Redefining the heart of logistics

The global economy rests on our ability to move things around. Our ability to create things based on inputs sourced from all across the world and then supply finished products to consumers within the right amount of time. This massive ecosystem of moving goods and materials is enabled by the logistics sector which consists of trucking, railways, shipping and everything else in-between. Steeped in old world technologies and practices the sector has largely been seen as part of support services and backend infrastructure. Though things are beginning to change. These changes are driven in equal part by climate change, increased protectionism by countries to global trade and the transformational impacts of technology and digitisation.

A.P. Moller – Maersk is a transport and logistics business that employs over 85,000 people across operations in over 120 countries. Maersk is taking steps to adapt the company to this changing world. Its vision is to become a global integrator of container logistics through digital innovation, connecting and simplifying the global supply chain.

The company has 4 top priorities: decarbonising logistics, multiplying the benefits of trade, halving food loss in the supply chain, and leading change in the ship recycling industry. Significant efforts are being made to reduce carbon emissions from operations as the transport sector is responsible for 23% of global energy-related emissions. Shipping alone accounts for 3-4% of global emissions. Maersk, a significant global player in this space, has internal targets to reduce CO2 emissions by 60% relative CO2 by 2020. The company is working with the industry towards de-carbonising logistics and is exploring how renewables may be used to power vessel operations. Substantial improvements will be seen through the roll-out of a Connected Vessels project, which focuses on upgrading data collection and reporting systems on its shipping vessels. Real-time, coordinated data for the routes sailed and the amount of time spent in ports will lead to lower fuel consumption, less time wasted and fewer delays  In total, Maersk expects these initiatives to reduce fuel consumption by 0.5% every year over five years, corresponding to a reduction of approximately 847,000 tonnes of CO2 eq.

In addition, to global projects, the company has country-specific interventions too. Julian Bevis, Senior Director, South Asia – Maersk Group is part of the core committee that leads Sustainability and CSR initiatives at Maersk India. He believes that the transport and logistics sector in India is in need of a paradigm shift. “The transportation system needs to change. The people in the system… the grass root level workers need a better quality of life. Drivers, fishermen, ship breakers have tough lives. Truckers are the lifeline of the Indian road transport system and on whose shoulder the Indian logistics sector thrives, yet, grossly ignored, underserved and unattended. Fishermen brave the rough waves of the ocean every single day and yet, earn so less. Their safety and basic needs are seldom addressed. “Similarly, ship breakers do really hard work and yet their health is often at risk” says Julian. Maersk India’s CSR programs are focused on providing health services and addressing basic issues faced by these communities. Close to 78,000 truckers and 21000 fishermen and 2500 ship breakers over the past few years have participated in these programs.

In 2016, Maersk began working to change the ship recycling industry to raise standards and create safe working conditions and environmentally sound practices at ship breaking facilities in Alang, a port in Gujarat. Working in partnership with participating yards, the on-the-ground achievements have the potential to break the gridlock in the ship recycling industry. The company is now working to accelerate change through a push for increased transparency on shipowners’ policies and practices. Maersk has also started a health project in partnership with Red Cross in Alang, after a survey highlighted that access to health care – in general and in emergencies – was confirmed as the most urgent unmet need.

“Are we making long-term impact?” is the question that Julian constantly asks himself and his team. “We need to make our projects self-sustaining and impactful. Long-term change and impact need commitment – not just financial, but genuine intent. No matter what we do, it’s just a drop in the ocean” says Julian. “We must collaborate to change the eco-system. Indian transport workers, work insanely long hours, are away from their families and have no support systems. This is completely different from what we see in Europe. Can we develop a platform of like-minded people who can work together to make the much-needed changes?”

While, these programs are specific to India, but they are also part of the company’s global alignment with the sustainable development goals(SDG’s). The SDG’s express what is increasingly expected of businesses: To work in partnerships to create solutions that contribute to developing a more sustainable and inclusive world. “We’re very aware that companies can no longer stay on the sidelines when it comes to global issues…” says Søren Skou, the global CEO[1]. He further says, “It is about businesses and other partners working together to solve a complex problem.”

