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Social responsibility and core business should be related

Financial Express, 05 August, 2007

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) has emerged as a significant theme in the global community and has become a mainstream activity for many corporates. For us, it has become an integral part of our strategy in running our business.

Whether the issues pertain to the environment, product safety and impact, or education and societal benefits, they are all part of the long-term thinking that is characteristic of quality management. I believe companies that proactively address social issues today are sure to deliver values and safeguard the interest of their various stakeholders.

CSR is not just about philanthropy. We realise that whatever a company does in the social realm should be related to the core business. It is about building synergies with what the company is good at. Royal Sundarams CSR strategy is based on this philosophy. Some of the initiatives that we have undertaken in the past are:

Risk solutions for tribal women
Royal Sundaram has exclusively designed Shakti Security Shield for the benefit of underprivileged tribal women, who are most often the neglected lot in rural India. Our health cover scheme aims to significantly enhance the economic security of these tribal women.
Despite the progress our country has made over decades, it is sad but true that tribals continue to remain on the periphery of society. As part of our tribal welfare initiative, we have tied up with NGOs to offer exclusive healthcare services in tribal areas.

Risk protection for the rural poor
Royal Sundaram has designed innovative insurance solutions to cater to the needs of the rural poor in one south Indian state, working together with a leading micro finance institution in India. Through this partnership, we offer a wide range of cover that protects the insured against loss of livestock, hospitalisation, critical illness and loss of assets of rural enterprises. We study the cost impact on rural people and offer these policies at an affordable premium.

Rural employment opportunity
As the urban and rural divide increases, youngsters in rural and semi-urban areas are getting fewer chances of finding good employment. Their rural background, absence of fancy degrees, computer skills and the inability to communicate well has gone against them.
Royal Sundaram has introduced the Apprentices Recruitment and Training Program (RS ART), which is aimed at creating employment opportunities for young talent from rural and semi-urban sectors.
Launched in July 2004, the program involves training and engaging fresh automobile engineering diploma graduates as motor assessors and assessment
analysts. Interestingly, our programme, to a certain extent, helps address the talent challenges faced by the insurance industry.

The selected candidates are given a 45-day structured training, which includes computer classes, grooming and field practice. After the training, the selected candidates are taken through competency-based assessment processes following which the best-fit candidates are offered employment with Royal Sundaram.
Apart from these planned long-term activities, Royal Sundaram is involved in social activities like supporting orphanages, donating towards natural calamities and sponsoring education to employees. We strongly believe in promoting road safety and have launched public awareness campaigns in the form of signages, traffic signboards etc.

An appropriately-developed CSR programme, especially when it involves its employees and customers, has a lasting impression on a company's reputation as well as its business. With systematic planning, companies can be effective vehicles for social betterment.
(Antony Jacob is managing director, Royal Sundaram Alliance Insurance Company Ltd.)

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