Corporate houses should offer affordable innovative products as CSR: Sibal

Minister says idea behind business should not be just to earn profit but to serve people at large

jasleen

Jasleen Kaur | February 26, 2014



Giving a new approach to the concept of corporate social responsibility (CSR), union minister of communication and information technology, Kapil Sibal said that the corporate houses need to develop a vision to serve the society at large.

Urging the corporate houses to serve the society through innovative cost structure products, he said the idea behind the business should not be just to earn profit but to serve people and then profit would be monumental.

“I think we have a wrong approach toward CSR. We must look at market first – how many people do not have water to drink, or sanitation and houses. Today there is 800 million people who have very little purchasing power but have a big potential for growth,” the minister said while addressing the sixth global corporate social responsibility summit organized by ASSOCHAM in Delhi on Tuesday.

The minister said while the new CSR rules offer opportunity of Rs 15,000 -20,000 crore for the social work with something like 16,000 companies under the ambit of CSR, the real service by entrepreneurs to the society would be offered by innovating products which are affordable and can be used by masses at the rock-bottom prices.

He added that due to import of many healthcare instruments, the operational cost increases and becomes difficult for common man to afford it. “Even a good quality stent (a small mesh tube that’s used to treat narrow or weak arteries) is being imported … if the corporate houses start manufacturing many such products here it will bring down the cost and will serve the nation at large.”

Giving example of the Aakaash tablet, the minister said, “When I wanted a low-cost tablet to be in hands of millions of children, I was told that I am living in a fool’s world.” He added that Aakaash 4, for tenders were opened in January, is supporting 3G and 4G internet speed at a price of Rs 3,500 a piece and four top-notch MNCs, including Intel have joined the government initiative. He said the price would further come down once millions of pieces are produced.

While addressing the summit, M J Joseph, additional secretary, ministry of corporate affairs said the ministry would soon notify rules for section 135 of the new company act that cover CSR. The act mentions certain activities qualified for CSR spend and they are likely to undergo changes in the light of suggestion received from stakeholders.

Quoting a study, ASSOCHAM president Rana Kapoor said, “A minimum of 16,000 Indian companies fall under the ambit of the law and that entails approximately Rs 28,000 crores of funds that would be pumped into the system. There emerges a huge opportunity for a tripartite partnership amongst the government, businesses and NGOs.” He added that looking at the efficacy in delivery of the last mile by the ‘third sector’ (NGOs), a positive push in this sector makes for an excellent combination for accelerated social impact.

During the summit, the CSR excellence award was also given to the infrastructure major GMR Hyderabad International Airports while Ambuja Cement was the first runner-up. The award in the SME segment for the CSR excellence was given to Indus Health Plus.

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