Giving Matters at Piramal Enterprises

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This month we are featuring the culture of giving at Piramal Enterprises, through the initiatives and impact of the Piramal Foundation, committed to finding cost-effective, relevant & innovative solutions to our country’s most pressing challenges.

We were fortunate to know more about this and about corporate foundations trying to steer change from Mr. Paresh Parasnis, who is the head of the Piramal Foundation that is responsible for all the CSR activities of Piramal Enterprises.

GiveIndia: What's your role and for how long have you been in the organization?
Paresh: My role as Head of the Piramal Foundation involves overseeing the activities of the Foundation (which span across education, healthcare, clean drinking water and women’s empowerment) and being responsible for the CSR activities of Piramal Enterprises. Having joined the organisation in August 2012, we are working with our various initiatives in developing a three year strategy on the way forward. While the issues are many, we need to ensure that we remain focused and efficient in delivering the best possible outcomes. Also, as we build our mandate, there is a pressing need to ensure that governance practices are firmly embedded in the organisation which ensures rigour in decision making, regularity in monitoring and sustenance in organisational practices. Assessment of outcomes is another area where we need to put in a lot of effort.

GiveIndia:  How does the Piramal Foundation try to achieve its mission in light of the group's business values and objectives?
Paresh: The core values of the Piramal Group are focused around Knowledge, Action and Care. The Foundation has, in a sense, embodied these values in the approach that is has taken across all its projects – Piramal Foundation for Education Leadership (PFEL), Health Management & Research Institute (HMRI), Sarvajal and Source For Change.

Care for us denotes trusteeship of the various stakeholders that we work with – employees, customers, the communities that we work with and society at large. Our work in the Foundation involves working with communities which are underserved in respect of the services that we focus on. Our partnership with government agencies and other foundation enables us to identify these communities where the need for these services is the maximum.

We believe that the services that we enable have to be backed by a deep understanding of the domain – Knowledge denotes deep expertise of the subject matter. We have, over the last five years, built up the necessary capabilities in our project teams that bring the required expertise to bear on any problem area. This expertise has been combined with innovative practices to ensure that the solution that we propose is capable of being scaled geographically can stay robust when scaled and is financially efficient for the segment that we hope to serve.

Two facets of the core value – Action - revolve around Entrepreneurship and Integrity. We have a large number of initiatives which are driven by each project team – these are, in turn, based on the specific needs as they arise. The project teams are expected to develop solutions that are most appropriate to the issue at hand without having to validate with any ‘central’ team. Integrity – consistency in thought, speech and action – is manifest in all the work that we do in the Foundation and, in fact, across the Group.

GiveIndia:  What are the key initiatives that the Foundation has taken up? Are there any must do activities that your team does every year?
Paresh: At Piramal Foundation, we support various initiatives & collaborations in the areas of Health, Education and Youth Empowerment.

Health Management initiatives referred to as Piramal Swasthya has two major programs. Firstly, Health Management and Research Institute (HMRI), is a large scale initiative in partnership with Government providing healthcare services to disadvantaged people with limited or no access to primary healthcare. HMRI currently has 13 projects in 6 states (Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Karnataka) providing services to about 160 million people across the country. Another small scale “For-Profit” initiative is E-Swasthya which will become self sustaining over a period of time. E-swasthya delivers healthcare to “No doctor Zones”. Harvard Business School is running a case study on this initiative.

In the field of Education, we have another large initiative in collaboration with Government - Piramal Foundation for Education & Leadership (PEFL). At PEFL we believe in inculcating leadership skills and imparting relevant knowledge to head masters of government schools. The program is currently working with 1,000 schools in Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra covering approx 1,50,000 students.

We also have other “For Profit” initiatives created in a way that they will become self sustaining over a period of time - Source for Change (Rural BPO) is an initiative for Women’s Empowerment providing quality BPO services to global clients at competitive prices and empowering rural India with employment opportunities.  Another initiative that has been covered in a Harvard case study is Piramal Water – Sarvajal that provides affordable and pure drinking water. This initiative is successfully running across 150 towns and villages in Gujarat and Rajasthan.

Apart from these, Mr. Ajay Piramal, Chairman- Piramal Group, is also the Chairman of world’s biggest NGO in education sector- Pratham. We actively support Annamrita- the mid-day meal scheme of ISKCON, covering more than 80,000 school children in Mumbai.

GiveIndia:  Till date, over 400 employees from the Piramal group have signed up for the Payroll Giving programme, contributing over 70 lacs of funds. In fact, the group companies do match contributions as well. Do you think Payroll Giving makes for an easier way for employees to engage with the cause of giving?
Paresh: The Payroll Giving programme in the Piramal Group has been a major organised activity to engage employees with the cause of giving. While financial contributions are an easy way to engage, a recent survey that we did amongst employees threw up interesting insights. A large number of employees have shown a desire to know more about the Foundation’s activities and also be involved in contributing through their own efforts to specific needs of each project – these contributions would be structured as Task based activities, Event based activities and Strategic activities.
GiveIndia:  What's your take on corporate foundations trying to steer a change as opposed to CSR efforts integrated within or as a corporate function. Do you think they are different? If so, in what regard?
Paresh: Speaking from my experience with Piramal Foundation, I think the basic difference between a corporate foundation and CSR integrated as a corporate function is implementation of a project. Piramal Foundation is a foundation implementing projects for underserved communities, not just a grant making one. Our key focus areas are healthcare, education, youth and women’s empowerment. We have multiple projects running in these areas, a large number of which operate in Public Private Partnership. The Foundation engages with domain experts in the specific areas catered to by all our projects.

As opposed to this approach, in CSR (as a corporate function) the opportunity to implement a project is limited. The employee volunteer ends up working with an organisation/NGO on a specific cause identified by the organisation.

There is whole lot of a difference in the approach we take at Piramal Foundation. There are challenges in our country which need innovative & cost effective solutions As a Foundation we can invest in innovative solutions and then scale them in a partnership mode once the ‘proof of concept’ is established. Generally, in CSR, companies will partner with NGOs with an established track record.

GiveIndia: What's the future of giving at Piramal and how do you see the Piramal Foundation contributing towards this future of giving?
Paresh: At Piramal foundation we classify giving by two parameters – giving financially and giving in kind. Our group companies are associated with GiveIndia and we encourage our employees to give a part from their salaries through the Payroll giving programme. We even match our employee contribution. Looking forward, we are working with the GiveIndia team to reach out to all 10 plant locations in India with the Payroll giving programme.

We also encourage our employees to give in kind through engagement in task based, event based or strategic activities. We are about to launch an Employee Social Impact Strategy to contribute to the cause of their choice by doing what they are best – helping put systems in place, working on fund raising strategy, training for employees of the NGO etc. We will seek participation from senior management to give inputs on at the strategy that can assist the NGO in scaling its operations across geographies.

To us Payroll Giving along with contributing personal time and effort is the way forward.

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