Why would a company invest much of its profit back into poor community? It was with great curiosity and slight sense of adventure that I applied for this internship in social responsibility and development in India.
At the start of this unusual internship, I get to know the other fellow interns. Although we are of same age and come from similar school, they have unusual minds. Some of them are very serious about going to poor areas for long term and are committed to help those people in development, and hope to bring sustainable and meaningful difference. They are not just saying, but they have been genuinely doing that.
This encounter further heightened my curiosity. I want to know if such grass-root development approach is effective. As an independent observer of decades of social works Tata has been doing in India, I am in a perfect position to find the answers.
I have to say, in my region, due to limited services the government provides, Tata’s work has been significant to local’s life. For example, Tata provides scientific reclamation of saline wasteland at negligible price, resulting in the doubling of rice production. Although Tata Chemicals sell fertilizers, it is unlikely such works is related to profit-making; it would be foolish to try sell more of fertilizers by reclaiming more wasteland. Of course, Tata development work is limited to surrounding region. Last year, the social investment was only ~1.6% of plant’s profit, but the results were significant, and therefore effective.
The reason for social investment is not even directly related to public relation or advertisement. According to my observation, the social development department is independent from the rest. During work, there was neither promotion of fertilizers or intentional media coverage of their work. Actually at a field visit, I saw the farmer uses a competitor’s fertilizer. Of course, all these works are related to the culture of Tata Groups in building a trusted brand. At the moment, I am afraid that the goal of these investments are likely for social development only.
I still find people and organizations dedicated to social work to be very unusual, yet admirable. An international internship such as this one has the great opportunity to exchange thoughts and experience, open one's eye and expand one's worldview, to learn different perspectives, if not to agree, but at least to understand, the surprising and the unusual things.