Suchita Oswal Jain, VC and Joint MD, Vardhman Textiles Ltd talked to India CSR on the Vardhman Textiles. Excerpts of an interview:
Please share a brief about the company and key CSR programs.
Vardhman Textiles Limited is the largest textile manufacturing company in India. It was founded by my grand father in 1965 and then lead by my father, Mr. S P Oswal, who is a true karam yogi! We are the largest exporter of cotton & blended yarns and also the leading fabric manufacturer in the country. With an annual turnover of more than 1 billion USD, we have global alliances in USA and Japan.
Our company has always believed in leadership through excellence, which we achieve through a culture of innovation and continuous improvement. We have never shied away in making liberal financial contributions for the betterment of the country. As our CSR initiatives, we have been training under privileged students, providing disaster relief support, organizing blood donation camps over the years to help the needy section of the society. We have also contributed immensely in Punjab, New Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Ludhiana and Sangrur during the ongoing coronavirus relief work besides distributing masks and necessary medical equipments in various government hospitals.
What is the role that your company is playing during Covid-19?
In such unprecedented times of global coronavirus pandemic and economic slowdown, a company’s contribution towards its employees, consumers and society at large plays a crucial role in its growth and development. As mentioned above, we contributed a sum of Rs.7.5 Crores to Central and State Government Funds dedicated to this Pandemic. And our overall contribution to the variety of CSR programs run by Vardhman Textiles is nearly 20 cr in the FY 2019-20 alone.
We have also provided testing machines, masks, sanitizers, bedsheets, pillows and PPE kits to the various regional hospitals. We have also distributed rations kits and other grocery materials in two Old Age Homes of Ludhiana, Bhopal & to the economically backward people in Baddi, HP, during the lockdown. We have also set up a COVID-19 mobile sample collection kiosk to Community Health Centre in the state.
What is the definition of Sustainability at Vardhman Group?
We strive to minimize the negative impact on the environment by applying innovative thinking to every step of manufacturing process. Building eco-friendly practices in daily processes is a part of our culture. This culture inspires us to try to make more from fewer resources and minimize waste in every form. We have also contributed towards a better environment by reducing water consumption, minimizing wastage & using renewable energy resources over conventional ones.
Enlighten us on the new ideas by Vardhman Group for education and women empowerment along with environment-friendly practices?
CSR and social good has always been a subject close to my heart. I am privileged to be part of such a big Group that can carry out large and impactful activities for the people and the society. As part of CSR activities of the Group, we have been able to augment or set up physical infrastructure in many schools including setting up of classrooms, toilets, desks, water purifiers and other such arrangements that ensure that children and teachers can focus on education and not worry about health issues.
We are also helping Sri Aurobindo College of Commerce in Ludhiana in the construction of ‘Mother Auditorium’ in the college. This Auditorium shall accommodate up to 900 people and shall be equipped with modern state of the art lighting and sound system.
My focus across all company initiatives is to ensure that women are given equal opportunities of growth and for that we have created training workshops and leadership modules. In fact through our leadership enhancement programs like Prayas we encourage young women working on factory floors to share their operational problems by engaging actively with the issue and self solving it with the help and guidance of the seniors on the floor.
We provide group level competition platforms for such actions to encourage and felicitate such progressive attitude. This not only adds value to the young girls life by building inner resolve to face life with confidence but each one ends up making a huge difference to the companies bottom-line too.
What is your vision for the next decade?
We want to grow our USD 1 billion turnover manifold, and export to even more countries, thereby establishing the finesse of Indian workers and entrepreneurs. India has tremendous potential and Indian companies can really do well in the international arena.
What is the work life been for you and your employees in this Covid Era?
As per the government’s decision on lockdown and shutdown of all industries and public services, we too had halted the manufacturing for quite some time except for essential services. In the production areas, only workers living inside the campus worker colonies were permitted to work. But now we have slowly opened up and workers have been mandated to maintain social distance of 6 feet between two people while working or even socializing in the canteen.
We have also appointed Officer on special duty to ensure that the workers are adhering to all the safety guidelines. Installation of foot-operated hand sanitizing machine at the entry and exit gates has become a norm and we have discontinued the biometrics. Attendance is marked by showing their ID card only. If any worker is having any signs of illness, such individuals are immediately moved to the in-house dispensary provided in respective units. We also encouraged several employees to work from the safety of their homes too when needed.
How have you kept employees engaged and effective? What is the morale like in people once they are back to work?
Given the importance of people working in every organization, we too have been responding to the employee’s needs during this continuously evolving global challenge. Though, the coronavirus has forced companies around the globe to move towards a distributed-team model as the employees may be working remotely, we are making sure that the new virtual environment doesn’t hurt morale. Our morale was initially low because of the uncertainty the time has created. So, we began hosting weekly and periodic videoconferences to keep employees up to date on COVID-19 facts. In such session, we not only shared current facts but also the things that they are working on to help employees and their families cope.
Once we resumed our offices and the units opened up, we began by creating a lot of action points with all. We took the teams through several protocols that had to be followed and ensured that clear and precise communication was up across factory floors and offices. Sanitization and thermo checks are now a major part of the employee’s life and each one has taken on the responsibility to help manage and control the situation for self and others.
We are also regularly monitoring the situation and conducting health and hygiene classes, yoga classes along with motivational conversations and open communication to ensure inclusiveness.
Which new partnerships and projects is your team most enthusiastic about?
We have many partnerships and projects, which our CSR team is quite excited about it because they will have long-term impact on the life of the people and community besides generating huge social mileage for us. We have our Skill Development & Livelihood Generation project for rural & local women (SABLA) and under this project we are looking forward to creating a partnership with the local NGO which is working on generating livelihood skills for rural and semi-urban women. Through another project Nandini, we are creating awareness on Menstrual Hygiene among adolescent girls in school and rural women.
Under our in-house project EKLAVYA, we are providing insight knowledge of working of our units- Textiles and Steel to college students. This program is designed to make the students learn the basics of entrepreneurship skills and work in industries at a root level.
Our Environment Protection and Awareness Generation Program and Bal Vatika- Educational Program for slum- children a major program that we run.
What more do you think Vardhman will do for creating awareness and implementing Covid care in communities and people at large?
With the ongoing pandemic engulfing the whole nation, we are making every possible effort to keep our employees as well as surrounding communities safe by spreading the message of safety on a larger scale. For the same efforts we at Vardhman have planned different activities on a mass level for communities.
We are also planning to start a flagship program with various partners (health agencies) by launching a Mobile Health Care Unit (MHU) which will work at grass root level educating people about health care schemes and setting up health check-up camps. Also an Auto van will move around in the local premises and communities with banners of Do’s and Don’ts along with audio message of the COVID-19 helpline numbers, hospitals among others.
We are in the process of releasing short video format skits, involving local people, with the message consisting of safety measures to be followed for safeguarding oneself from coronavirus. These videos will be shared on social media platforms. We are also making mannequins with masks that are holding sanitizers and these will be placed in and around major local areas/cross-walks. There will be sanitization drives at public places such as – bus stops, panchayat bhavans, local markets and community centers along with mask distribution.
ASHA workers are also involved with us to help distribute hand-outs and pamphlets to local communities.