Forbes Marshall, through its social initiatives department, has been doing philanthropy in the neighborhood communities since its inception. It has witnessed a shift in the past three decades from just philanthropy to outcome based philanthropy. The Ministry of Corporate Affairs specified in the new Companies Act 2013, under section 135 read with schedule VII, that companies which qualify for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) under the specified rules must spend at least two percent (2%) of their average net profits on CSR activities. The social sector scenario, especially in the urban areas, has therefore seen a rise in the funds being made available for CSR to communities through NGOs, Foundations, social enterprises, etc. All these actors are vying to work in the same geography and on similar initiatives namely in the area of health, education, women empowerment. Forbes Marshall too has worked in these traditional sectors and will continue to do so in some measure. However, it was strongly felt that we should respond to this changed scenario and think of initiatives that will be more meaningful.
Thus we looked at the concept of “creating shared value” (first discussed by Management Gurus, Michael E. Porter and Mark R. Kramer), which is essentially businesses finding the link between Competitive Advantage and Corporate Social Responsibility. It is a management strategy in which companies find business opportunities in social problems. It was felt that FM should explore the possibility of linking its core competence with a social problem in such a way that it also addresses a specific challenge the business may be facing.
With the concept of Shared Value in mind internal discussions were held with key Managers, Directors and Business Heads to find out specific challenges FM’s business was facing and whether these challenges could be resolved by addressing a social issue. One of the major challenges that emerged in these discussions was,
Providing after sales service and maintenance of our equipment to our customers.
The discussions revealed that we are not able to reach to our customers, especially for compliance under the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), where we now need to offer Annual Maintenance Contracts (AMC) for product/ equipment supplied and also provide remote connectivity. FM is not able to provide this service due to logistical reasons and this is affecting customer relationships since users need to have their equipment up and running and there was a loss of business opportunities by way of AMCs as well as the spares business. This challenge could be addressed by developing specific skills in people outside FM who could then provide these services to the customers. If we consciously select people who are economically disadvantaged, it could also address a social problem by generating opportunities for livelihood and/ entrepreneurship. Such a CSR initiative would eventually support our business model.
The social initiative department has in the past supported skilling initiatives for youth in the neighborhood communities in technical and non-technical areas e.g. LABS, welding training, CII affirmative action programmes, to name a few. These initiatives though linked to livelihood generation were not related to our core competence nor business excellence. Forbes Marshall would like to pilot a CSR initiative in skilling youth with technical background to create shared value.
Developing manpower to get good customer experience.
The project will develop a cadre of youth, from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, as Customer Support technicians through a specialised course. These youth will service and maintain the range of equipment supplied by FM to its customers as contractors or as entrepreneurs. The course, which will be designed by FM, will be offered through an appropriate technical training organisation.
The specific objectives of the initiative are :
To design short term technical training courses which will develop the specific technical skills of engineering diploma / degree holders to service and maintain equipment in Process Industry
To train / upskill economically disadvantaged youth with a technical background to service and maintain equipment in process industry
To provide linkage to livelihood opportunities to these youth and provide mentoring support up to six months .