SOBHA Limited

SOBHA Limited

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Photo-Caption_SOBHA-Hermitage,-Palakkad,-Kerala

CSR has become an effective catalyst for SOBHA’s success

CSR has been made mandatory in India wef April, 2014. But few companies have adopted CSR principles and practiced them sincerely much before the law came into existence and benefitted out of them, by making CSR a catalyst for strengthening their brand reputation and goodwill while making a sustainable impact on the social and environmental systems. TATA is known and remembered by average Indian as the most trustworthy Indian Brand name, active in multiple product categories such as steel, hotels to household products like salt.

In comparison to Tata, SOBHA being a company setup in 1995 and active in only one Industry i.e real estate, has made a considerable impact on the mind space of consumers and relevant public through their CSR oriented values and also earning benefits out of their principles and CSR impacts.

SOBHA’s case like TATA’s confirms the point that good CSR make good business sense. The community adoption model of SOBHA has potential to be imitated by others.

SOBHA Limited, founded in 1995, is a 28 billion Company headquartered in Bengaluru. Primarily, SOBHA focuses on residential and contractual projects. The company’s residential projects include presidential apartments, villas, row houses, luxury and super luxury apartments, plotted development and aspirational homes replete with world-class amenities. On the contracts side, the company has constructed a wide variety of structures for corporates including corporate offices, convention centres, software development blocks, multiplex theatres, hostel facilities, guest houses, food courts, restaurants, research centres and club houses. Some of SOBHA’s prestigious corporate clients include Infosys, Taj Group, Dell, HP, Timken, Biocon, Institute of Public Enterprises (IPE), Bosch, Hotel Leela Ventures and others.

Demand profile of Products and Services

There is demand for products across all categories. SOBHA’s product bouquet ranges from 1BHK to presidential villas, with customers comprising upwardly mobile youth from the age of 25 years and above to entrepreneurs and NRIs. As of June 30th, 2018, SOBHA has completed real estate projects and contractual projects covering about 96.48 million square feet of area. The company currently has ongoing real estate projects aggregating to 38.48 million square feet of developable area and 26.20 million square feet of saleable area, and ongoing contractual projects aggregating to 9.08 million square feet under various stages of construction.

The company has achieved 960,085 square feet of new sales and total sales value of Rs. 7,624 million with SOBHA share of sales value at Rs. 6,118 million during Q1 FY-19.

Business Model of SOBHA and its unique features

SOBHA has set up a unique model of backward integration, making it the only real estate player in India to have all the competencies and resources in-house to deliver a project from conceptualisation to completion. This model helps them have total control of the resource management and quality control, which is integral to the construction process under a single ownership.

Under the company’s backward integration model, there are three divisions – Glazing and Metal works, Interiors and Concrete Products. Each of these divisions use state-of-the-art equipment that have been especially imported from different parts of the world. Additionally, SOBHA imparts in-house training and certification in technical aspects at SOBHA Academy, making their workforce highly skilled at their respective domains. Backward integration model is their key differentiator in the market.

All their factories are well-equipped to cater to their internal requirements of SOBHA projects as well as other players in the construction industry. Today, each factory has grown to become self-sustaining revenue generating unit for the company.

Vision, Mission and values

Vision – Transform the way people perceive ‘Quality’
Mission – No shortcuts to Quality
Philosophy – Passion at Work

SOBHA is guided by five core values – international quality, passion, reliability, transparency and integrity. These values have not only helped them withstand adversity but also strengthened their processes further. More importantly, it has transformed the Company into one of the most trusted and admired real estate developers in the country.

Sales turnover, growth, employee strength, geographical spread

SOBHA registered a turnover of Rs. 28.37 billion in the fiscal 2017–18. The compounded annual rate of growth in net worth over the past three financial years is @ 3.92 percent. SOBHA employs around 3,000 people directly. The company has a real estate presence in 9 cities, viz. Bengaluru, Gurugram, Chennai, Pune, Coimbatore, Thrissur, Calicut, Cochin and Mysore. Overall, SOBHA has footprint in 26 cities and 13 states across India.

