India Inc not doing enough for society: experts
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India Inc not doing enough for society: experts

Monday, 24 February 2003, 08:00 Hrs
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CHENNAI: India Inc needs to do more for society, with greater personal involvement of the corporate leadership, said experts at a management meet here.

The meet was organised by the Business School of the Institute of Chartered Financial Analysts of India (ICFAI).

Leaders from the service sector, NGOs and students from business and management colleges in the region came together for a three-day programme this weekend to discuss issues of corporate contribution to society.

Service sector accountability was reviewed by speakers like Ashok Anantram from ITC Hotels Ltd, S. Balachander from AMP Sanmar insurance group, Income Tax Commissioner Arun Bhatnagar, PR leader Satyen Bhatt and NGO trustee Vidyakar.

Anantram, sales and marketing vice-president of ITC Hotels Ltd, said civil society was becoming very conscious of corporate conduct. "The shareholder is not the only stakeholder in corporate business."

Therefore, he said, a corporate image could not be painted just by the profits a company makes.

"Profit is not a dirty word even now, but society's perceptions have changed in the last decade." Ten years ago, it was rare to find anyone questioning corporate social responsibility.

Now, at every step, a company is watched to see if it follows ethical business practices, if it is environment conscious, if it takes care of its employees, if it takes care of suppliers, if it takes care of the community in which it is set and "ploughs back into society what it has taken", Anantram said.

The ITC Hotels Group, for instance, now supports a Sangeeth Research Akademy in Kolkata, which promotes traditional classical Indian music by taking care of the financial requirements of old maestros and helps them teach new students by providing accommodation and hospital facilities too.

It also supports the small tobacco farmers in Andhra Pradesh by helping with networking and giving them new technologies.

S. Balachander, head of strategy and planning at AMP Sanmar, said the days when one-time donations to a temple or school were sufficient are gone.

"Personal involvement of the corporate leadership in social projects has become imperative," he said adding, this is what builds "brand equity for the company".

He gave the example of Steve Waugh, the Australian cricketer who is AMP Sanmar's brand ambassador and is involved in charity work at a Kolkata children's home.

"The corporate sector is not doing enough," said Income Tax Commissioner Arun Bhatnagar.

"Only 10 percent in India even pay their taxes honestly," he said, explaining one of the reasons why the exchequer for the government's social welfare projects was always in short supply.

He also warned that fundraising NGOs had proliferated and personal corporate involvement in the social sector was needed to ensure transparency in implementation.

The students of the five business schools in the country run by ICFAI have now set up a programme called Kartavya through which they plan to bring together corporations and NGOs.

Under it NGOs need not go begging for funds and corporates need not fund only a handful of high-profile NGOs that have aggressive public relations.
Source: IANS
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