Real Estate Development and Corporate Social Responsibility in India

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By Kishor Pate, CMD, Amit Enterprises Housing Ltd

In India, we tend to look at CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) as a new concept. In fact, it is as old as the concept of business itself.

In India, we tend to look at CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) as a new concept. In fact, it is as old as the concept of business itself. It is only in the last fifty years or so that it has become a matter of social debate and public opinion. However, socially aware and responsible companies have been engaged in some form of CSR or the other for much longer than that. India is a country in which companies have always been expected to give back to society. This principle is firmly rooted in our ancient history and dates back to the days of Chanakya – India’s very own ancient business guru.

Society in India is very symbiotic and inter-dependent, as opposed to the silo mentality often seen in the West. It is only during the days of the east India Company that an exploitative element was introduced to doing business in India. When the British left the country, they also left behind a twisted concept of profiteering and empire-building which we have never really lost. Even so, many Indian companies are engaged in hands-on CSR activity which does not necessarily get spoken about, but is still very real. For instance, the social responsibility efforts of many real estate developers goes unnoticed simply because it is not highlighted as CSR at all.

Real estate is a very local business. In the first place, it takes place in localities and locations, with ‘location, location, location’ being the foremost mantra of what gives value to property. However, there are no ‘new locations’ – only areas that have not been developed as yet. These areas are usually already inhabited. It is a logical but often overlooked fact that real estate development does indeed benefit the original dwellers in an area in many ways:

– It provides immediate and future employment to locals in an area. Shops and other commercial establishments crop up around new residential buildings, and these are invariably run by locals.

– The infrastructure improves, raising property values and benefiting the original land and property owners of the area.

– Doctors and health care facilities arrive.

– The area is connected to municipal water and electricity supply.

– These factors have a direct bearing on the quality of life of the local inhabitants.

– These are direct benefits, but of course they do not originate from a developer’s sense of social responsibility. When CSR does occur in context with actual real estate development, it must essentially be directed at those who contribute to the actual process of development.

This is a maxim that Amit Enterprises Housing Ltd believes in very firmly. For example, we provide schooling to the children of the construction workers at all our sites. We have tied up with ‘Door Step School’ – an NGO which addresses the need to educate the marginalized sections of society.

Door Step School provides education and support to the often-forgotten children of pavement dwellers, slum dwellers, construction site families and many other underprivileged families. Many of these children are not enrolled in schools and have limited access to books and places to study. Also, many children drop out of school to work or care for younger children. With neither support nor resources at home, such children tend to have no opportunities for education.

Door Step School was established in Mumbai in 1988 and later expanded to Pune in 1992. Amit Enterprises Housing Ltd saw the potential of contributing positively to the lives of the construction workers it employs and has been working together with Door Step School ever since. In keeping with this program, AEHL provides school structures and meals to the children of construction workers, so that their education can take place free of cost even as their parents earn a living at our sites.

We are very proud of the fact that many of these children have gone on to higher education, thereby enabling their families to achieve higher standards of living.

(Kishor Pate is the chairman and managing director of Amit enterprises. He is one of the most reliable and respected names in the construction world. He has experience of twenty-five years in real estate in Pune.)

(Sourced from MoneyControl.Com)

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