Inside Hyundai Motor India: Driving social change

Written by Vikram Chaudhary | Updated: Feb 4 2013, 16:54pm hrs
While Hyundai is moving the world with automobiles, its public charitable trust HMIF is contributing to social upliftment around Sriperumbudur. It has done its bit, but a lot more needs to be accomplished

Eight-year-old Selvam loved Mathematics. But sitting on the cold, hard floor to do his sums was uncomfortable. His knees hurt from the awkward positions he had to sit in while writing. Soon, there was no joy left in learning even his favourite subject. But this changed once he saw a new desk and bench for himself, R Sethuraman, senior vice-president, finance & corporate affairs, Hyundai Motor India Ltd (HMIL) tells me.

I am at the village Irungattukottai, right next to the HMIL plant in Sriperumbudur near Chennai, which has been adopted by Hyundai Motor India Foundation (HMIF) as part of larger HMIF plan to adopt villages. Today, the village is on a healthy, sustainable and productive way of life, adds R Sethuraman, who is also the trustee of HMIF.

How did you go about it I ask. The HMIF team examined every aspect of life in the village and evaluated existing facilities. A needs list was drawn up in consultation with the villagers. This formed the foundation of a master plan of village development. Budgets were allotted and work was taken up, Sethuraman replies. And what did the project include I ask. It was about raising awareness on the link between health and hygiene. For instance, of the 435 homes in Irungattukottai, only 200 had toilets. So, we constructed 235 toilets, which improved the overall hygiene of the village. Then we cleaned up the village pond and strengthened existing drainage facilities. We also funded the construction of an overhead water tank having a capacity of 60,000 litres. Now, clean water flows through the village taps. Additionally, we set up a childrens park and a library, Sethuraman replies, before I interrupt, And what about the desks for schoolchildren you talked about Finding that government schools lacked even the basic amenities like benches and desks, HMIF began distributing them in these schools. Wooden boxes previously used for transporting car components are recycled for making desks and benches. In fact, to date, over 27,500 sets of desks and benches have been distributed to 133 government schools in Kancheepuram district, Sethuraman says.

On the way back to the plant, Sethuraman tells me that HMIF was set up in 2006 with the purpose of giving back to society and to initiate CSR activities in the areas of health care, educational and vocational training, environment, road safety, etc. So, how much of funding is available to HMIF I ask him. HMIL contributes R100 to HMIF for every car sold domestically. In 2012, we raised R3.9 crore, he replies. But is the amount enough I counter. Let me tell you that this figure is the minimum budget allocated. For instance, we donated 100 Accent diesel cars, amounting to more than R6 crore, to Chennai Police in 2007, and this was over and above the allocated budget for HMIF, he replies.

What is HMIFs involvement in technical training I ask. HMIF is actively involved with the ITIs. One of the first ITIs we adopted was in Guwahati. HMC chairman had come to India in 2007 and met the Prime Minister, who suggested us to do something in his constituency. So, we adopted an ITI in Guwahati. After that there was a study done and it was found that there was a slight drop in the number of people who joined ULFA from that region, because now many locals had the opportunity to learn and take up a job. Thats what skill does to you. Closer home, we build a new hostel and canteen at an ITI in Ulundurpet, a nearby town, Sethuraman replies.

Indeed, any skill and its proper implementation does make you a responsible citizen, I say. You are right. We also have a driver training institute here. What happens is that in every region you might find school drop-outs, who are young and may fall into bad company. From the nearby areas, we select eager recruits from among school drop-outs under 25 years of age. They are then inducted into a rigorous 45-day programme that includes classroom sessions, driving lessons and training on tracks. We also provide them courses on spoken English and elementary finance. The result: these students graduate as skilled drivers, ready to be integrated into any organisation. To date, HMIF has trained 494 drivers and some have even set up their own transport business, Sethuraman says. So, a dramatic change from the direction-less, unskilled youth that they were, I say. Indeed, he replies.

Apart from adopting ITIs, how else do you serve them I ask. We donate discarded cars to colleges and ITIs so that the students can have a practical learning in a laboratory environment, Sethuraman replies. Discarded I seek a clarification. We test a lot of cars as part of our R&D purpose. For instance, our export cars, most of which are left-hand drive vehicles, and once their R&D purpose if over, we cannot sell those cars in the domestic market, so we donate these to the engineering colleges and ITIs nearby. And most of such cars are in actual running conditions, he says, adding, Until now, we have donated cars to 175 institutions. Additionally, we distribute learning aidssuch as new computers with software installed, laboratory kits, dictionaries and moreto students in government schools. This has given over 3,00,000 students an enhanced learning experience they might have otherwise missed, Sethuraman says.

Anything on the non-technical side I ask. Yes, we have a nursing assistant project to rehabilitate young girls who were forced to drop out of schools. Now, we select them through a scheduled procedure, and the chosen ones are provided tuition fees, food, uniform, lodging and are offered a job placement on completion. Then we have the traffic volunteer scheme, road safety schemes, projects to turn barren land green, arts and cultural events in fact, the list is long, he answers.

As my brief visit to HMIL comes to an end, I ask Sethuraman his views on CSR. Every business, whether small or big, has to integrate its objectives with social, environmental and ethical responsibilities to establish a long-term, successful and sustainable business enterprise. Our mission is to pursue diverse social activities and fulfil our social responsibilities. Our achievements may seem modest but, in a short span of six years, we have changed the lives of people around us, he says, adding, You will hear a lot more from HMIF in the coming years.