Srinivasan Services Trust (SST), the social arm of TVS Motor Company and Sundaram Clayton, was established in 1996 with the mission of working with communities and governments to empower India’s rural poor through awareness, skills and training programmes. SST, which has completed 20 years, says it helps the poor find solutions that are sustainable, in areas ranging from economic development, infrastructure to healthcare and education. “We encourage the poor and the disadvantaged alter their attitudes and take ownership of changes that bring about lasting development,” says Ashoke Joshi, the chairman of SST. In an email interaction with FE, he adds that SST’s programmes work only with the reciprocal, sustained participation of the communities.
What is the vision and approach of SST?
The trust was established to work towards development of the community and transforming the lives of the underprivileged and marginalised sections of the society. We believe that while we continue doing income-generating activities, it is important to develop the community we live in and work for. In fact, our focus is creating a favourable ecosystem rather than allocating mere CSR funds for project-led intervention. The aim is to empower and transform village societies to be sustainable models.
Essentially, we motivate communities themselves to become agents of change.
What all has SST achieved over 20 years?
Since inception, our focus has been community development, and we have stayed the course. Over the past two decades, SST has brought positive transformational changes by bringing systematic changes to different aspects of the society such as infrastructure, women empowerment, social and cultural development, education and health and environment. All of this, we are happy to note, has resulted in equitable distribution of wealth created, reduced income gaps and human capacity building.
SST has been working towards Sustainable Development Goals and the initiatives are in line with the ongoing government initiatives of Make in India, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, women empowerment and poverty alleviation.
How many lives have you touched?
Starting out with two villages, we now work in over 4,500 villages, spread across five states, impacting 29.3 lakh people.
As far as economic development is concerned, the latest data we have shows that 3,43,053 families living in these 4,500 villages today have a monthly income of above Rs 15,000.
We have also helped women have their own independent incomes. SST has formed 10,804 Self-Help Groups. These groups have 1,59,110 women as members. Of these, 1,45,145 members are in income-generation activities. Their income ranges from Rs 2,500 to Rs 10,000 per month.
And what about healthcare and education?
We are happy to share that as many as 86,919 children in the age group below 5 are not malnourished any more; 4,75,387 women are free from anaemia; 3,63,320 households have access to toilets. There is 100% enrolment of children in 1,939 schools, and there are no drop-outs.
We have also worked on environment and infrastructure. Today, 3,21,572 households dispose solid waste through individual and common compost pits. Safe drinking water is available to 3,425 villages.
So, how does SST’s approach differ from CSR activities?
Our approach to sustainable development is modelled on driving community empowerment, which differentiates the programme. SST, community and government are partners in the development efforts.
I must add that meaningful change comes from leadership of thought, pursuit of holistic development and a quality-driven process to see it through. Development of communities requires a holistic approach in which different aspects and needs of an individual have to be addressed. Financial well-being, health, education and social empowerment are all interrelated. Our initiatives are also focussed on reducing communal, caste and religion divide. I am happy to say that our models have served as the framework for several other companies. We assist many other corporates implement their CSR programmes.
What is your long-term vision?
It’s to catalyse change through sustainable development initiatives. In a country comprising a population of a billion-plus, the opportunities for transforming lives and creating positive socio-economic impact is boundless. We are committed to this larger goal.