In conversation with Mr. Rishi Pathania, Head – CSR, UPL Limited

Rishi has around 17 years of rural development experience in different parts of the country. Prior to joining UPL, he was in charge of CSR at Tata Chemicals, Mithapur, District Jamnagar. Earlier he was based in Tata Chemicals Limited, Babrala (UP) and was transferred to Mithapur to take higher responsibility. Rishi has worked with a small NGO based at Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh, and with a multinational NGO based at Ranchi, Jharkhand. He has focused mostly around improving livelihood in rural areas. His experience of working with NGOs has given him an opportunity to understand the issues in rural development.

Commencing the conversation with describing UPL Limited, Mr. Pathania stated that it’s a global crop care company and has a presence in 127 countries. It is also one of the first few companies who started their CSR activities even when the company was not making any profits. From being a small scale company to becoming a global giant, the common link was “giving back to the society” which initiated by the promoter family.

Talking about the focus areas of the CSR interventions, Mr. Pathania said that the company primarily focuses on four areas- i.e.,

1) Institutional Building- whether it’s about building a school in the backward block of south Gujarat, or a hospital, nursing college/ Engineering college from the point of view of employability, Institution building is an important activity under company’s CSR.

2) Sustainable Livelihood- Company works with farmers, tribal youth & women. Under which activities like agricultural development, Employability through skill development & Entrepreneurship training for women are undertaken.

3) Nature Conservation – The company has undertaken species conservation of ‘Saaras’ and has released a study booklet, documentary on Saaras lifecycle. Additionally, they are working with school children to create awareness about nature and environment under ‘ECOCLUB’ initiative.

4)  National & Local area need programme.

Addressing the challenges involved, Mr. Pathania states that the biggest challenge is the convergence of different initiative coming at a place. The NGO sector, the government sector has high expectations from the corporates in terms of funds. However, the actual gist of the law was to bring in the innovation or management capabilities of the corporate. Replicating a successful project may or may not yield the same result because of various reasons, for example, the psychology of the people who only expect funding from the corporates.

He further stated that in CSR space, the expectations from corporates is Charity but the fundamental of the corporates is to bring sustainability, to have the long-term benefit of delivering a project and for that participation is needed from people in form of contribution and ownership.

As per Mr. Pathania, the best way to reach the grassroots via CSR is to form good partnerships with the local grassroot NGOs.

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