The future will bring many challenges. The biggest one, other than climate change will be the one of digitisation. IDC predicts that by the end of 2020, one-third of all manufacturing supply chains will be using analytics-driven cognitive capabilities, thus increasing cost efficiency by 10% and service performance by 5%[2].

While this will bring many new opportunities at the same time it will have many fundamental impacts on the way logistics businesses are run and what they define as part of their responsibilities in creating a better world. Digitisation will lead to data sharing, reducing operational costs and better efficiencies, but it could also adverse impacts and unintended consequences as technological advances are changing how we live, work, produce and trade. For instance, with the use of robotics, the number of people that need to be employed may significantly reduce in the future. While repetitive tasks will be performed by machines, people would possibly focus on more complex activities, implying that workers would need to be re-skilled. [3]Julian has a philosophical perspective on this. He says, “Ideas won’t work without having the people to implement them. No matter how clever the idea.”

A.P. Moller – Maersk is expanding the scope of its efforts to drive real change at a systemic level. This is why the company is slowly moving from managing internal CO2 emissions to the entire logistics system. Similar strategies are being followed, in other initiatives such as reducing food loss in supply chains and working with other companies to improve ocean health.

Based on a conversation with Julian Bevis, Senior Director, South Asia – Maersk Group

(Original Post)

  1. WEF Impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution on Supply Chains
  2. Maersk Sustainability Report 2017
  3. IndustryWeek

Distributed Generation Models like Microgrids powered by Renewables Will Make a Huge Difference in Improving Energy Access

How does ABB look at sustainability? How do you build sustainability into everyday business? What are the focus areas for India?

We celebrated 125 years at ABB in 2016 and over the company’s life sustainability has developed as the DNA of the company. Especially considering that ABB has strong base in countries like Sweden and Switzerland that are known for their sustainability culture and ethos. This has developed into our core belief and ingrained in our value system. This culture now pervades throughout the value chain of our stakeholders. Energy efficiency and innovating technology to decouple growth from environment impact is central to our sustainability.

Given that our equipment generally has a long-life cycle, energy efficiency and sustainability becomes the bedrock of all that we do. Our prime focus is on advancing technology with energy efficiency both on the conventional energy and renewables. It is about running the world without consuming the earth – products and solutions which makes the generation, transmission, distribution and usage of energy in different forms more environment friendly for utilities, industries, infrastructure and transportation sectors. Hence it is an integral part of our operations and solutions. We also have a significant influence on the land where we operate. Both transmission and distribution require significant amounts of land. Through R&D ABB pioneered the concept of high voltage direct current transmission

(HVDC) which requires 60 percent less land corridor, reduces losses and hence permits us to use technology to impact both in scale and depth in achieving our goals. Our value system looks at sustainability in the long run and our programmes span across environmental, economic and social spheres and across our value chain of production, delivery and consumption.

We build our long-term goals and our short-term goals link into them. We are a technology company, for example the onset of solar energy with solar costs dropping significantly and the reliability being high, technology is a means of tackling pressures on the finances. Energy is where we are big and automation is our strength. Different forms of energy especially renewable has created an abundance but the challenge for technology is in usability, tackling intermittencies and making it available during requirement. ABB has the highest market share in various technologies to manage the volatility of renewable like in solar inverters. We have had the first mover advantage in in products and technologies to cater to the transition from thermal to solar. Our solar inverter factory set up way back in 2012 in Bengaluru now caters to around 40% of the market. In wind, too, we have a large contribution through our wind power generators, which is the heart of the turbine. Most of the OEMs use the ABB technology. Two focus areas exist – water and energy efficiency.

In India we use up to 30% more energy to produce one unit of anything across sectors as compared to best global benchmarks. The only way to reduce usage is through reducing wastage. Our approach to reducing energy usage is through focusing on automation, usage of renewable wherever applicable, making product elements more environment friendly and the next level of automation through digitalization. Automation helps by managing energy usage depending on need. Conversion from either energy intensive uses to lower intensive uses or through conversion from fossil fuel to renewables. Our sustainability action spans sectors across utilities, infrastructure and transport. In Kochi metro we have used environment friendly aluminium-zinc for power equipment making it lighter and more efficient and oil-free vacuum interrupters for switchgears. Our building automation solutions make Delhi’s T3 terminal 30% more efficient as compared to similar facilities or the Raigarh- Pugalur HVDC transmission line, which will bring down losses, integrates renewnables and decrease land requirement our efforts have helped build a sustainable planet.