Company structure – ownership, headquarter, global operation profile

Mr. P.N.C. Menon is the founder of the SOBHA Group of companies. The Group has developments and investments in U.A.E., Sultanate of Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, Brunei and India. SOBHA Limited is headquartered in Bengaluru, India. Mr. Ravi P.N.C. Menon has been the Chairman of SOBHA Limited since June 2012. Mr. J.C. Sharma is the Vice Chairman & Managing Director of the company. In 2006, SOBHA went public through its initial public offering, an event that created history when the issue got oversubscribed a record 126 times.

Compatibility of business model with government programmes

SOBHA strive to make Environmental, Health and Safety (EHS) matters an integral part of their business. SOBHA was awarded the ISO 9001:1994 certification for meeting the requirements of the standard as early as in 1998. The company was also awarded the ISO 9001:2008 certification for adhering to the requirements of the revised standard. SOBHA has also been awarded the ISO 14001:2004 and OHSAS 18001:2007 certificates for adhering to Environmental, Health and Safety Standards. They adhere to the mandatory 2% and spend beyond on CSR activities as good corporate practice as per the Government norms.

Ethical aspects of the business process

Since inception, the company has always strived for uncompromising business ethics, timeless values and transparency in all spheres of business conduct. Today, SOBHA has become one of the most trusted real estate brands in the country. This can be attributed to their full-disclosure policies and good governance practices. All their practices and processes have helped strengthen their bond with their stakeholders and build immense trust. There are no misrepresentations with regard to the area that is mentioned and that gets delivered – specifications, quality or any other matter. SOBHA maintain the consistency of information on structural and finishing specifications which are spelt out when the project is launched and marketed. As a professionally managed company, SOBHA focuses on launching projects that it can deliver.

CSR Activities of SOBHA

Graamasobha: A Journey of Transformation

‘Graamasobha’, SOBHA’s CSR initiative has given facelift to three backward panchayats in Palakkad district of Kerala in India.

SOBHA’s CSR activities cover education, healthcare, welfare, women empowerment and employment carried out by Sri Kurumba Educational and Charitable Trust, the CSR arm. While Vadakkenchery and Kizhakkenchery grama panchayats were selected for implementing CSR projects in 2006, the company extended it to Kannambra grama panchayat recently.

Broadly, SOBHA’s CSR efforts can be classified the following areas:

  • Providing education and vocational training
  • Providing healthcare facilities
  • Looking after the aged, the elderly and those in need
  • Education and Vocational Training

The SOBHA Academy

Literacy is an indicator of development in the society and India is taking baby steps in reaching the desired literacy rate.  The biggest problem faced in providing quality education at the grass root level is the fact that every single member of a family becomes a bread earner at a nascent age. To get them to spend time in schools and concentrate on education is a challenge. Therefore, there is a need to provide them incentives such as books, meals and other requisites to attract them to attend the school regularly.

With education at the epicentre of their initiatives, SOBHA, through its CSR arm, started The SOBHA Academy in the year 2007. The objective of the programme is to empower and enable the rural poor to break away from the vicious circle of poverty, ignorance, deprivation, and exclusion by providing their children with high-quality education. Selection to the Academy is done through an open draw from a list of eligible candidates who are short-listed after through background checks and various other criteria to ensure that the benefits are provided to those who are worthy of it. Every academic year, admissions begin only for the lower kindergarten and 90 students (3 divisions of 30 each) are taken in.

Once admitted, all the requirements of the children, including food, transportation, uniforms, books, medical care, etc., are met at no cost. The facilities provided by the school are commendable and significant attention is paid to the slightest of details such as the height of the wash basins and the design of the chairs. Multiple activities are conducted to keep the students up-to-date with the latest and trending news from around the world.

