Home Leaders Speak Foram Nagori, Head-CSR, Tata Power Elaborates on Women Empowerment driving Socio-economic growth...

Foram Nagori, Head-CSR, Tata Power Elaborates on Women Empowerment driving Socio-economic growth in India

Tata Power has always envisioned that women empowerment is fundamental in driving a country’s socio-economic growth. In line with this is the company’s flagship CSR initiative ‘Anokha Dhaaga’ that aims to uplift the livelihood of underprivileged community women by making them financially independent. Elaborating on the initiative, shedding light on the CSR of the company and highlighting the company’s stance on other issues is Ms Foram Nagori, Head – CSR, Tata Power in an exclusive interaction with The CSR Journal. Following are the excerpts from the interaction.

1. What role is Tata Power playing in the country’s fight against the third wave of pandemic?

The power of collective efforts was especially found impactful during current pandemic times. Tata Power’s holistic approach towards relief & resilience measures supported over 2.6 million community members, more than 150 public institutions in underserved areas around 65+ operating sites; strengthening the abilities of PHCs, sub-centres, local hospitals, district administrators, sarpanches, police; ANMs, aanganwadi workers, temporary Covid relief centres, CSR teams, volunteers, SHG women and others in our local ecosystems. Oxygen support, protection gear & medicines were supplemented across affected neighbourhoods. There was an active contribution from women’s SHGs of the Anokha Dhaaga program in making & donating SHG-95 masks (high protection filter based masks appropriate for Indian weather) and immunity booster tea masala, ashwagandha powder and other protection support – also enabling wages & livelihoods for the women during tough times. The role played by Tata Power associates as essential service providers amidst disaster situations & pandemics such as these is commendable; with many associates offering voluntary services along with their family members including Covid tele-helpline interventions and multiple other on-ground support. The company continues to support vaccination supplementation with Govt. authorities and partners in remote parts of Bihar and UP and aid registrations on COWIN through push calls as a part of its flagship program Adhikaar.
When the third wave of COVID-19 hit the nation, Tata Power Community Development Trust & company volunteers continued to support vaccination supplementation with Govt. authorities and partners in underserved regions of Bihar and UP. It also continues to aid registrations on Co-WIN through push calls to the community groups it serves in different parts of the country as a part of its flagship program Adhikaar. Under this initiative, over 1 lakh vaccinations have been enabled YTD. The organization has enhanced its contributions to the BillionSocialMasks collective effort – to increase public awareness on double-masking & enable women’s SHGs under its Anokha Dhaaga flagship programme to produce special protection SHG-95 masks; furthering access to made in India high-quality masks & women’s livelihoods at grassroots.

2. The pandemic has caused a major setback to the rural development in India. What role can CSR play in the recovery of development of rural areas?

The COVID-19 pandemic had unleashed massive devastation across the country. Many households, especially semi-organized, migrant & rural families, slipped in & out of poverty, facing food insecurity and having no consistent source of income. The return of migrant workers back to their rural homes worsened the scenario. As a result, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives for tier II, tier III towns & rural India became extremely important. With over sixty percent of India’s total population living in rural communities that lack most basic facilities and infrastructure, the role of CSR as a booster of regional economy & livelihoods and overall development becomes crucial.

3. What are some of the key focus areas of CSR for Tata Power?

With an objective to enhance holistic development in its neighbourhoods; the company focuses on empowering community institutions & groups through better education, employment, employability & entrepreneurship enablers. Its key flagship CSR programs include Anokha Dhaaga for empowering women and farmers collectives, Roshni Integrated Vocational Training Centres & Tata Power Skill Development Institutes for enabling regional livelihoods and talent pools for industry, Adhikaar for enabling access to Government-sponsored social security schemes, Club Enerji for developing conservation champions, Arpan volunteering platform, Mahseer conservation activities and Tree Mittra for furthering region-appropriate native species plantations & biodiversity restoration. Through its Tree Mittra program, over 8.5 lakh saplings have been planted in the year 2021. In FY21 Tata Power’s CSR outreach positively impacted 4.6 million lives in the 60 districts of 17 states, actively contributing to nation-building. The vision is to impact over 100 million lives through direct & indirect means by FY26 through corporate citizenship efforts. What has enriched & advanced our journey are our partners in change – both global & national – who help us introduce & execute inclusive technologies & enablers in the regions we serve. With a strong focus on SDG 17, Tata Power Community Development Trust (TPCDT) undertakes numerous programs in partnership with govt and non-govt institutions.  More than forty not-for-profit partners are supported through TPCDT with a shared vision to achieve larger sustainable goals in regions of our operations.
Tata Power also promotes inclusivity as a part of its value chain, engaging many semi-skilled/unskilled women under its Abha program in Delhi, Odisha and Mumbai. This shared value programme supports community livelihoods, leverages technology as a tool and upskills women to serve as ‘community change agents’ not just for electricity metering, billing & collections but also for driving ethical & transparent energy use and breaking the cycle of electricity thefts. These groups of women also serve as ‘Adhikaar Mittras’ to further financial & digital literacy, while embedding progressive social behaviours into their communities

4. India is looking to go net-zero by 2070. What are the plans of Tata Power with regards to its transition to clean energy?

