October 2013 | Sangeeta Menon
'The Tata group has always believed in nation building'
Dr Mukund Rajan, chairman, Tata Council for Community Initiatives, speaks to Sangeeta Menon on why Tata companies are joining hands to address the skills-building priority
Tata companies have been involved in skills-development initiatives of their own. Why did the group feel the need to take up this initiative collectively?
One reason is the economic landscape that we have in India today. We estimate that some 140 million young people will enter the workforce over the next decade. The biggest concern is whether these young people are going to have the right skills. The industry finds that the people coming into the workforce currently are not always appropriately skilled; companies have to invest a fair amount in retraining them.
If we don’t provide the right skill sets and render people employable, then huge numbers of unemployed young people could be on the streets in an environment where a fair amount of affluence exists. So we run the risk of society witnessing tensions. While it is a national issue, it is also a need of the companies. One of the most serious shortages faced by companies is that of the right labour force, with the right skills to deliver projects on time, even in basic trades such as plumbing, welding and carpentry.
Mr Ramadorai has been a huge inspiration. He is the advisor to the prime minister on skills development and a lot of our focus on why this is important for our country has come from him. This group-wide activity was really triggered by a presentation he made to Group Chairman Cyrus Mistry. The Chairman immediately felt this resonated strongly with all that our group stands for, and it leverages very well the capabilities and expertise of our group companies.
We are approaching this collectively because we want to make sure that in corporate social responsibility [CSR], we embrace a few initiatives where the collective is greater than the sum of the parts. We must create a national impact. Most of our companies will have something to contribute and it is not something removed from our core competency or belief system. Many of our companies are already doing these things, but the impact is often only local. The scale that the companies can create if they work together is larger than what any industrial house can achieve in India.
How will the group reconcile the nation-building intent with business benefit?
From our perspective there is no profit motive. But what will certainly help the companies is that they can meet their own requirement for skilled labour. They can also share their training facilities with other corporate entities and the government, involve their employees in this initiative including as volunteers, and achieve a sense of satisfaction for giving back to society.
With skills development becoming a major agenda, what impact do you anticipate on the group’s CSR efforts?
I don’t see any significant realignment of activities. What we would probably see is a closer and more transparent link between the CSR activity and the company’s core business capability.
What challenges do you anticipate with this initiative?
As we research the space, we are discovering new things. For instance, it is not enough to put up the necessary infrastructure for training; driving traffic into those training centres could be a challenge. Part of the problem lies in poor communication and awareness. The government needs to create awareness about these programmes, that they could lead to potential employment. That could encourage people to get enrolled, even travel long distances to get skilled. There are several incentives provided by the government to make these programmes attractive, but tapping them in the right way is important.
This programme will be a huge learning for us because we are trying to significantly multiply the capability we have created so far. But this is something we are committed to doing. It speaks for the ethos of the group, which has always believed in nation building.
The Tata Group recognized the city level winners from the South Zone (Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Pondicherry) of the 5th annual ‘Tata Building India School Essay Competition - 2010-11', recently at The Russian centre of Science & Culture, Chennai. The winners were selected from a competitive pool of students through 15 city level competitions conducted in 4 cities for English and 13 for Tamil.
The English edition of the essay competition was held across Chennai, Coimbatore, Cochin and Trivandrum with 175 schools participating while the Tamil edition was held across Chennai, Kanchipuram, Vellore, Pondicherry, Trichy, Dindigul, Madurai, Tirunelvelli, Nagerkoil, Villupuram, Thiruvanamalai, Coimbatore and Salem with 425 schools participating, attracting a total of over 3.5 lakh students.
The awards ceremony was held at The Russian centre of Science & Culture in Chennai and the chief guest at the event, renowned academic. P. Aravindan- Vice Chancellor,
Dr. M.G.R. Educational & Research Institute, awarded trophies and gift certificates to the winners. The winning essays at the city level will be further judged by a prominent jury for national level recognition.
The theme for the 2010-11 edition of the essay competition was ‘Poverty reduction' . Speaking on the occasion, P. Aravindan, Vice Chancellor, Dr. M.G.R. Educational & Research Institute,said, “ This is a good platform for young students to hone their skills. This will go a long way in nurturing talent and assist them to become strong contenders to represent the country at international level. I urge more companies to take up this initiative. ”.
The competition is a unique initiative undertaken by the Tata group of companies to motivate the youth towards nation building. It provides a unique platform to showcase their expressions in writing, on a host of subjects related to nation building.
Snehal Pinto Guest of Honor and ISISC president “I would like to congratulate the winners. You are the future leaders of this county; I want to thank the Tatas for giving this opportunity to the students. This trophy is only a small beginning in your journey. No matter what challenges come your way, you will go ahead and succeed. ”.
Tata Building India School Essay Competition 2010-2011
The Tata Building India School Essay Competition is one of the key initiatives undertaken by the Tata group of companies to motivate the youth of India towards thinking about nation building. It provides a unique platform to showcase their expressions in writing, on a host of subjects related to nation building.
Started in 2006 with 6 cities and 1 lakh students in English language, the competition has grown manifold to become India's largest essay competition touching almost 2 million students across 8 languages in 2010-11.
The current year program is set to yet again touch 2 million students in 5000+ schools nationwide. The idea of the competition has been very well received by both the students and the teaching fraternity reflected by the overwhelming response from participating schools and students. It is the belief of the Tata group of companies that the young minds of the country, if directed positively, can bring greater recognition and glory to the nation.
For more information please log on to www.tatabuildingindia.com