The Swaraj Division of Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd is currently one of the fastest growing tractor brands in India. Swaraj was founded in 1974 and has sold over 1.5 million tractors since its inception. Based in Punjab, the breadbasket of India, Swaraj is a brand made by the farmer, for the farmer as many of its employees are also farmers. With farmers being the company’s most important customer segment, Swaraj has always been committed to growing in a socially and environmentally responsible manner. Therefore, the Swaraj Division aims to create a long-term sustainable impact with its initiatives focused on core areas such as health, environment, education and women’s empowerment.
In an exclusive interaction with The CSR Journal, Mr. Harish Chavan, CEO, Swaraj Division, M&M Ltd, detailed the company’s CSR initiatives and his role in meeting the Sustainable Development Goals going forward.
1. Quality healthcare is not yet accessible to all sections of society. Given that Mahindra Swaraj has a reach among the vulnerable and underprivileged sections of society, what role is it trying to play in changing the status quo?
Access to good and affordable health care facilities is a major concern for the economically vulnerable segment of society, therefore Swaraj reaches those in need on their doorstep in partnership with various health initiatives through its CSR initiatives.
Mahindra Mobile Primary Health & Cancer Care Project is one of the flagship projects in this field. The Cancer Care Project was launched by Swaraj when we recognized the need to raise awareness about the causes and benefits of early detection of this deadly disease given the alarming number of cancer patients being reported in Punjab.
Through this unique initiative that has touched the lives of thousands, Swaraj’s CSR team not only raises awareness about cancer, but also provides free screening and palliative care to terminally ill patients. Through this project, we have continued to serve the residents of 157 Punjab villages during the pandemic.
In addition, various needs-based health camps are organized on the topics of ophthalmology, anemia, dental check-ups and dengue prevention. Swaraj’s CSR team also actively worked with government machines during the COVID pandemic to reach out to the communities and corona warriors for effective disease management.
2. Agriculture is not seen as a preferred field of education by mainstream aspiring scientists. How can this be changed? How can India Inc help change this perception?
The young generation does not usually aspire to enter the agricultural or agricultural machinery sector. Most students are unaware of the type of innovations and technological interventions being made in this area, nor do they realize the magnitude of the growth in this area. Given this fact, the Swaraj team felt the need to raise awareness of career prospects in this field and nurture young talents in this field. We decided to nurture and build a talented pool of engineers for the future by involving students early in their careers and giving them the opportunity to appreciate diverse mechanization opportunities for new age farming.
In line with this, Swaraj launched the Mera Swaraj Education Support Program, an early career development initiative for engineering students across the country, aiming to create a future pool of competent engineers.
Through the Mera Swaraj Education Support Program, we hope not only to support deserving students pursuing an engineering education, but also to introduce them to modern tools and technologies through hands-on contacts with industry.
Currently, 95 students from various engineering colleges across the country are recipients of this scholarship program. Students are given the opportunity to work on a live agricultural mechanization project supervised by industry experts.
Senior members of the Swaraj team also connect with college students through the Campus Connect program, sharing their experiences and answering their questions.
In another initiative, Swaraj has set up a skills development center at SAS Nagar for training in agricultural and non-agricultural trades. The organization recognized the need to train young people in farming jobs such as tractor drivers, tractor mechanics and agricultural machinery repair and maintenance contractors, as well as service jobs such as data entry operators and CRM Non Voice. About 400 students have been trained in this center of excellence in one year, and the center also helps the students to find decent job opportunities.
3. How does Mahindra Swaraj intend to contribute to India’s net zero goal?
Under the ESG (Environmental Social Governance) framework, sustainability remains a key focus area for the Swaraj Division’s CSR wing. We are constantly working to achieve the goals of water and carbon neutrality in our manufacturing facilities. Currently, Swaraj has achieved 55% water neutrality and 30% CO2 neutrality through various sustainability measures. Both production facilities have received Zero Waste to Landfill certification and also have rainwater harvesting systems. We have also shifted our focus to using alternative clean fuels like PNG in our plants and using renewable energy sources like solar power. Many processes have been digitized as we are also working towards becoming a paperless workplace.
In addition, Swaraj’s CSR team has undertaken various projects to address the problem of groundwater shortage in Punjab and Rajasthan. Swaraj Division’s projects mainly focus on water conservation through the renovation of 18 traditional water ponds in four years in needy villages of Punjab and Rajasthan. This initiative would save about 40 lakh CMT of water annually, which can meet the irrigation and drinking water needs of more than 20 villages.
In another such initiative, roof tanks to collect rainwater were installed in 44 government schools in Rajasthan and Punjab. This project will save around 40 lakh liters of water annually. As part of this project, clean drinking water will be made available to more than 10,000 students in rural Rajasthan, where there was a high concentration of fluoride in the existing groundwater. This initiative has also encouraged students to come to government schools. In Punjab, these tanks will support groundwater replenishment. The Swaraj team aims to create water friendly 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 focus areas of Mahindra Swaraj CSR?
Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd Swaraj Division has implemented various CSR initiatives in the areas of health, education and the environment under the RISE for Good ethos. These initiatives are conducted with the active participation of stakeholders to enable communities to RISE.
5. How does Mahindra Swaraj promote gender equality among the farmers they associate with?
To address the issue of gender equality, Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd has implemented various programs aimed at improving the quality of life of women farmers by addressing their critical health and livelihood needs. One of the important gender equality initiatives is the “Prerna” project with the main objective of women’s empowerment, which has involved more than 1000 women farmers in Punjab, Haryana and Karnataka in the last three years. Prerna initiatives focus on improving rural women’s livelihoods through an SHG-based model and linking them to government programs to enhance their skills to establish micro-entrepreneurial activities for better livelihoods and overall socio-economic development. The project includes the training of women farmers in driving tractors, handling agricultural equipment and nutrition/kitchen management, as well as treating the health problems of women farmers through regular examinations and awareness camps
6. What is your personal involvement in the company’s CSR projects?
I work closely with the team to identify the needs-driven projects under CSR and take a keen interest in designing and reviewing the progress of each project. I also encourage the execution team to continually work to drive positive change in the communities they work with.
7. What is the volunteering scenario for Mahindra Swaraj employees?
Employees play a key role in the effective implementation of the CSR projects within ESOPs – Social Options for Employees. An average of more than 5000 ESOPs-hours were contributed by Swaraj staff in a year in the pre-Covid era, in line with the Mahindra Group’s Rise philosophy, to drive positive change in the lives of the community. During the pandemic, these options were limited, but now that most things are starting to open up, employee involvement in CSR activities is also increasing.