How do you see the future of renewables in India? How is ABB helping in building sustainability?

Localized power generation or distributed generation models like microgrids powered by renewables will make a huge difference in improving energy access. Communities in far flung areas will be greatly benefitted. Solar or wind sources can be used to produce electricity and battery back-ups support when there is lower generation. ABB’s global technology centre for microgrids is based in India and we have a range of microgrid solutions including plug and play ones depending on installation requirements. We are now seeing solar power being produced at the lowest cost. This can help both communities and industries to take advantage of smart technology.

At our biggest manufacturing location in Vadodara, we are setting up a solar microgrid to demonstrate the power of the technology and our capability in localized generation. We have solar facilities at all our leading manufacturing locations. Also, we strongly believe in and contributing to sustainable societies. Through our CSR initiatives, we are building microgrids in two villages in Maharashtra as demonstration projects. This provides significant benefits to households and villages. We have also tied up with IIT Madras for a joint community micro grid and also fund research on batteries which also forms a core part of our supplier technology.

Another area where ABB is focussing its attention is the EV (electric vehicle) charging segment. ABB has developed fast chargers and has the largest global network of fast chargers for cars. We are working with various OEMs and government agencies to bring our global expertise to India. We have also developed concepts like depot and opportunity flash charging for buses which uses bus-stops to charge in 15 seconds. In Jabalpur, we have participated in a project for replacing diesel powered rickshaws with e-rickshaws by providing solar inverters for charging stations. The ABB inverters come with Wi-Fi connectivity for remote monitoring and centralized billing provisions in the future. The aim of the project is to replace 5000 odd rickshaws in Jabalpur to e-rickshaws. For these projects to be replicated across the country encouragement is required from both the government as well as the policy makers.

Sustainability comes naturally to ABB. How does ABB look at CSR?

CSR is as important for us as sustainability. We operate through our social pillars and operate in the areas of education, skill development, environment, healthcare and support the differently abled. We run 23 programmes across the country from our CSR funds. We also believe in institutional partners who are in the field of community engagement and who have been doing it professionally for years.

One of the key programmes that we support is Akshayapatra. We like their objective of providing nutritious food to school-going children. Given that malnutrition is rampant in rural India and it is difficult to learn on an empty stomach, Akshayapatra does a commendable job in providing measured nutritious food which encourages children to go to school and continue education. Our value systems have matched, and we are also looking at exploring options automation solutions to improve systems of their kitchens and other processes.

We have factories across India and looking at a holistic rural development model to cater to the communities in and around our operations. We have seen significant improvements where villages are adopted. In Nelamangala, Bengaluru, we have initiated our community engagement through our first intervention of improving accessibility to the villages with rebuilding roads… We have also provided solar street lights. Our next steps are to take on impactful projects based on community interaction and needs assessment like providing drinking water, skills development, primary health care etc.

At our training institute in Vadodara we run a two-year programme that provides ITI diploma to the participants. We absorb the trained manpower where we can, and the rest make careers in the general job market. Skill development is another core area of our sustainable community development program that we wish to contribute in line with the Govt. of India’s skills mission We are also focusing on the differently abled and looking to assist them with life-long employable skills and access to mobility solutions for their treatment.

We look forward to moving ahead on the path to sustainability and CSR goals taking a step at a time and to support the country in achieving its overall sustainable development agenda.

In conversation with Mr. Sanjeev Sharma, Managing Director, ABB India. (Original Post)

To Build A Culture of People Who Can Create, Read and Use Stories

Tell us something about StoryWeaver. How did the idea germinate and how has it panned out?

It all started with Pratham Books that was launched in 2004. At Pratham Books, we believe that every child has the right to enjoy good books and that they should have access to stories set in surroundings and languages familiar to them. Hence, the mission ‘to put a book in every child’s hand.’

