Not all corporate houses choose to fund education or health. A few visionary put their funds towards asset creation – beneficial to all citizens; in the present and the future.
1. Tribal Development: Mahindra & Mahindra is best known for its Nanhi Kali programme which funds education for girl children. A hidden gem in their portfolio is their contribution to tribal communities in the Araku Valley in Andhra Pradesh. Working in the area for 15 years now, the Foundation intervened to help the resident tribals form farmer co-operatives to grow and market organic coffee. The all-round development approach work had environmental, economic and social benefits. The coffee grown was organic, profits stayed within the community of growers and the farmers have enjoyed y-o-y income growth. The project has touched 100,000 lives so far. The intervention included planting six million trees in the valley by 2015.
2. Saving an endangered species: For 40 years, Tata Power has been working towards protecting and promoting the endangered mahseer fish. Most recently, they have set up a website to spread the work about this dying species. Their breeding centre at Lonavla in Maharashtra has established a proven system to breed the fish. The initiative has been successful, providing more than 10 million seed that are distributed all over the country. Their efforts have resulted in 3-4 lakh fingerlings being bred a year, rescuing the fish from extinction and increasing the biodiversity in the space.
3. Science and Technology: Narayana Murthy faced criticism for his remarks on the lack of scientific research in India. The Infosys Science Foundation is doing its part to counter the lack of funding Indian scientists and researchers based in the university. They award world class research achievements in science, mathematics, the humanities and the social sciences. Prize money is generous – the awardees receive a sum of Rs65 lakh, and the jury appears to have a good eye for winners. Sample this – a previous recipient went on to work on the UN’s Millennium Development Goals; another became the RBI Governor. Indian universities are underfunded and scientific research is often not a priority. This initiative should go a long way in encouraging their work.
4. Preserving art and heritage: Not a lot of corporates venture into heritage conservation. However, JSW Foundation, the charitable arm of the steel major JSW Steel took it upon themselves to restore the ancient Krishna temple at Hampi, Karnataka. An ambitious eight-year long project, the effort was awarded the UNESCO Asia Pacific Award for Cultural Heritage Conservation. Many of India’s majestic ruins lie in a state of disrepair, and the Foundation’s intervention has ensured that Hampi’s temple did not meet the same fate.