By Rusen Kumar

NEW DELHI: Building on its philosophy of ‘Putting India First’, Indus Towers, India’s largest telecom infrastructure company recently launched second edition of its annual Sustainability Report 2014-15. The report showcases Indus Towers’ commitment to protecting the environment, enhancing engagement with communities, while continuing to create value for all its stakeholders in a sustainable manner.

Bimal Dayal, Chief Executive Officer, Indus Towers On the back of Indus Towers’ efforts towards creating an efficient, cleaner and greener network system in the country, in the interview Rusen Kumar, Editor, India CSR; Bimal Dayal, Chief Executive Officer, Indus Towers shares insights on the various initiatives undertaken which have brought significant business advantages. The Green initiatives adopted by Indus Towers and way forward, number of sites created pan India – with no consumption of diesel during operations and expansion plans on the same and Shut AC-Shut DG program – the ways to reduce energy consumption and conversion of indoor sites into outdoor sites, are few topics of the discussion. Edited excerpts:

How does sustainability fit with the company’s vision?

Indus Towers is India’s largest telecom tower company. It is an enabler for the communications revolution in India. We are a driven entrepreneurial and innovative organisation committed towards growing our business in a sustainable manner, while remaining accountable to all our stakeholders.

Our ExCITE (Excellence, Customer, Integrity, Teamwork and Environment) values define the way we work and the way we maintain relationships with all our stakeholders. Our values ensure that we deliver best-in class, reliable and high quality services to our customers, conduct our business with utmost integrity, encourage innovation and collaboration across functions, protect the environment, and be socially responsible.

Our vision focuses on transformation of lives, not just doing certain transactions focusing merely upon the business alone. It speaks beyond the business as usual. The thoughts and aim even go beyond merely touching the lives of millions of people. “We transform lives by enabling communication”. In order to liven such thoughts, it’s very important to keep sustainability at the core of our operations.

On a personal level, why do Indus Tower’s responses to sustainability issues matter to you?

We transparently talk about sustainability with our stakeholders. The transformational impact of operations on the telecommunication industry makes it all the more important for us to see our business through the sustainability lens.

We touch the lives of more than six hundred million people multiple times a day. Touching such a huge base of population, sustainability of the organization becomes an important aspect, in line with our motto of ‘Putting India First’.

What does sustainability mean to you?

Our core values drive sustainability across our business and serve as a guiding tool for ingraining sustainability in our day-today operations. From its inception in 2007, Indus Towers has taken on the challenge of adopting principles of sustainability across its operations. Be it our numerous initiatives for managing energy at our towers, our corporate social responsibility programme or our massive drive to up skill our on-site workforce, sustainability is a part of everything we do.

According to you, what are the most important changes affecting corporate responsibility and sustainability development since the last report?

Last year saw us crossing several milestones. We continued to remain in the leadership spot crossing 250,000 tenancies mark in January 2015 and maintained 99.98% normal uptime. We won the coveted GSMA award for the 2nd time and the Gallup award 2014 & 2015. We also won an award in the category of Best Sustainable Investment for the ID-OD at the Global Green Future Leadership Awards 2014.

The surge in mobile data usage and rising tele density in India spells tremendous growth opportunities for Indus. This in turn also poses a significant challenge for us: How does Indus grow sustainably? In answering this question we looked at our core operations and how these impact the environment and the people around whom we operate. Over the years, we have pioneered the use of environmentally friendly alternatives for powering our towers. In 2014-15, more than 40,000 of our sites were converted into Green Sites which has now gone up to more than 50,000 sites. We have also made significant investments to up-skill our Field Service Engineers (FSE’s) and technicians through the Integrated Maintenance Experts (IMEs) program and the use of mobile technology.

What are your sustainability goals?

Indus Towers is all set for sustainable growth in its business and play a vital role in enabling India’s communications revolution. We will continue to play a big role in the government’s focus areas relevant to our line of work such as, smart cities. We feel that we are uniquely positioned to lend our expertise and solutions for actualising such a visionary programme. Our innovative solutions have gone a long way in managing ours as well as our customers’ environmental impact. Our unfettered focus on managing our energy consumption will continue to create greater cost efficiencies for our customers as we progress towards our goal of having more than 50% of our portfolio made up of green sites. With our increased focus on innovative offerings such as zero footprint towers and institutional site acquisitions, we will continue to serve the growing needs of our customers. We acknowledge the significant correlation between customer and landlord satisfaction. Our skilled field engineers are and will continue to invest in training and developing our ground force. As a responsible corporation, we will continue to expand our existing CSR footprint to generate wider benefits for more beneficiaries.

Where are you on your sustainability journey?

As an eight-year old organisation, we feel that our journey has just begun. From a start-up to becoming India’s largest telecom tower company – we have always seen ourselves as an organisation whose success directly contributes to nation-building.

How do you think that relationship between organisations, society and the environment has changed over the last decade?

There has been a significant shift in the interplay between various stakeholders – organisations, society and the environment. The stakeholder expectation from organisations has completely transformed – leading companies are expected to not only manage sustainability impacts within their operations but also to look at their entire value chain – upstream and downstream. Post the financial crisis, the issues of transparency and accountability have gained paramount importance even in the context of sustainability. Regulatory environment with respect to sustainability related disclosure requirements are constantly changing.

What role do you think sustainability reporting has played in that change?

The uptake of sustainability reporting in the last decade has been partly driven by stakeholder demand for such information. Consumers still are not the key consumers of such information but investors and businesses (B2B customers) are definitely ahead of the curve.

What do you see as being the big sustainability impacts of the future that corporations will need to prepare for?

Environment, skill development, social responsibility and compliances / alignment with government goals.

What do you think are the biggest obstacles to businesses doing more to address sustainability?

Short term objectives, which need to be modified, linked, and woven together, to carve a long term, sustainability strategy.

What are the major CSR initiative implemented during 2014-15? Do you have CSR budget? Give more detail.

Indus has a 5 year partnership with TERI to sponsor clean energy and rural entrepreneurship through the Lighting a Billion Lives Program (LaBL) that reaches over 165,000 people across 660 villages in India. Our other initiatives include adoption of abandoned children (thru SOS), promoting education (thru Bharti Foundation), Providing scholarships (thru AWOOF), Self-learning environment (thru Pratham) & setting up digital learning centers (thru DEF). We do have dedicated CSR budgets, CSR committees and a CSR policy.

Condition: India CSR dose not permit other websites/Agency to copy or reproduce or reprint the above article in any form.

Disclaimer: The views expressed by the author in this feature are entirely his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of India CSR.