We soon found that there weren’t enough books for children nor were they easily accessible. As a not-for-profit publisher, we started publishing books for children in different local languages – Hindi, Marathi, Kannada, Telugu, and others. This was an attempt to address the need for books in Indian languages for the children of the country. These are mainly story books that are well illustrated and affordably priced.

Over the years, Pratham Books have grown to publish across 20 Indian languages. We currently have over 375+ original titles and about 2500+ books across languages. The idea was to build a low cost scalable model so that children can readily access our books. Being a non-profit organisation, it was possible for us to do this. We soon saw print runs of 6000-8000 copies when best-selling books in India at that time had print runs of 2000 copies. By 2008, we moved to open source licensing mechanism to help spread the reach of our books.

In 2015, we started StoryWeaver which is an online platform that pushes the idea of promoting children’s reading further. When we built the platform, we had two choices. We could simply create a digital library or also build collaborative tools that would allow users to translate or version the content into languages of their choice. We felt that the latter could have greater scale and impact and so we chose that path. We launched the platform with 800 stories from Pratham Books.

All the content on the platform is Unicode compliant, which means that every word of every book is now searchable in every language and the text can be displayed on all devices. The interesting thing is that from 800 stories we have been able to scale to 6500 stories in two years. At Pratham Books, we published about 2500 books in 13 years. We’ve done more than double of that at StoryWeaver in just two years. We started with 24 languages which has jumped to 104. Some of our stories are available in over 45 languages, including Khmer language and a few African languages.

This clearly shows how our readership, though intended for India, has grown outside India as well. We, now, have around 400,000 users on the platform. Our coverage extends beyond the metros to tier-1 and tier-2 cities as well.

The platform enables a teacher/educator to read, download and print books. We enable downloads in three formats – low resolution pdfs, high resolution pdfs and epubs. Alternatively, someone can print the book and distribute it to children. StoryWeaver has enabled a number of organisations working with children to create a repository of stories in languages that are not represented in mainstream publishing. Suchana, an organization working in Birbhum, West Bengal, has translated over 60 stories to the tribal languages of Kora and Santali and printed 10,000 copies of these books which are distributed via mobile libraries and in after school resource centres.

We open our platform to both writers and translators so that more stories become available for children in languages which they are most comfortable with. The stories are interspersed with quality pictures by illustrators who are commissioned by Pratham Books. The interface is easy to work with making it possible for literally anyone to add their work. All the material on StoryWeaver is based on Creative Commons license that enables collaboration and reuse of our material. This enables us to build a culture of people who can create, read and use the stories.

We’ve had instances where people in Africa or Canada have dipped into our material and used the stories. Another instance of a similar impact story is when the Teach for India Fellows use our material in their classrooms. We’ve also had people from community associations help us out with translations. For instance, we’ve had great support in translating stories into Konkani through the support of the Konkani Bhasha Mandal. They’ve done fantastic work by translating more than 100 stories.

In recent years, our users told us of the need for non-fiction stories for children and we have created a range of STEM storybooks . In one story, How do Aeroplanes Fly, the protagonist is a young girl, Sarla, who is fascinated with planes and grows up to become a pilot. When we tested this story with children, we found that initially there was a sense that a girl couldn’t fly a plane. After the children were exposed to the story, we saw a clear attitudinal change that showed their belief changing that women can fly a plane. And that demonstrates the power that stories have to shape the worldview of children.

An interesting thing that is happening in rural areas is that either volunteers or teachers take a projector to classrooms and project the stories for the children to read. Sometimes, they hold storytelling sessions too. Teachers also download the books that are translated, say in Tamil, and print them out on half a A4 size page, thus making them quite like a storybook. They bind them and distribute these to the children to read. An extension of this is when an agency goes ahead and gamifies stories, and distributes them among the urban poor.

Another interesting thing that we are attempting with the stories is re-levelling. For instance, if the story is written for grade 3 children but someone feels that it can be useful for a grade 1 child, then the story can be customised for that level. Even re-levelled books retain the attribution to the original author.

What are some of the key initiatives led by Pratham Books?