SOBHA Icon – High School Support Initiative

SOBHA Icon programme is another constructive step towards comprehensive upgrading of the academic performance, communication skills and overall personality of students. It aims at creating ‘Icons for India’ by making high-quality learning opportunities available for deserving students of other government schools who have exceptional skills but not the opportunities to grow. The classes under the ‘SOBHA Icon’ programme officially began in June 2010 at SOBHA Campus, Panniyankara. The students of the last batch performed tremendously well in their exams with a pass percentage of 100%.

SOBHA Icon- Higher Secondary Programme

The SOBHA Icon Higher Secondary course is a two-year full time regular, 6-day college enrolment oriented programme, which caters to a batch of 60 students in Science and Commerce streams. It is conducted at the SOBHA Icon Campus at Moolamkode and is registered with the Kerala State Open School for certification. The Trust also provides financial assistance to students from poor families who obtain merit seats for engineering, medical and other professional courses. All their expenses are covered including tuition fees, uniforms, books and basic accessories.

SOBHA Vocational Training Centre

As an organisation, SOBHA has strategically planned to provide vocational training and paid apprenticeship to young members of poor families. The training programme has been established for various vocational skills like carpentry, computer literacy and tailoring. Direct as well as indirect employment is provided to the students through the SOBHA Vocational Training Centre (SVTC). Besides this, other centres have also been established for imparting training in computers, music and tailoring.

Healthcare Facilities

SOBHA Healthcare

SOBHA Healthcare, which was started in 2007, is one of their flagship CSR activities that provides free and easy access to primary healthcare. The target group comprises all the BPL families of the adopted panchayats, senior citizens of SOBHA Hermitage, students of the SOBHA Academy and their parents. The facilities include free consultation, diagnosis, tests, treatment, and medicines. The centre has also set up outreach counters to reach out to the needy at their doorsteps.

Looking After the Elderly and Those in Need

SOBHA Hermitage

The focus of SOBHA’s CSR activities is equally on some of the most vulnerable sections of the society – abandoned elderly and young widowed mothers. SOBHA Hermitage was established with the specific aim of providing shelter and assistance to them. Besides providing residents a roof over their head, SOBHA Hermitage also makes sure that all the necessary amenities are given to them to lead a comfortable life. Residents have independent self-contained rooms, a library and a common television room, a gym and also internet access. All residents can also avail of round-the-clock medical facilities, if needed, which are provided by paramedical staff; there is a doctor on call during non-working hours. The Hermitage also has an in-house clinic.

SOBHA Young Mothers Rehabilitation Programme

The Trust offers a comprehensive rehabilitation package for the ‘Young Mothers’ (widows) living in Hermitage. They are provided with safe and secure living and welfare at absolutely no cost. The widowed mothers and their children live together. All mothers are encouraged to continue their education and many have completed their graduation while others are catching up. All are employed at the SOBHA Academy with good remuneration, which they can save. Their children are admitted to the prestigious SOBHA Academy, where they are able to obtain quality education. Special arrangements are made to teach music and dances to their children at the SOBHA Hermitage. For these young mothers whose children have grown up, individual self-contained flats have been constructed and allotted for each family. Previously, they were housed in SOBHA Hermitage. To ensure that they have an emotionally fulfilling life, many young widows are re-married to suitable men. In short, an integrated social rehabilitation for the vulnerable widows is offered successfully at Hermitage, saving them from exploitation.

SOBHA Rural Women Empowerment

It has taken 50 widowed mothers and their children belonging to the Vadakkenchery and Kizhakkenchery panchayat under its wing. They are provided with a basic monthly living allowance, clothing, medical and other personal accessories. Educational expenses of their children are met by the Trust to give them adequate opportunity to come up in life.

