We Are Helping People Change Their Lives Through Access to Energy : Rahul Gautam, Managing Trustee, Schneider Electric India Foundation


INDIACSR News Network

NEW DELHI: Rahul Gautam is the Managing Trustee of the Schneider Electric India Foundation, a trust funded by Schneider Electric, its employees and partners, is changing lives by providing access to energy and support when it is most needed.

As a global specialist in energy management with operations in more than 100 countries, including INDIA Schneider Electric offers integrated solutions across multiple market segments, including leadership positions in Utilities & Infrastructures, Industries & Machine Manufacturers, Non-residential Buildings, Data Centres & Networks and in Residential. Focused on making energy safe, reliable, efficient, productive and green, the Group’s 130,000 plus employees, through an active commitment to help individuals and organizations make the most of their energy.

In an exclusive interview with Rusen Kumar, Editor –in- Chief- of INDIACSRRahul Gautam shared his views on Schneider Electric India business, CSR and mission of Schneider Electric India Foundation and unique  programmes of foundation .

Rahul Gautam says, “We are helping people change their lives through access to energy.”

Below is the edited transcript of the interview.

Q.    Welcome to INDIA CSR, Could you please introduce yourself and your involvement in Schneider Electric India?

My name is Rahul Gautam and for the last one year I have been the Managing Trustee of the Schneider Electric India Foundation.  Over the last many years I had roles and responsibilities in HR and then this wonderful opportunity came, to lead the Foundation. Since this work has been close to my heart, I just took it up.

Schneider Electric Foundation has a powerful charter- fundamentally we are helping people change their lives through access to energy. Schneider has contributed to the world in the power, electrical space for about 150 years and now it about energy management and Access to Energy at the base of the pyramid. We wanted to do CSR linked to our core business, and hence our CSR focuses on the 5 Es:  Education, Employment, Electrification, Entrepreneurship and Emergency during natural disasters.

Q.    Please enlighten the Schneider Electric India business and its innovative products for the base of the pyramid.

We have very unique programs called the BIPBOP program in which stands for Business, Innovation and People at the Base of the Pyramid. Innovation is about innovative products for the people at the base of the pyramid. One such example is the LED lamp  is known as In-Diya. We created this lamp and it is now being used to lighten up thousands of home and till date we have lit about 25,000 homes all over the country.

Q.    How much importance is attached to Sustainable Development and CSR within Schneider Electric India?

Sustainable Development and CSR is tightly woven into our business strategy today. On the Business side, while most companies are looking at capacity addition, we as a company are focussing on Energy management. i.e to make the Energy Safe, reliable, efficient, productive and clean. Our focus on Fully integrated solutions and focus on renewable is aligned to our vision of “Doing More while Using Less”. We are not just looking into the present but also into the future by focussing on Smart Grids/ Smart cities and electric vehicles. Our CSR program focuses on Spreading Access to energy for those who need it the most. E.g. We are educating the unemployed youth, giving scholarships, giving employment (to 90% of these youth who have been trained as electricians) and also helping some of these youth to help becoming  –    Eventually, our sustainability approach relies on the regular measurement our commitment thanks to a unique tool, the Planet & Society Barometer that sums up our main priorities in terms of sustainability. The results are communicated transparently, every quarter, externally and internally It is audited by and external auditor.

Q.    What is the level of involvement of Schneider Electric’s top management in your CSR programs?

There is a very high involvement of our top management in the CSR Programs. Right from our Global  CEO, Mr. Jean-Piscal Tricoire, who takes a personal interest and spends a lot time in monitoring the activities of our Global Foundation. In India, Mr. Olivier Blum, our  Country President and Managing Director is a great champion of the foundation activities and he is  also on the Advisory board of the SEI Foundation.

Many members of the Management team also have an active involvement. E.g. When we had set up course for the Electrician curriculum, then we had the head of PEC (Products Engineering Centre), Mr. Alexis Grenon set up dedicated resources to structure and design the curriculum. Our HR head, Dr Shalini Sarin  is extremely passionate about CSR and she has made it as part of an employee engagement program. Two times a year, we spend 5 days where all the employees participate through different activities like: blood donation camps, going and teaching in our electrician training centres and organizing games and food stalls and raise funds for the Foundation. The company then matches the amount and contributes for the CSR activities. There is high involvement of not only the top management but the people at large.

Q.    How many villages are you currently working at?

We are currently working in 10 villages so far which are in different states like Orissa, Karnataka, J&K. We want to target the North East area and help the youth to work towards education and employment and not move towards the Naxals. In Chattishgarh, we are running a centre at Jumaikela.