We organize several workshops and events that help bring greater focus on children’s literature. Our missed call do, kahaani suno initiative enables children to listen to stories in English or Hindi via a missed call.

We are also working on an offline, limited capacity platform with exactly the same reading experience as the online version. The intent is to help propagate the stories in areas where there is poor connectivity. Another thing that we’ve noticed, particularly in underserved areas, is that children suffer because of underdeveloped vocabulary. We aim to work on this by adding audio stories to our platform. While listening to stories, children get exposed to a wider range of words and that helps them develop better. This will also expose them to correct diction, aiding its improvement.

In 2015, we launched another platform called Donate-a-book. We kept receiving requests from different quarters where people wanted us to donate books. Being a not-for-profit organisation, we naturally had to refuse. At the same time, there were people who wrote in wanting to donate small sums of money to Pratham Books. We decided to combine the two in this platform by making it a crowd-sourced platform for setting up libraries.

We also recently launched PhoneStories, an initiative that weaves together words, images and sounds to create a delightful reading experience for children. These have been designed to be mobile first and are available at no cost so that children across the country can access them easily.

How do you find authors or translators to write for your platform? What controls do you have in place?

We started with putting books by Pratham Books on the StoryWeaver platform. Then we approached people who have been associated with us as authors. We also connected with those who love their language and don’t find books in their language – they offered to translate books into their preferred language. There were also teachers who wanted to develop content for their students. They either wrote or translated stories to give the child a book in her/his hands.

When we launched the platform, we didn’t really anticipate the extent to which the platform would grow and hence we didn’t have any great controls in place. Even now we want to be as open as possible since it is a public platform. Clearly, with stories in so many languages, we really don’t have the required expertise in many of the languages that are on the platform. We are now building a network of volunteers who can act as reviewers for that language. They also help us in rating the stories. Our collaboration with language groups like Konkani Bhasha Mandal also ensures an optimum level of quality in the output.

How do you market and extend your reach to far corners of the country? Also, what are the key challenges you face?

As a not-for-profit organisation, we have not had great marketing budgets, but people who were looking for stories have found us. The fact that we can reach out to children across languages and geographical boundaries is really exciting. The response has been overwhelming not just in India but outside India too! It’s not that there are no challenges. How do we scale? How do we ensure the quality of user generated content? Where do we find the talent pool of authors and translators? How do we overcome problems of poor connectivity in many locations? We believe that as we grow and develop, a lot of these will naturally get addressed.

In conversation with Ms. Suzanne Singh, Chairperson, Pratham Books. (Original Post)

Social Change Happens When The Right Design Finds the Right Degree of Support on both Financial and Promotional Fronts

Titan is a watch, eyewear and jewellery company. We all know about its products and brands. What would be interesting is how the company look at its CSR and sustainability activities?

The fact that we are products and brands company and everyone’s perception is coloured by it. The reality is that this company started some 30 years back. The fame of watches is captured in our brands like Titan, Fastrack and Sonata. But, what came before the brand was the watch itself. And what made the watch was the making of it. So, the making of the watch or manufacturing is where it all began. The manufacturing was established about 30 years ago in Dharmapuri, which at that time was a backward district of Tamil Nadu. It was here that we actually went to villages in and around our plant and recruited young 18-year-old youngsters just out of school and taught them watch assembly and watch making. So, that is where we started and how the story of giving back to the community began. At Titan, it is more of a Tata’s philosophy which had started from the first day itself. Therefore, we never even thought of our work as CSR, we just thought that we were simply setting up our business. We still do the same thing.

For our factory in Uttarakhand, we went up to the villages in the hills, recruited young girls and gave them a source of livelihood and their families a new lease of life. We train them so that they can hit the ground running. Whether it served a larger purpose or not was not on our minds, it seemed the right thing to recruit locally and we did the same. Apart from providing skills and employment we have always supported our people and continue to do so. For example, in Hosur, our work has extended to setting up our own township for our employees. We give them land at very subsidised rates, helping them build houses there and setting up a very good progressive CBSE school for the employees’ children. These children are now really doing well. So, it is almost throughout their entire life cycle, a whole generation that has developed and grown. We have been doing all of this, even though the terms CSR and sustainability have become prominent in the past five years or so.