SOBHA Dowry-Less Social Wedding

SOBHA dowry-less social wedding programme is a constructive approach to tackle issues of dowry and poverty. The girls from economically and socially weaker section of the society are married off under the aegis of the programme ‘dowry-less social wedding’. It helps approximately 40 women get married each year and provides basic resources to the couples to help them begin their wedded life. The couples are given pre-marriage counselling. The Trust’s staff also monitors the couples’ post marriage life periodically and renders help if needed.

SOBHA Community Centre

The SOBHA Community Centre is a beautiful and spacious edifice for the deprived. It plays host to various community mobilization programmes including medical camps, orientation and training classes and social weddings. The Centre also comprises of a dining hall that has a seating capacity of 300, where several poor people are fed twice a day free of cost.

Other Initiatives

SOBHA Green Initiatives

SOBHA’s green philosophy of development is widely accepted across the spectrum as evident from the numerous awards and recognitions it has bagged. Akin to that, several green initiatives are underway in the CSR project areas also. The entire campus was constructed with minimum carbon footprint and without making much change to the natural surroundings. Large-scale rain harvesting methods and processes are put in place, planting of more than 3000 herbs and plants and preserving the existing flora and fauna to the extent possible has been undertaken. The Trust has also very large waste management plants put in place to process the waste generated here. All the CSR project campuses area plastic free, no-smoking and non-alcoholic areas, thus striving to achieve sustainable lifestyle. Also recently, a solar energy plant was installed.

CSR budget spent

Total expenditure incurred on the project and the sources of funding (separately for each funding sources) is mentioned below:

Period Company Contribution (INR) Beneficiaries Reached (from the company contribution) Contribution from Other Sources – I (INR) Contribution from Other Sources – II (INR) Total number of Beneficiaries Reached
Budget     NA NA  
2017 – 2018 142900000 136118910 4485
2017 – 2016 150400000 149963690 4485
2016 – 2015 167600000 167032540 2872
Since inception until 2015 998694000 998254000 2872

CSR team – organisation

SOBHA’s CSR activities are carried out under the aegis of ‘Sri Kurumba Educational and Charitable Trust’, the CSR wing of SOBHA. All infrastructure required for the projects are built new by the SOBHA through its CSR wing. The Social Empowerment Department of the Trust is primarily involved in the monitoring of the programmes.

Employee engagement profile

There is a separate CSR committee comprising top management who work closely on all CSR initiatives.  Mr. PNC Menon, Chairman Emeritus regularly visits the CSR projects to oversee the implementation of programmes.

Outcome and impact of CSR activities of SOBHA

SOBHA’s CSR initiative, Graamasobha, under the aegis of Sri Kurumba Educational and Charitable Trust has undertaken systematic social empowerment activities in Vadakkenchery, Kizhakkenchery and recently added Kannambra panchayats in Kerala, India. Over the last 12 years, Graamasobha has transformed the lives of thousands of people. Investments have been made in terms of designing, developing and delivering state-of-the-art infrastructure to the poorest of the poor without any discrimination on the basis of religion, caste or creed.