Q.    What are your CSR Focus areas?

A social commitment of Schneider Electric in India
Mission: “To help people change their life through Access to Energy”.
Electrician training for unemployed youth
Scholarship to poor students to pursue engineering degree
Employment support to trained electricians
Facilitate trained electricians with a “start up kit” and an entrepreneur training to run their own business
Facilitate access to electricity at very remote areas without grid supply
Emergency During Natural Disasters
One Local Initiative in line with the Company’s Vision
Local initiatives per site to be chosen in consultation with regional/ site delegates and the business Heads
Success Rates
31 Electrician Training Centre’s across 16 states in India
1 exclusive women’s electrician training centre in Chennai
2700+ unemployed youth trained
33 students have benefited from scholarships offered by Schneider Electric India
2400+ trained electricians employed
45 trained entrepreneurs supported to start their own business in their villages

Q. What are your initiatives in Energy Efficiency?

Here we are building a strong offering around products and solutions that can help create a mindset to conserve energy help companies save their energy bills by as much as 30%!

Q.    What is the vision of Schneider Electric India Foundation and when it was started?

The foundation was registered in March 2008 and the head office is located in Bangalore. Our vision is very clear – to provide access to energy to all and to be the best company in the Electrical Trade at the base of the pyramid.

Q.    Schneider Electric India Foundation has an ambitious mission to help people change their lives through “Access to Energy”.  Please share more about “Access to Energy” and its objective and how the programs are benefiting the society?

If we look at the statement “Access to Energy”, we are talking about facilitating the villages and remote areas without grid supply with energy. What we do is basically have a kit – a solar panel, a battery and an LED lamp and go to remote villages where the source of energy is with kerosene lamps. We have approached tribal villages also and took these kits.  They cost about five thousand rupees. Many times we have our employees to go the villages and give the kits. We had employees going to village in UP which is 150 kms away and they went to help the village and they felt so good to do such a noble work in bring “light into people’s lives”.

Q.    Do you have any plan for expansion of innovative CSR program for the year 2012?

2012 is a very big year for us. We plan to set up 50 electrician training centres and would like spread into more states this year (currently we are operating in 16 states). We want to train  5000 electricians this year and help provide employment to almost 90% . We want to created 750 entrepreneurs this year which is mostly towards the electrical space which would be with the help of our partners, working closely with the government and create a strong eco system approach. We are also looking at a strong curriculum so as to be the leaders in this Trade.

Q.    Being an industry leader, how will you define the Corporate Social Responsibility?

In the modern context, CSR has to be aligned with the business strategy and not be a cheque book approach. It has to be sustainable and have an ecosystem for partnership and funding so more and more players can join. It is about looking into more and more additions into the ecosystem and look into reaching out to the most under privileged. Schneider Electric has 15,000 employees in India and the employees should feel that there is a new meaning that is being created in their work and it can also help in join hands and add a strong value to the society.

Q.    What do you think of Indian Govt’s emphasis on CSR?

There is a lot of emphasis from the government’s end towards CSR. There are a lot of ministers who are keen towards activities that have been initiated by NGOs, companies, etc. There are a lot of focus areas and there is a need to have a system implementation today and there is a lot that the government and companies can work together to improve the society

Q.    Do you have annual budget for CSR programs?

Yes we do have an annual budget.

Q.    CSR Activities help the company in building image. What you say?

Good CSR surely has a positive rub off on the company’s image and it helps  not only to attract new talent but helps in retaining talent.

Q.    Are there any motivational stories of the village electrification which you would like to share?

Village:  Milonpur, ASOM
No of households benefitted: 100
No of solar Home lighting systems installed: 100
Population of the village: 600
Source of income:
(1) Daily wage workers in Tea Plantations  (2) Weaving  (3) Cultivation
Project Implementation period: November, 2011
Kerosene is used to lit up homes
Village: BR Hills, Mysore, Karnataka
Name of the NGO: N.A
No of households benefitted: 63
No of solar Home lighting systems installed: 63
Population of the village: N.A
Source of income:  (1) Forest Produce  (2) Cultivation
Project Implementation period: November, 2011
Kerosene is used to lit up homes

Q.    What are the biggest challenges for CSR for Schneider Electric?

We are keen to scale up and work with State Governments and utilize the funds for doing good work, but there is a lot of bureaucracy and sometimes corruption in the government. This needs to be addressed so that the Corporates and Governments can bring some real change in the base of the pyramid.

Q.    Anything else that you would like say?

We have started the journey and there is a long way to go. There is passion towards the CSR by the CEO, the leadership team and by our team. Our goal is to be a role model for CSR in the country.

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