We have also been working with self-help groups (SHGs) for under-privileged women in Hosur and the set up is called MEADOWS (Management of Enterprise and Development of Women). These are small groups of women who produce the simpler parts of the watch like the bracelet, under our supervision but through self-help groups. So, it is a source of employment. We now have over 20 such units engaged and employed who contribute to the making of both watches and jewellery. It was the right thing to do. It has helped empower the women, and has helped the company as well. We do some simple things through this mechanism where it becomes a win-win proposition. For them it serves as a source of livelihood and purposeful engagement. For us, this has proved to be a low cost and a sustainable business model. This is without compromising on quality as these women work under our direct supervision.

This programme has extended to a significantly larger scale today in jewellery making. Here, we work with the jewellery craftsman called karigars. The karigar is actually the most exploited in the jewellery industry. They work under harsh conditions in a hole in the wall kind of environment where their lungs can get eaten away by toxic fumes. To improve their working conditions, we came up with the idea of a Karigar’s Park and a Karigar Centre where we get them all under one roof, and provide them with industrial tables and tools. As a result, we saw that their productivity and earnings both have grown significantly as we pay them by the gram. For us it has become cost effective as our costs have come down. So, overall, it’s a win-win proposition and it does not even qualify under a CSR programme. There are a number of such initiatives and activities that we could classify as CSR but we don’t. They are an integral part of our business and are treated as such.

We started a scholarship program in Hosur, for helping poor and needy students through college. This has continued for the last 30 years and over 2,000 students have benefited from these efforts. Several of our employees in Hosur having seen this extraordinary transformation in their own lives, have in turn given back to their own villages with their own resources and seeking minimal from Titan. They often devote their weekends to go back either to their own village or to the villages around the plant to organise activities such as free eye testing, blood donation, and veterinary clinics. They are giving back to the society. All we do is give them an opportunity and facilitate by giving them a break from work or allowing them to leave early from office.

I think the sustainability piece extends not just to society but also to the environment. If you look at our office which uses natural lighting and natural air you can get a sense of my own thinking and that of the leadership team. Our office building is LEED certified. We use natural lighting as far as possible and avoid air-conditioning, thereby saving power with both endeavours. You see the greenery around the building and the open spaces. We aim to create a surrounding that our employees love and enjoy and feel inspired to become more productive. Again, it is part of our business.

Share your thoughts on the Design Impact Awards? How do the awards fit into the company’s contribution towards the society?

I believe that social change happens when the right design finds the right degree of support on both financial and promotional fronts. That’s why we support transformative design with financial grants, advocacy, mentorship and seed capital.

Hence, we aim to identify and mentor product design innovators who would like to upscale their products’ reach to a larger community. The programme will also recognise grassroots innovators, particularly those who have been able to design creative product solutions for contextual problems using whatever means available. Design Impact Awards by Titan in collaboration with Tata Trusts is a project-based grant award that aims to positively impact the underprivileged communities and needs of the society, by encouraging and inspiring bright minds to design for the benefit of the Indian society.

The programme is open to innovators across India. Innovators who finally qualify will be financially supported up to Rs. 65 lakhs along with advocacy, recognition, and mentorship. This year we received 993 applications and we look to scale it up even further in the coming years.

Our CSR mandate consists of three pillars (Education for the girl child; Skilling for the youth and differently abled; and, Arts, Crafts and Indian Heritage) plus responsible citizenship. And design sits in that space. One of the big competencies we have is design. And, therefore, we wondered how could we do something where we can actually use our design expertise for social purpose. So, the design impact award is for assisting social entrepreneurs and working with them. So, we are building an ecosystem in which we provide assistance to the selected applicants in many ways apart from the funding alone. The purpose essentially is to support these innovators so that their ideas can see the light of the day.

The best designs are a combination of form and function. Most people confuse design with aesthetics. So, for us, when we are talking of solving a problem in the society it is about functionality, how can a product work better and more effectively.

