The development of society greatly depends on the development of its women and youth. Recognising this, Tata Motors has undertaken several initiatives to improve the lot of these demographics where development is greatly required – in India’s small towns and tribal areas.
The company focuses on enhancing skill levels of underprivileged youth and women to make them employable and enhance their living standards. The initiatives include vocational training in computers and farm development; special training for women through self-help groups in vocational trades like beautician courses and tailoring; technical training for the youth in motor mechanics, electrical, AC repair and refrigeration; and entrepreneurship development.
Entrepreneurship through cooperatives
Recognising the positive impact of collaborative development, Tata Motors has adopted cooperative movement to empower youth and women as part of its corporate sustainability initiatives. Weaving the social fabric of society together and being a catalyst to each other’s growth, is the spirit through which the company has enabled the communities in which it operates to build sustainable livelihoods and economic independence.
The company has mentored the formation of several cooperatives such as the Chaitnya Co-operative Society for recycling of wood, which employs 350 members and the Sahajeevan Co-operative Society, which employs 250 people. The cooperatives not only instil in members the pride and self fulfilment of running their own enterprise, but push them to learn managerial skills and be a cause in the matter of their own growth.
One success story is the Tata Motors Grihini Social Welfare Society (TGU) set up in 1974 to give the women members of the families of its employees opportunities for entrepreneurship development and income generation.
TGU started with seven pioneering women who took up the task of training dependent women members, including the wives of Tata Motors’ employees. Over the years, as the society’s activities expanded, four individual societies were formed and registered as industrial cooperative societies.
The Vividh Karyakari Industrial Cooperative Society produces various condiments, spices and stationery; the Shivankala Industrial Cooperative Society makes uniforms, hand gloves, etc; the Cable Harness Industrial Cooperative Society manufactures wiring harnesses for commercial vehicles and all prototypes; and the Electronics Industrial Cooperative Society crafts digital clocks, wiper controllers, etc. Each cooperative is jointly owned and run by the women. TGU is the only women’s cooperative society that has received the ISO 9001-2000 certificate from BVQI (Bureau Veritas Quality International), this for its cable harness and electronics units.
Tata Motors has constantly built upon the capabilities of TGU members by lending its support. Besides providing infrastructure and seed capital, it has also provided necessary training inputs that are essential to enable members to successfully execute their jobs. A company official was initially appointed to help and supervise the activities of the members, while wives of senior executives trained members in bookkeeping and accounting. The company also treats these societies as favoured vendors by sourcing wiring harnesses, uniforms, food items and condiments for the canteen from them.
Today TGU has more than 1,300 members. With an increase in the level of education among these women as well as work experience, the societies are becoming increasingly independent in their operations. Apart from business secured from Tata Motors, they now also get contracts from other enterprises such as Bajaj, Motherson Sumi, Vidya Niketan. Their total turnover in 2007-08 was Rs60.13 million.
Changing the entire paradigm around the symbolism of a ‘grihini’ (housewife) in Indian society, this initiative has had a big impact on the women involved. It has given them an opportunity to live with dignity and has made them financially independent. They have realised their self-worth and have earned respect from their families for the work they do as well as for the invaluable contribution they make to the family income.
With the objective of enhancing the employability of tribal youth in and around Sakwar in the Thane district, near Mumbai, Tata Motors, in partnership with the Ramakrishna Mission, started the technical training programme Mechanic Motor Vehicle (MMV) Trade Course in 2003-04.
The course was custom-designed to suit the present day needs of the industry and to match the expectations of the channel partners. A balance of theoretical inputs and practical training at various dealerships, thrice a year, gives owners of the channel partners the opportunity to assess these students, thereby facilitating their employment after the completion of the training. Over 140 young men have been trained through this programme; 10 have jointly set up four garages on the Mumbai-Ahemdabad highway and nearly 90 have found employment at the company’s dealerships.
Tata Motors actively supports this programme through supplying the latest tools and machinery, organising hands-on training at the dealerships and visits to the Pune plant, and a one-week intensive training programme at the training division in Pune with other apprentices. The company is now also offering soft skill training in English and computers, and placement interviews for students. Company employees also volunteer to mentor students on the latest needs and expectations of the market.
Meenal acquired computer skills and is today able to operate a laptop for identifying the faults in EURO-III vehicles with the sensors attached to the vehicles. “I come from a poor tribal village. The technical, theoretical and practical knowledge received during the course has helped me to today become a supervisor," he says. "I can now send money to my family and help my two younger brothers get an education which will help them get good jobs.”