Education:
  • Over 1300 families have been directly impacted by SOBHA’s educational initiatives, improving their knowledge, skills and attitude. As a result of their initiatives, they have now come to understand and believe that education is a change agent to break away from the vicious circle of poverty, ignorance and deprivation.
  • SOBHA has qualitatively transformed the educational system by establishing world-class institutions such as The SOBHA Academy and SOBHA Icon for the underprivileged children without charging a single rupee. Over 95% percent students come from the SC & OBC/minority families.
  • The SOBHA Academy provides world class free education for 1137 children from most deprived families; another 250 students studying in Government institutions are supported by an after school programme called, SOBHA Icon.
  • Schooling has been redefined in the area through high-quality educational opportunities for children, changing drastically in the last 12 years. In the 2017-18 Kerala Higher Secondary Board Examinations, all but one of the 51 students passed with distinctions. About 90% students scored more than 95 percent marks. About 18 students scored A plus in all subjects with the top score being 99 percent. All students have been enrolled in colleges based on merit.
  • SOBHA’s educational initiatives have created a sort of educational revolution in the area. For the first time, the villagers saw for themselves quality resources, facilities and services that are essential for the success of a school. Consequently, other schools have been inspired to improve their approach teaching and learning approach. Even for teachers around, SOBHA presents a good model and they are working hard to improve themselves. That there is an impact on the educational system in the area is irrefutable, both at academic and administrative levels.
  • A student from the first batch of SOBHA Icon program has been awarded the Commonwealth scholarship to study at the prestigious School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London.
  • Many students have qualified in the International Competitions and Assessment for Schools (ICAS) 2017 of University of New South Wales, Australia. Over a dozen students of the 2017 batch have been selected for INSPIRE & PRATHIBHA Scholarship by the DEST, GOI and Kerala Government respectively. One student each has passed the JEE (Mains) and NATA 2018.
  • Lives of the families whose children are studying at SOBHA have been transformed, enabling them to save Rs 5000/pm per child. This can now be used for good food, home, clothing and other life-building resources.
  • The huge sum that is being invested/spent has impacted the village economy right from the daily wage of the workers to other employees, teachers (for whom govt scale pay scale is paid), prices of articles and land, and the purchasing power of the people. As a result, there is a surge in the local economic activities with a sustainable income to many people to spend and save for the future.
Women empowerment:

SOBHA’s empowerment initiatives are mainly targeted at women, particularly widows and girls belonging to economically backward segments. Some figures:

  • As a policy, 50 percent seats are reserved for girls. There are nearly 800 girls in schools, giving them confidence to face the new world with courage and conviction to build a new social- economic order of their choice.
  • Over 95 percent of employees are women. This means, sharing and participating in the organisation and management activities and programmes aims at empowerment of themselves and others of the same gender.
  • The social wedding initiative has seen 590 girls from the poor families getting married. Every year, 40 girls are married under this programme.
  • Widows are given monthly livelihood assistance, preference in employment, direct admission to school, and rehabilitation of the most vulnerable ones. This means, the basics are assured for leading minimum quality life for a dignified life as a person; and rescuing the tender ones from being victims of orphanhood, which is the fate, otherwise, for most of the children of poor widows. Efforts are also made get these young mothers re-married. Of the 18 young mothers, 7 young widows have been re-married with the support of the Trust.
  • Women are given preference for employment in housekeeping, laundry, supply/service and maintenance with continuous exposure to world-class living resources, facilities and services. This improves their vision of life, apart from the innumerable skills, particularly communications skills.
Healthcare:
  • The free primary healthcare facilities are provided to the community through world-class resources. It recognises and practices the idea of health as a social necessity and a public responsibility.
  • The impact of the health care initiatives could be seen in the weight and height of the children, mental and physical wellbeing of both children and parents.
  • During the period 2007-18, 14,460 outpatients have been treated under the SOBHA Healthcare programmes. More than 2 lakh patients have been treated so far under this initiative, reflecting the role played at the community level in terms of accessibility and acceptability.
Social changes:
  • Alcoholism has been contained through an honest, sincere and persuasive motivation, supported by positive/ creative life changing measures which the Trust undertook.
  • The trust formed an exclusive Social Empowerment Department to identify the target families based on the criteria that alcoholic addicts with poor antecedents will not be enlisted for assistance. This has sent a message across that for availing benefits, alcoholism would be an obstacle, and that they have to choose between alcohol and a life changing opportunity. This has created awareness among new couples to think twice and to put social pressure on individuals pauperized by the habits to restrain or get rejected. This worked well.
  • The Social Empowerment Department while making the recruitment takes almost one year to complete the admission process which include a multi-level enquiry about the applicant’s family and processing of a lot social intelligence inputs through its network. This has direct and immediate impact as everybody considers admission to school as a boon to their children and a life time opportunity. The young parents with poor or no educational background give utmost importance to education of their children and are willing go to lengths, including giving up on any alcoholism and other addictions.
  • It is difficult to quantify the precisely on the number of people who have given up drinking, but it could be confidently said that many have stopped taking alcohol altogether, many have reduced its consumption substantially or refrained from taking it regularly, and the young parents have abstained in the interest of their children.
  • To ensure that they do not back to their addiction of drinking after their children are admitted to the Academy, SOBHA has initiated a Social Empowerment Education Programme (SEEP) to counsel, inspire and guide the parents for better life opportunities.
  • As an independent non- governmental entity, the Trust has no legal or moral right to ask people to accept family planning options. Among the poor backward class, the family has been bigger in size till recently. The Trust, instead of making people to adopt such measures forcibly, has decided to restrict its support to families with two or less children. Decision has worked well as a deterrent, as the number of children born to couples is two or below.
  • The SEEP also provided an opportunity for parents to share their achievements as well as apprehensions; and it made them competent parents and some even rose to leadership roles in the public positions, particularly mothers. It must be noted that SEEP provided a wonderful opportunity for mothers to put across their worries and tensions about their families including bad habits of their husbands and the need for intervention. The key objective of SEEP was to help bridge the emerging gap between parents and their children once the latter reaches higher classes.
Cleanliness and Hygiene:
  • One of the most revolutionary impacts of the initiatives has been the awareness on the need to focus on personal hygiene in the community, particularly among the children and their homes. SOBHA standards of personal and public hygiene have become a standard for the people in the area. Children have started demanding their right for a clean home.
  • The hygiene revolution could be seen among students and their families, staff and their families and the scores of people who visit SOBHA institutions regularly. It is easy to identify a SOBHA student among a hundred children with his personal hygiene standards, thanks to Mr. PNC Menon, who believes Gandhi’s dictum that ‘cleanliness is godliness’. The families are now aware of the need for quality drinking water, toilets, clean floors, sting- free cloths, fresh foods.
Endorsements:

