community needs assessment, goal setting and activities planning. We also continuously evaluate and monitor the services that we implement.

We conduct a thorough analysis of the problems and requirements before identifying a project for investment. Funds are allocated flexibly and with fairness to meet the project needs. We develop partnerships with other organizations, including business and government entities, to meet the identified needs most effectively. We review our funding and partnerships regularly against our values and goals. We take a long-term perspective on the feasibility and operation of the system or reformation that is being planned for implementation. We also provide training to our staff working in rural and remote communities to make them culturally aware and enhance their responsiveness to requirements. We ensure that Foundation is part of the local network and work to build social capital by fostering trust, reciprocity and connectedness within and between communities.

As mentioned earlier, Foundation on the 6 Pillars, such as Education and Youth Intervention, Regenerative Sustainable Development, Healthcare and Wellness Support, Humanitarian Aid and Assistance, Community Outreach and Support and Art and Culture Development.

Do you have annual CSR budget? In the last financial year, how much amount has been spent?

We spent 20 million in 10 years, that is approx 2 million a year. In the last financial year, we spent close to 2 million USD on various CSR initiatives across the Middle East and India.

You have mission to transform the Govt. Schools. Elaborate more about the project.

Mission 1000 is a public private partnership between the Government of Kerala and the Faizal & Shabana Foundation, aiming to improve the quality of 1000 government-run schools in Kerala. School Intervention Program. The PRISM Program (Promoting Regional Schools to International Standards through Multiple Interventions)  a collaboration between the Government of Kerala and the Foundation to improve the standards of government schools through planned interventions, we successfully revamped the infrastructure of a 120 year old, Government Vocational Higher Secondary Schools for Girls, Nadakkavu in Kozhikode. Over a period of a year, our Foundation transformed the school’s infrastructure in a cost-effective manner using offsite manufacturing and precast, modular technology. We introduced better sports facilities, library, laboratories and classrooms creating an enriching learning environment for the students. It also introduced interventions like – teacher training programs, vocational training, teacher and student inter-school learning and knowledge exchange program amongst others. Today, the school has become a case-study in transformation and the model has been implemented in 68 other schools in Kerala.

As stated earlier, The Foundation has also adopted a school in Krishnagiri in Tamil Nadu as a case-study to showcase how building a school would not only benefit children but also help in overall development of the community. Using offsite manufacturing and precast, modular technology, the school was built in a mere 5 months and has the capacity to support 200 children. The school has seen a 47% growth in enrolment with 4 of the villages, out of which 78 total children in the age group of the 1-5th standard. Apart from catchment villages, 37% of students are from other villages which do not come under the catchment areas. Today, the attendance in the school has increased by 84 percent.

The school has also become a hub for community development – classes for English, Computer Skills, Vocation Training, Agriculture Learning Programs, Health Awareness Sessions amongst others are conducted in the facilities making it a hub for overall growth and development of the village.

Also Read: Faizal & Shabana Foundation Celebrates 10th Anniversary

How do you think initiatives like this can help nation in long-term?

Education gives the means to an individual to grow to become independent. It is the foundation towards building a sustainable living. We are confident that initiatives like this will create a positive impact in the lives of the people by nurturing the future generation & building a modernized society. Our continued effort driven by our vision of Giving to Create Impact creates model solutions for social problems at the grassroots, opening up a whole new world of possibilities creating a long-term success path along the way.

For CSR, which state is in your primary and secondary focus?

As mentioned earlier our focus States are Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. In Kerala & Tamil Nadu we have already initiated CSR programmes & we have upcoming in Karnataka & Andhra Pradesh which we are looking forward.

Do you have any project under health?

With an objective to deliver a healthy future, the Foundation supports causes across a wide spectrum. We have set up the KE Safiya Autism Center in Mahe, Kerala as a research based center comprising a special needs school, as well as a vocational education and rehabilitation center catering to the needs of autistic children to help them adapt to society.

Foundation is also working towards a future devoid of Cancer and Dementia. Realizing the need for more research on these diseases, the Foundation rendered its support to the University of Sharjah for the design and discovery of lead drug prototypes targeting Alzheimer’s and cancer conditions.

We also work closely with Spastics Society of Karnataka that provides Diagnostic and Intervention services for children with Developmental Disabilities. Through the NGO, we extend our support in providing medical, diagnostic, therapy, education and vocational training facilities for children with special needs. We also provided support for Athani, the Care and Caress Society that will provide food and shelter for over a 100 destitute homeless and aged woman in Kannur, Kerala.

Do you have skill development programmes?

Our Foundation supports the BA Industrial Training Institute in Thumbay which trains people from economically weaker backgrounds in employable trades. The institute has practical labs for welders, car, diesel and AC mechanics and electronics mechanics, ensuring hands-on experience which prepares them for jobs outside. The institute also trains students in spoken English, driving and behavioral skills that will help them gain employability sooner. The Foundation helped set –up infrastructure facilities (labs and classrooms) for the institute and continues to offer yearly support.

In addition to this the Foundation has encouraged women from the local community to utilize their culinary skills to support the government schools by providing mid-day meals for children. We also provide financial aid to the Magra village society that provides employment to local women through knitting and vocational training in tailoring and other craft along with computer literacy and mathematics and English coaching to young learners.

At our Krishnagiri Sustainability Development Program we train people in computer skills, tailoring and provide English classes.

Also Read: KEF Holdings Chairman Faizal Kottikollon renewed its commitment towards serving the society

The broad umbrella of sustainability has changed a lot over the years. How do you see corporate sustainability evolving over the next 5 years?

We have witnessed a splendid transition as corporate social responsibility (CSR) that has evolved lot over the years for both businesses at large and small. Companies are adopting a strategic approach to their CSR policies because they are increasingly witnessing the benefit across their business and for their stakeholders. Today most big companies are committed to reporting on their environmental and social impacts and continuously improving their performance.

In the coming days, companies will be convinced that it is in their strategic interest to incorporate CSR substantively into their operations. CSR will nonetheless become increasingly mainstream within business, even if not within the public consciousness. There will be a progress towards increasing integration of CSR values into the corporate sector with varying levels of commitment and impact over the next 5 years.

Did you release Sustainability report for the year? Give some insight about the Sustainability Report for India.

We will be releasing a 10-year report which will be launched in March 2018.

What is your CSR definition?

Our belief is that by introducing sustainable programs and positive interventions, we are providing building blocks for people and communities to be empowered and build their own positive and happy future. The work we carry out positively and directly impacts human lives. Given this priority, we centralize all our business verticals to revolve around the Faizal and Shabana Foundation towards maximizing the impact. CSR is something that has to be carried out with constructive synergy and work with counterparts who share our belief for enhancing outcomes, reducing demand on resources, and achieving a higher impact on the society.

Also Read: When I made wealth or no wealth, I wanted to give back, says Faizal Kottikollon, Chairman of KEF Holdings