Titan Industries Limited was formed in a joint venture between the Tata Group and Tamil Nadu; originally producing watches the company has since diversified into jewellery and eyewear. It now operates in over 30 countries including throughout the Middle East, Africa and the Asia-Pacific. It inherited a strong CSR legacy from joint venture partner the Tata Group, India’s best known industrial group with turnover equivalent to 3% of the country’s GDP. The Group has long believed in returning wealth to the society it serves and has a long history of corporate philanthropy and integrating CSR considerations into its core business.
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Titan Industries has been a signatory of the United Nations Global Compact since 14 October 2002.
This is reflected in the business plans for Titan Industries. Along with more traditional elements, it refers to the provision of micro business opportunities and support to poor village women and individual jewellery artisans, employing people with disabilities, supporting educational initiatives and health care projects and abiding by the Tata Code of Conduct.
Many of these aspirations are embodied in the company’s activities focused on improving the livelihood of local women. Original efforts began as a programme to combat female infanticide and improve the standard of living for women in Dharmapuri district. Women were offered employment making bread and washing uniforms for factory workers. Since then the programme has developed into an entire separate business and important local supplier.
In 1995, Titan began working with local NGO Myrada. Myrada assisted in identifying ways in which the women’s skills and needs could be better matched to the core business of the company. As a result, a bracelet making unit was developed to create bracelets to be used as watch bands creating a new market for the business.
Titan provided training and worked with Myrada to source the necessary equipment. Following early successes the initiative was converted into a privately held company run and owned by the women themselves, supported by further technical training and expertise from Titan. The company was called MEADOW (Management of Enterprise and Development of Women).
The company is now owned by more than 200 women, including three female directors, who have been with the organisation since it began. Profits are distributed equally amongst all employees with a significant amount added to corpus fund to cover company needs and raise the standard of living for employees’ families.
The annual revision of piece rates are negotiated with Titan and the company now handles all purchases, work schedules, accounts as well as doing the base work for meeting all statutory requirements.
But, perhaps more importantly, the women of MEADOW have become important wage earners in their families. Twenty have gone on to complete higher education and positive changes in the living standards and health of the community have been observed. This has had led to important changes in the lives of these women; they are no longer under pressure to marry at such an early age and are increasingly consulted in family decisions.
There are still challenges that the programme will have to face – for instance, the need to potentially find other markets to reduce its dependency on Titan, potential competition from other markets and how the same principles can be applied throughout other areas of Titan’s business.
However, the experience of MEADOW has proved that philanthropic aspirations can be achieved throughout the operations of the business and do not have to be limited to community donations. Success is dependent on a longer commitment of resources to help build the relationships and infrastructure required for success as well as the right community partners that bring the necessary expertise to the table to increase the chance of success.
© Article 13 - October 2008
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