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CSR Leaders: Suresh Khandelwal from Electrosteel Castings Ltd talks about their ‘Tailoring and Fashion Designing’ programme for women in Tirupati

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Leading Ductile Iron Pipes and Fittings manufacturer company Electrosteel Castings Limited (ECL) is running a skill training programme for women in Andhra Pradesh as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
The project aims to empower women residing in villages around Srikalahasthi in Tirupati district, Andhra Pradesh. Currently, ECL- Srikalahasthi Works is conducting a 100 days skill development programme on ‘Tailoring and Fashion Designing’ for local women under the guidance of professional trainers from Citizens Welfare Forum, Srikalahasthi.
Mr. Suresh Khandelwal, Chief Operating Officer, Electrosteel Castings Ltd, Srikalahasthi Works opens up to The CSR Journal about the initiative and how the company aims to empower underprivileged women across India. Following are excerpts from the conversation.

1. Please tell us about your 100 days skill development program on ‘Tailoring and Fashion Designing’ for women in Tirupati district of Andhra Pradesh

This programme is designed to equip women with tailoring and fashion designing skills over a 100-day period. The training is imparted at our skill development centre in SriKalahasthi, which has been fully refurbished with modern infrastructure in 2022. At the skill development centre, a regular batch of 30 women from nearby villages is attending this programme. They are being imparted training on stitching and designing of women’s garments like jackets, traditional women garments etc.
It is a two-and-a-half-hour training session everyday starting at 10.30 am. The timing was fixed keeping in mind the daily routine that these women need to attend at their households. All the input materials and infrastructure needed for the training are provided by us to the trainees. After completion of the programme, we conducted a final assessment, and successful candidates are being awarded a sewing machine as part of this CSR initiative.
We have also organised surprise visits during the training sessions by our senior management team to receive feedback from the trainees. The feedback received has been very encouraging with trainees expressing their gratitude and also giving us cues for other special needlework skills that they want to further acquire.

 

2. What was the inspiration to start this kind of a program?

We kick-started an initiative in our company, where people from the nearby villages get to meet the senior management team in an open house meeting held every quarter. During one of these meetings, the female participants also shared their views. They expressed their desire to support their families with additional income. As part of our CSR initiatives, we are committed to promote women empowerment which we believe will help in the development of communities around Srikalahasthi. Our company’s vision is that CSR in the true sense is empowering people with skills hence contributing towards building a confident, self-sufficient community.
When we decided to take up a programme for women empowerment, we examined several alternatives before choosing this initiative. After much brainstorming, the team felt that ‘Tailoring and Fashion Designing’ – would be a wise choice, as this skill is second nature to women and after being trained, they would be able to use this as means for supporting their family income. The finalisation process involved analysing the target population, scope of the programme, identification of trainers, and then finally rolling out a programme which upholds ‘quality and consistency’ which is synonymous with the identity of our brand Electrosteel Castings Ltd.
Initially, identifying trainers was a challenging task. For this we approached Citizens Welfare Forum in Srikalahasthi. They identified two women instructors having 10-15 years of experience in tailoring and fashion designing. We examined their credentials and took them on board.

 

3. Why did you choose to execute such a program in Tirupati district of Andhra Pradesh and not somewhere else?

We have our manufacturing facility at Rachagunneri village in Srikalahasthi Mandal, Tirupati District of Andhra Pradesh, and a large part of our workforce comes from nearby surrounding villages. The very purpose of our CSR programme is to give something back to the community where our manufacturing facility is located.
Most of the women residing in these villages are unemployed. They work as agricultural labour during season time, with no guarantee of continuous employment. This programme was undertaken with a vision to uplift communities around our facility.

4. Since how long has this project been running?

Initially, the project was launched in 2017. Training was imparted in tailoring, fashion designing and Arya work by external trainers. While the pandemic had interrupted the programme, the centre was refurbished completely and the infrastructure was updated with new sewing machines to restart the initiative in full swing again in July, 2022.

5. How many rural women have been benefited from this project till date?

Around 95 women have been trained till date. Each batch will undergo a 100-day programme comprising around 30 trainees. This training has been planned as a continuous initiative round the year, churning out batches of skilled, empowered and confident women. Our vision is to conduct three batches every year, which means around 100 women will get trained annually and 100 families in and around would benefit from this initiative.

6. Are you generating employment opportunities for these women once their training is complete?

There has been an overwhelming response from the participants as well as from other women from nearby villages to the training and many more have expressed their desire to participate in the forthcoming programme. The participants, who have gained tremendous self-confidence, can now earn approximately Rs. 15,000 to Rs. 18,000 per month from stitching of garments, thus supplementing their family income.
They have also expressed their desire to learn stitching of men’s garments and kids uniforms to earn additional income. From every batch, few successful candidates will be awarded with sewing machines for self-empowerment.

7. Do you plan to implement this CSR program in any other part of Andhra Pradesh or any other state of India?

We are currently training women from four villages–Rachagunneri, Chindepalli, Challapalem and BC Colony which are near our manufacturing facility. However, we are seeing a lot of enthusiasm from women from other villages too. Hence, we are considering extending the programme to others as well as we go ahead.
Over the years, the company has focused on many initiatives with the objective of improving the livelihood of village communities through active CSR in the areas of Health, Education, Empowerment, Infrastructure Development and Sports. ‘The Skill Development Programme’ is an excellent initiative that has received tremendous appreciation and enthusiasm. Seeing its success, we are contemplating extending the programme in villages in other parts of the state too.

8. Do you have any other CSR projects for women’s empowerment anywhere in India?

Corporate Social Responsibility has a long tradition in Electrosteel. We are a Company that lives its mantra of ‘technology that cares’. We are committed to women empowerment which we believe will help in the development of communities all over India.
Our ongoing flagship CSR initiatives in Andhra Pradesh include empowering village children with basic computer skills and the ‘UbharteSitare Initiative’ that supports students and sports enthusiasts financially in their academic careers. In 2017, we also conducted a programme on computer literacy in Ramapuram village in RC Puram Mandal under the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao Scheme. We have also taken up CSR initiatives for women empowerment in West Bengal.

 

 

Ahana Bhattacharya can be reached at ahana@thecsrjournal.in