One of the major differentiators of this program is that we are not looking at/for only for the eventual winning idea. We have a thorough and detailed evaluation and engagement process-which engages the participants rather than being an eliminating exercise. The program will engage with top 100 participants in the form of boot-camps/workshops or webinars. The aim is to provide value to a large no. of participants than just the winners

It’s a start, and if the intent is good to begin with I am sure the results will follow.

In conversation with Mr. Bhaskar Bhat, Managing Director of Titan Company Limited. (Original Post)

Our Businesses and Social Activities Both Need to Contribute to Nation Building

What are the focus areas of SREI Infrastructure?

SREI Infrastructure Finance Limited (“Srei”), a Kanoria Foundation entity, is one of India’s largest holistic infrastructure institutions. SREI, derives its name from the Sanskrit word ‘Shrey’ meaning ‘merit’ or ‘credit’. The company has been in the business for nearly three decades and has come a long way after starting its journey perhaps in one of the most difficult and challenging times. In 1989, India had not opened up its economy, which during those times, was not in good shape. There was hardly any quality investment in infrastructure projects. SREI was born then, a child of a dream, with the aim to address two of the most critical problems in our country then – financing and infrastructure. Today, SREI has close to Rs. 35,000 crore of consolidated assets under its management.

Your work in CSR centres around education, social up-liftmen, environment, humanity and spiritualism. How do they tie in with the company’s values and beliefs?

We strongly believe in “work with devotion”, being aware of our Dharma (duty) and performing our Karma (action). Our group has been actively involved in creating both business value and societal value. We decided to formalize this thought and create Kanoria Foundation, which has been incorporated with tenets of our deep rooted Hindu philosophy and as elaborated in the scriptures. Under its aegis rest our many businesses and social impact initiatives that include, education, help to acid survivors, healthcare to the needy, spirituality, green initiatives and many other areas. These social initiatives have been initiated based on the many interests of our family members and their desire to contribute towards a happy world. The core focus being hard work, dedication, devotion and a churning of ideas which benefit all stakeholders. The main reason for us to take this path has been our belief that our businesses and social activities both need to contribute to nation building. Businesses need to create sustainable and long term value and 10% of our profits from these at the Foundation level is contributed towards social initiatives. Our strategy is to invest in social initiatives that impact the body, mind and soul.

All businesses too come under the Kanoria Foundation, these include Infrastructure Financial Services; Infrastructure Development such as Roads, Ports, Telecom, Power, Rural Infrastructure, and Housing, Hospitality and Healthcare. Kanoria Foundation’s operational philosophy is based on a strong foundation of morals, values and culture.

A large component of your business is financing. How do you look at lending that promotes sustainability? What is the role of finance companies in promoting sustainable practices?

SREI believes in the concept of innovative disruption and this belief has led it to become India’s distinctive and holistic infrastructure financing institution. We have about 100,000 customers (construction companies, contractors, and others) in the infrastructure space and our team has a deep knowledge about finance. We have been financing our clients for more than two decades and been almost like a partner to them in their growth. It has encouraged and empowered entrepreneurship which we feel is the biggest contribution that a financial institution can do. Financing enables one to become a job creator and not a job seeker. Finance is a core part of everyone’s life and can significantly help improve the quality of life of all sections of society. Construction, after agriculture, is the second largest employer in the country and has a multiplier effect on nation building. Through our investment in initiatives like Sahaj, we have been able to empower entrepreneurs in the villages, who have created huge employment in rural areas. Under our Foundation’s social initiatives we have created a charitable trust, which has set up schools and educational institutions to support, educate and develop children from all strata.

How do you see SREI in years ahead?

In the last 28 years, SREI has been a part of India’s Infrastructure journey. I see ourselves continuing this journey with value addition to all stakeholders. For us the stakeholders in the pecking order are customers, employees, shareholders, society and the planet. We are in many areas of infrastructure financing, advising and developing and we hope to continue to grow profitably and responsibly. Our business objectives are long term and sustainable, so our approach is accessing, managing, investing and growing profitably, which we will continuously do.

In conversation with Mr. Hemant Kanoria, Chairman and Managing Director, Srei Infrastructure. (Original Post)