In conversation with Ms. Rupali Agarwal, Head- CSR, Relaxo Footwears Limited

By auther pic. CSRBOX

March 15, 2019

Rupali is a competent development professional having more than 12 years of intensive work experience in the development sector with leading NGOs, and Corporates. Along with this, she has strong multidisciplinary academic background including MA in Social Work, M. Phil Sociology and Master of Public Health from University of Liverpool (as a Commonwealth Scholar). She started her career as Women and Child Development Program In-charge with Udaipur based grass root level organization Seva Mandir. There she worked with the tribal women on the issues of gender, maternal & child health, local self-governance, and micro finance. After that, she worked as Project Manager in the Plan India supported International Grant Project on Adolescent & Youth Health. From here she entered the CSR domain with GMR Varalakshmi Foundation and worked there for nearly three years. She had a small stint with Charities Aid Foundation- India as Manager Program. At present she is spearheading the CSR at Relaxo Footwears Ltd.


Introducing her and the organization, Ms. Agarwal states that she heads the Relaxo Foundation, the CSR arm of Relaxo Footwears Limited- a 40-year-old footwear company of Indian origin. And suggests that Corporate Social Responsibility is just not the as simple as a mandate or the statutory requirement for the company.


Talking about the focus areas under which the company initiates the CSR activities, Ms. Agarwal says that CSR is pretty much the core of the business for Relaxo, not just compliance or statutory requirement. Even before the law was enforced, Relaxo had been doing a lot of philanthropic activities but CSR helped to strategize the CSR with a more professional approach. To decide the thirst area, the company adopts three components as strategy, i.e.,


1. Stakeholder Consultation – Community is a very important stakeholder, and without their involvement, it’s difficult to identify the projects.

2. Assist the company’s strength

3. Understand national requirement - aligning CSR activities with national agenda.


Further explaining, Ms. Agarwal says, based on the components, two thirst areas have been identified; Education & Skill Development and Health & Hygiene. Healthcare is a very important and very challenging area in the current scenario. Availability, Accessibility, and Affordability of Health services are very challenging for poor people in India. Considering all these factors, Health is a very important thirst area for Relaxo’s CSR activities.


Addressing the Challenges involved and the factors for identifying key interventions, Ms. Agarwal suggests that various projects are undertaken in the areas of Education & Health. Under Education, various projects have experimented. Relaxo is trying to develop this model called ‘school-led individual and community development model’. Under this initiative, government schools are adopted and transformed into modern schools. It’s a short term goal for the organization. However, the long term goal is to cover the entire community, so that the entire community can be uplifted. It’s a flagship project of Relaxo and under this Government schools in Haridwar are adopted.


Continuing on the flagship initiative, Ms. Agarwal says that the company is implementing two major projects under ‘Health’ in Bhiwadi area, which is the remotest in Rajasthan. The area is extremely backward and ignored. Two projects are implemented in this area-


1. Comprehensive Healthcare- addressing the primary health need if the community through assessment, it was found healthcare was defunct and the health was the most urgent need. The program covers 14 villages and through this project all three of are being addressed- curative, preventive and promotive health services.


2. An innovative project, ‘Project Nayan’ is being undertaken. It addresses preventive blindness of the underprivileged and rural community. Under this project, the entire block of Tejara is covered which comes under Alwar district and covers a population of around 2.5 lacs. To ensure the sustainability of the project, a vision center is going to be established.


Adding to the list of CSR initiative, Ms. Agarwal adds on with an interesting project undertaken in partnership with the Government of Haryana and is implemented in two districts, namely, Jhajjar and Rohtak to address the gender norms as Jhajjar has very a poor sex ratio. The objective of this project is to address gender norms to transform educational outcomes. Based on ToT model, training is imparted to teachers, developing a complete module for teachers. Later on, they impart the same training to the students. Currently, it’s a pilot project and based on the outcomes the government may upscale the project to the entire state.


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