India is the only country among G20 nations that is on track to achieve targets under the Paris Agreement and India will continue to push towards Renewable Power growth to meet the Paris Agreement targets. India has pledged to raise its non-fossil fuel energy capacity to 500 gigawatts and meet 50% of its energy requirements from renewable energy by 2030.
With the recently concluded COP26 reiterating the significance of the immediate and just transition to clean energy to meet the Paris Agreement goals, the electric utility sector holds critical responsibility to shape the future of sustainable energy.
Moving away from conventional coal-based power plants with a commitment to reduce carbon footprint and dependency on fossil fuel-based resources like coal and gas, Tata Power has decided to focus on renewable generation, consumer-facing businesses like solar rooftop, solar pumps, EV charging, home automation as well as tapping into opportunities to widen its distribution network and broaden its customer base. Tata Power has committed to be carbon neutral well before 2050.
Aligning with the Government of India’s ambitious goals of carbon emission mitigation, Indian corporates are increasingly seeking to shoulder the responsibility and become zero-carbon companies. Tata Power is supporting this endeavour by offering 100% green energy to its customers, should they choose to.
In line with evangelising the net-zero agenda in India, Tata Power in collaboration with World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) India, organized a global virtual event on ‘Accelerating business action in line with SDGs, with focus on electric utilities’ on 16th November 2021 to spearhead collective action and maximize progress. The event highlighted the key findings from WBCSD’s report on SDG Sector Roadmap for electric utilities released in March 2021. It brought together 11 global companies, with Tata Power representing India, to explore and develop a joint global vision on how the sector can best actualize & implement the SDGs through collaboration, innovation, and leveraging its influence circles.

5. The pandemic has had an unfair disadvantage to women as per various studies. What is the role that the corporates need to play in the area of women’s empowerment? What is the idea behind the BlessdBox initiative?

One of the major roles that corporates can play is to leverage their influence circles to further equity, diversity & inclusion, not just in their workplaces but also through their value chain – upstream & downstream and enable inclusive communities & society.  With the rising voices for gender equality & advocacy for women’s rights as well as the prudence of a more balanced, inclusive & progressive society; it has become imperative to create more opportunities, enablement & ecosystems for women to pursue their life goals and propel larger social betterment.
Tata Power flagship CSR programmes further women empowerment and inclusion of other marginalized groups (including backward and tribals) as a horizontal focus. The company also drives inclusivity through programs like ABHA in Delhi, Odisha and Mumbai, which support the engagement of numerous semi-skilled/unskilled women as a part of its value chain. This is structured as a shared value engagement supporting lives & livelihoods, leveraging technology as a tool and upskilling women to serve as ‘community change agents’ not just for electricity metering, billing & collections but also for driving ethical & transparent energy use and breaking the cycle of electricity thefts. These groups of women also serve as ‘Adhikaar Mittras’ to further financial & digital literacy, while embedding progressive social behaviours into their communities.
Tata Power’s flagship Anokha Dhaaga has been particularly designed to build capacities of women’s collectives (Self Help Groups) and help them become empowered & earning members of society. Initiated in Maval in Maharashtra in 2015, with just 16 women, the initiative now has grown to multiple sites, with over 1,500 women members. It trains women in stitching, tailoring, other micro-enterprises like making baskets & herbal merchandise. The women manufacture readymade garments, home & personal utilities and traditional handicrafts, augmenting their household income and along the way promoting local talent and conserving traditional art.
Anokha Dhaaga – Tata Power’s women empowerment initiative, collaborated with BlessdBuy – a platform showcasing 1000+ sustainable & ethical products made by rural artisans, collectives, and NGOs, on a limited edition of ‘BlessdBox’. This edition is a festive gift box designed by Nida Mahmood, ‘Queen of Indian Kitsch’ – aimed at supporting the livelihoods of aspiring women’s collectives. Through this project, Tata Power aims to achieve its vision to build aspirational value for these collectives and empower them to be a part of the designer value chain.
With this gift box series, Anokha Dhagaa is making an earnest effort to give a platform and showcase unique, sustainable, and ethically handmade products created by the underserved communities from rural & urban regions of India. With an emphasis on circular economy and sustainably sourced materials, this project endeavours to upskill and empower marginalised communities.
The collectives got an upskilling opportunity during the pandemic through digital and in-person quality training and handholding to develop this designer & aspirational product line. Over fifty per cent of the sales proceeds from this project go directly to the women makers in Delhi and Jojobera – increasing their earnings by more than double of the average earnings they get by producing for local markets.
This range of just 1000 lovingly hand-made boxes includes an assortment of stunning tableware sets of 6 table mats, coasters, napkins, and a safety face mask. Inspired by the grandeur of regional Indian designs, the range is available in two designs – one set inspired by Lucknow Chikankari patterns and the other by floral patterns from Mughal architecture. It is meant for connoisseurs of sustainable home-décor products who flaunt a lifestyle that is refined yet conscientious. It is an opportunity to own a piece created with pride and confidence by the Anokha Dhaaga women who weave their dreams with these boxes.
This limited-edition collection is available to shop at in-house e-commerce platform SaheliWorld.org and through multiple marketplaces including Amazon, Flipkart, Myntra, Jaypore, Tata CliQ, and Zwende.

