Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd’s Swaraj Division is currently one of the fastest-growing tractor brands in India. Established in 1974, Swaraj has sold over 1.5 million tractors since its inception. Based in Punjab, the grain bowl of India, Swaraj is a brand that is made by the farmer, for the farmer as many of its employees are also farmers. With Farmers being the company’s key customer segment Swaraj has always been committed to growing in a socially and environmentally responsible manner. Thus, Swaraj Division aims towards having a long-term sustainable impact with its initiatives focused on core areas such as Health, Environment, Education, and Women Empowerment.
In an exclusive interaction with The CSR Journal Mr. Harish Chavan, CEO, Swaraj Division, M&M Ltd has elaborated on the company’s CSR initiatives and its role in meeting the Sustainable Development Goals in the future.
1. Quality healthcare is not accessible to all sections of society yet. Considering the fact that Mahindra Swaraj has a reach among the vulnerable and underprivileged sections of society, what role does it seek to play in altering the status quo?
Access to good and affordable healthcare facilities is a major area of concern for the economically weaker section of the society therefore Swaraj is reaching the needy at their doorsteps in partnership with various healthcare initiatives through its CSR initiatives.
Mahindra Mobile Primary Health & Cancer Care Project is one of the flagship projects in this area. Cancer Care Project was taken up by Swaraj as we realized the need to create awareness about the causes and benefits of early detection of this deadly disease with an alarming number of Cancer patients being reported in Punjab.
Under this unique initiative that has touched the lives of thousands Swaraj CSR team not only creates awareness about Cancer but also provides free-of-cost screening and palliative care to terminally ill patients. Through this project, we continued to serve the residents of 157 villages in Punjab even during the pandemic.
Apart from this various need-based health awareness camps related to eye care, anemia, dental check-ups, and dengue prevention are also organized. Swaraj CSR team also actively worked with government machinery during the COVID pandemic for reaching out to the communities and Corona warriors for effective handling of the disease.
2. Agriculture is not viewed as a preferable stream of education by mainstream science aspirants. How can this be changed? How can India Inc help change this perception?
The young generation does not usually aspire to join Agriculture or Farm Equipment sector. Most students are unaware of the kind of innovation and technology interventions that are being done in this field and also don’t realize the scope of growth in this field. Realizing this fact Swaraj team felt the need to generate awareness about career prospects in this field and encourage the young talent in this field. We decided to nurture and create a competent pool of engineers for the future by engaging students early on in their careers and giving them the opportunity to appreciate varied mechanization possibilities for new-age agriculture.
In line with this, Swaraj launched the ‘Mera Swaraj Education Support Program’, an early career development initiative for engineering students across the country that aims to create a future pool of competent engineers.
Through the ‘Mera Swaraj Education Support Program,’ we not only hope to support deserving students pursuing engineering education but acquaint them with modern tools and technologies through practical exposure to the industry.
As of now, 95 students from various engineering colleges across the country are the recipients of this scholarship program. The students will get an opportunity to work on a live farm- mechanization projects mentored by industry experts.
Senior members of the Swaraj team also engage with college students through the Campus Connect program and share their experiences with them and also address their queries.
In another initiative, Swaraj has set up a skill development center at SAS Nagar for training on Agri and non-agri trades. The organization realized the need to train young people in Agriculture related trades like Tractor Operator, Tractor Mechanic &Agriculture Machinery Repair and Maintenance Service Provider, and service trades like Data Entry Operators & CRM Non Voice. In one year around 400 students have been trained in this skill center and the center is also helping the students to get appropriate employment opportunities.
3. How does Mahindra Swaraj seek to contribute towards the net-zero target of India?
Under the ESG (Environmental Social Governance) framework, Sustainability remains at the core focus area for Swaraj Division’s CSR wing. We constantly work towards achieving targets of Water and Carbon neutrality in our manufacturing facilities. Currently, Swaraj has achieved 55% water neutrality and 30% carbon neutrality through various measures taken under sustainability. Both manufacturing plants have achieved Zero waste to landfill certification and also have rainwater harvesting facilities. We have also shifted our focus towards using alternate clean fuel like PNG in our plants and utilizing renewable energy resources like Solar Power. Many operations have been digitized as we also working towards becoming a paperless workplace.
Additionally, Swaraj’s CSR team has undertaken various projects to deal with the problem of groundwater depletion in Punjab as well as Rajasthan. The projects of Swaraj Division are largely focused on the conservation of water through the renovation of the 18 traditional water ponds in four years in the needy villages of Punjab & Rajasthan. This initiative would annually conserve around 40 Lakh CMT of water which can support the irrigation and drinking water needs of more than 20 villages.
In another such initiative, Roof rainwater Harvesting tanks have been constructed in 44 Government Schools of Rajasthan & Punjab. About 40 Lakh liters of water will be conserved through this project annually. Under this project, clean drinking water will be provided to more than 10000 students of Rural Rajasthan where there was a high concentration of fluoride in existing groundwater. This initiative has also encouraged students to come to Government Schools. In Punjab, these tanks will support groundwater recharging. The Swaraj team aims to create water positive schools through this initiative. Swaraj also plants around 5000 trees annually in the surrounding villages and schools for a clean and green environment.
4. What are some of the key areas of focus of Mahindra Swaraj CSR?
Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd Swaraj Division has undertaken various CSR initiatives in the areas of Health, Education and Environment under the RISE for Good Ethos. These initiatives are executed with the active involvement of stakeholders for enabling communities to RISE.
5. How does Mahindra Swaraj promote gender equity among farmers that they associate with?
To address the issue of Gender Equity, Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd has been running various programs aimed at improving the quality of life of women farmers by addressing their critical health and livelihood needs. One of the important initiatives addressing gender equity is Project “Prerna” with the primary objective of women empowerment has covered more than 1000 women farmers of Punjab, Haryana, and Karnataka in the last three years. Prerna initiatives focus on enhancing livelihood options of the rural women through SHG based model and linking them with government schemes to improve their skills to establish Micro Entrepreneurial Activities for better livelihood options and overall socio-economic development. The project involves training Women Farmers on tractor driving, use of Agri-implements and nutrition/kitchen farming, and addressing the Health Issues of women farmers through regular check-ups and awareness camps
6. What is your personal involvement in the CSR projects undertaken by the company?
I work closely with the team to the identification of the need-based projects under CSR, and take a keen interest in conceptualizing and reviewing the progress of each project. I also encourage the execution team to continuously work towards driving positive change in the communities they work with.
7. How is the employee volunteering scenario at Mahindra Swaraj?
Employees play a key role in the effective implementation of the CSR projects under ESOPs- Employee social options. On average more than 5000 of ESOPs hours were contributed by Swaraj employees in a year in the pre-covid period in congruence to the Rise philosophy of the Mahindra group to drive positive change in the lives of the community. During pandemic, these options were restricted but now with most things opening up slowly employee participation in CSR activities is also increasing.