The number of people from different walks of life who voluntarily visit the campus has increased considerably. They include, CMs, governors, judges, politicians, priests, leaders and activists, teachers and student, media and common people.  Heads and members of nearly 230 local self-government institutions have visited the campus and are known to practise some of the best practices in their area. The endorsements made by these visitors testify the impact of the CSR initiatives in this part of the country.

Strategic connect of the CSR activities with the core business of SOBHA

At SOBHA, they believe that success is not just about financial growth and geographical expansion of the company but also upliftment of the society. SOBHA is driven to provide comprehensive and sustainable social development to rural India, complementing its impeccable execution and on-time delivery track record in the Indian real estate sector.

Mr. PNC Menon, founder of SOBHA believes that education is a big leveller, which will uplift the society at large.  Their CSR activities are focused on raising the level of education in 6 villages in Palakkad district, Kerala. They also provide vocational training on carpentry, masonry among other fields.

Way Ahead

SOBHA has been spending more than 5% of its annual profits on an average on CSR activities. They are committed to extend their CSR efforts to other parts of the country. In this direction, they are working towards replicating similar initiatives in Karnataka and Delhi-NCR region.

Conclusion

The contents above create evidence of sincerity and commitment for the principles involving respect of and the well-being of communities and environment. Their sincere efforts have made a tangible impact on the lives of the people of the area adopted by them. This impact made has also been and will also be capitalised in the form of business value benefitting business, essentially transferring the goodwill of stake holders to the shareholders. Vision and values of SOBHA has been reflected in its action, making an effective impact.

The appreciation of this experiment in the recent past is expected to motivate many such businesses to follow the track created by SOBHA limited.

About the author

CSR VISION
CSR VISION is India’s ( probably world’s ) first monthly magazine in print devoted to CSR and Sustainable Development for bringing together all stakeholders of SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT at a global and local levels and act as a platform for promoting strategic CSR and sustainable development practices through dissemination of information and knowledge.