6. The pandemic has led to forced digitization in many sectors. Thus, the digital divide in the country has increased the development gap. How can CSR tackle this?

Digitisation was rapidly evolving even before the pandemic, but COVID-19 pushed companies to adopt digital practices in order to survive, grow and transform their businesses forever. Since then, digital transformation has been an integral part of all areas of businesses and it has changed how we operate and deliver value to our customers. This has dramatically changed the business environment and has led many companies to incorporate digital transformation strategies into their long-term goals, including ours.
CSR is one such area where tech-orientation & enabling access to digital technologies & innovation has helped companies advance their socio-environmental goals and we understand how important CSR is for any firm that has a pragmatic, caring & long-term vision for its brands and offerings.
We are living in unprecedented times with the global pandemic affecting businesses, institutions and communities at large. There is an acute need to catalyze more avenues to reach out; presenting a unique opportunity for Tata Power and its partners to participate in regenerating the socio-economic fabric of our society. Our CSR has sharpened its focus towards furthering skilling & livelihoods for women & youth, digital, financial literacy & inclusivity, and blended experiential learning – to help tide over during these challenging times and to equip our communities for the future.
Our ecological sensitivity, biodiversity conservation practices, renewable energy efforts, tracking of carbon footprint, etc. have always been communicated through various platforms. We have always made our CSR efforts public, transparent, and readily accessible through open sources – for all to know our focus areas & work for society. Hence, we will continue to lead ourselves in that direction as it is in everyone’s interest to grow business in a sustainable manner.

7. How can India Inc. contribute towards the rising unemployment in the country?

Over the last two years, lakhs of jobs have been lost and workers’ livelihoods, particularly in the informal and unorganised sector, have been adversely impacted by measures to control the Covid-19 pandemic.  The unemployment rate of India rose to 7.9 per cent in December 2021. In each of the last three months October, November and December 2021, the unemployment rate has been at 7 per cent or more. Now that we have entered a new year, the ambiguity surrounding the threat of the Omicron variant and the possibility of a third wave is rather alarming.
Government has also formulated a committee to draft a National Employment Policy which is expected to come out soon with a roadmap to increase employment opportunities. It would aim to facilitate the creation of an enabling environment for start-ups and new industries to generate jobs, improve the skill sets of workers and make them employment ready.
TPSDI (Tata Power Skill Development Institute) works towards skilling youth with vocational and practical technical training which equips them to either start a micro-enterprise or get placed in a corporate setting. The focus of TPSDI is to match skill to demand and improve the employability of youth, specifically in non-metro areas.

8. What are some of the geographical areas and causes that require more CSR focus from India Inc. in your experience?

We have seen that the education sector receives the maximum CSR funding followed by hunger, poverty, healthcare, environmental sustainability and rural development. Programs such as technology, sports, armed forces, reducing inequalities receive a little amount. Maharashtra, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Uttar Pradesh are among the five beneficiary states of total CSR shares. Poorer and less developed states like Bihar and MP have only a few manufacturing plants, but they are now major marketplaces for several enterprises producing two-wheelers, tractors, and other consumer goods. The CSR expenditure for these states needs to be increased which can improve the lives of people socially, economically, and financially.
The Government of India has released a list of 112 most under-developed districts across the country under the ‘Aspirational Districts Programme’ – to invite convergence, collaboration & focused outreach from all social development actors in these regions. Raising the living standards and enabling required ecosystems, investments & opportunities for such regions around Tata Power Group operations is an important priority under CSR and social inclusion strategy. Tata Power is committed to bring in new knowledge, technology, science based learning and futuristic developments in such target regions hand-in-hand with our several institutional & innovation partnerships
Tata Power Group’s operations are spread across many remote & underserved parts of the country. Its CSR policy, diversity, inclusion & affirmative action commitment and volunteering culture are geared to enable social inclusivity, strengthen public institutions, community collectives & livelihoods ecosystems purely from this perspective.

9. What are the CSR goals of Tata Power for the next five years?

India has a rich demographic dividend of over 49% women & over 6 million women’s collectives (Self Help Groups) spread across its states. These grassroots institutions have huge potential & promise to be the harbingers of change, of progressive communities & inclusive societies. Our CSR & voluntary efforts shall continue to champion & enable these institutions and groups; to build their confidence, knowledge & skills to access more & more opportunities for collective growth, access to technology & sustainable livelihoods. Tata Power is committed to enabling energy security in underserved regions, promoting clean energy & shared value in association with social innovators, academia, changemakers & community leaders – to serve greater good & knowledge creation for society.