Pankaj Gupta has been in the automotive sector for the past 18 years, holding senior positions in the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM), Toyota Kirloskar Motor, General Motors India, and Volkswagen Group India. He steers the Companys Central, State and local government affairs, leads, stakeholder engagement, and represents the company in national Industry & Trade associations. He coordinates the Companys regulatory and Government policy related activities and drives business advocacy.

He has led CSR programs and conceptualized important initiatives in Toyota Kirloskar Motors India and now in Volkswagen Group India. He is an active member of various industries like The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII, Society of Indian Automobile Manufactures (SIAM)), Society for Automotive Fitness & Environment, SAFE (A SIAM Initiative), The Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI), German Association of the Automotive Industry, VDA for a working towards the growth and development of the automotive sector. He is also a member of Indo German Chamber of Commerce (IGCC) European Business Group (EBG) and Industry Think Tank, IMA.

Q. Briefly describe your role and responsibilities, and how many years you have been in the CSR domain.

A. I head the External Affairs and CSR function in Volkswagen India. I have been driving the Corporate Social Responsibility engagements of the company even before CSR was mandated in 2014.

My work involves understanding the issues at the intersection of the brand, the automotive industry and corporate citizenship and creating the strategy with the objective of enabling people lead productive lives. I place emphasis on empowering and that is evident in the fact that our projects either create assets (like school building, bandharas) or equip them with skills that will enable them lead productive lives.

Q. Before CSR assignment, were you working in any other professional domain, if so, please describe?

A. I have a long association with the automotive industry starting with my stint at the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) in 2001 and thereafter I headed Government Affairs in Toyota Kirloskar Motors. I joined VWIPL in 2009 and have been heading External Affairs and CSR since then. I was away from VWIPL for brief while between 2015 and 2016. I have also worked in other industry associations. Public affairs has been integral part of my career and I thrive on the opportunity to work on issues at the intersection of Industry, the economy and society.

In the last few years, especially since the CSR law was mandated, there have been many changes in the development sector space with the C-suite actively involved on matters pertaining to local communities, skill development, and other issues.It gives us immense contentment thatVolkswagen is able to contribute towards the society and is working with diverse stakeholders. There is much more that needs to be done and I am keen on utilising my expertise and experience to facilitate more lasting impact on issues of priority in the country including skilling of youth to make them future ready.

Q. What are the key CSR projects of Volkswagen India Private Limited and which one, you consider the FLAGSHIP project?

A. We have developed our CSR projects on the pillars of Environmental Responsibility, Safety, Inclusive Growth and Effective Collaboration. The four areas that we have targeted our efforts under our CSR framework are Health, Environment, Education & Skill Development and Road Safety.

As you are aware, despite good rainfall, many parts of Maharashtra are drought affected. So, environmental project especially those focused on water conservation and increasing the green cover are important for us. We have implemented water conservation projects including building of bandharas, desilting and widening of water ways in a couple of drought affected villages and are currently supporting a mini watershed development project encompassing 4 villages in a drought affected district.

Projects focused on children and the youth are also significant in our portfolio of CSR projects. We have 6 educational and skill development projects that reach this segment.

  • Scholarships through the Lila Poonawalla Foundation for 40 girls pursuing engineering degrees;
  • Rebuilding a zilla parishad primary school and promoting environmental awareness among the children;
  • Supporting a Pune Municipal English Medium Secondary School since 2016;
  • 5 year support for Government ITI at Pimpri Chinchwad since 2016
  • Supporting the National Federationof Blind Maharashtra (NFBM)s Jagriti School for Blind Girls
  • Setting up aprinting press in Snehalayas Rehabilitation centre for young adults with cerebral palsy.

We have also been operating a Mobile Health Clinic since in 2015 at Kahnewaditarfe Chakan and Sangurdi in Pune to provide basic medical examination and medicines free of cost to the villagers. We have provided over 25,000 free patient consultations and have also been promoting awareness of preventive healthcare through special health check camps. The sentiment around this initiative is very positive.

In 2017, Volkswagen India had also supported Deenanath Mangeshkar Hospital in Pune in setting up a Centre for Paediatric Orthopaedics.Since its inaugurationlast year, the Centre called Blooming Buds has provided consultation to over 1200 patients in the age group of 0-18 years. 110 surgeries have been performed including one on a 3-week old baby with deformed knee. The surgeries have enabled these young children lead a normal life, join school, play, and pursue their extra-curricular activities.

The importance of road safety cannot be over emphasised with the high incidence of road traffic injuries and fatalities. We work with Pune City and Rural Traffic police. As a part of this, we have also helped Pune Police Trafficbranch to set up a centralized traffic control centre to capture traffic violations and to ensure efficient traffic management.

Q. Tell us about someone (mentor, sponsor, friend, hero) who influenced your CSR & Sustainability journey, and how.

A. I would credit the values instilled in me when I was a young lad growing up in Pilani with shaping my CSR and Sustainability journey. I studied in BITS Pilani where my father was a professor. Respect for the environment, simple and environmentally conscious living, and ownership were paramount to the life on campus and I value them to this day.

Q. What is the best advice you have ever received?

A. Like countless other people, I appreciate the significance of Krishnas advice Karmanyevadhikaraste Ma PhaleshuKadachana now more than even before. I believe focusing on the workat hand is important and not the reward and recognition. This is particularly important while working in the CSR space. We have to focus on the issues, the challenges and needs of the under-served. With committed implementation partners the desired outcomes are possible. Rewards and recognition are secondary.

Q. Can you share a recent accomplishment you are especially proud of in your CSR &Sustainability role?

A. The recent recognition that we received for being active participator in the social development of the Pune District by the Zilla Parishad is something I and my team are very proud of. This means that the work that we have done here at Volkswagen India has been of relevance and is positively impacting lives and livelihood. In 2018, we also received the B G Deshmukh award for Excellence in CSR from the Maharatta Chamber of Commerce Industry and Agriculture (MCCIA).Over the years, our vision and determination has enabled us to touch thousands of lives, contributing actively to the cause of safe and green manufacturing and promote a culture of giving.
We recently also got recognized by SIAM at the SIAM CSR Conclave held in New Delhi. Our partners in the Blooming Buds Centre for Paediatric Orthopaedics project Deenanath Mangeshkar Hospital received a special mention at this conclave for the work undertaken at Blooming Buds Paediatric Orthopaedics facility.

Q. If you had the power to make one major change at your company or in your industry, what would it be?

A. Making public spaces, public transport and public infrastructure truly accessible for person with disabilities.

Q. What is the level of involvement of CSR Head in India in CSR strategic formulation?

A. I, as the Head of the CSR function, am the Honorary Secretary of the CSR Committee that comprises of the President and MD (in the chair) and the CFO and Head HR as members.I am responsible for formulating the strategy and implementing it through suitable projects in consultation with the Committee. Our projects and priority areas are also in sync with the approach followed by the Group globally of undertaking locally relevant projects. India region CSR projects are also included in the Groups Sustainability Report.

Q. Describe your perfect day for you as the Head of CSR.

A. A day spent with promises kept with the beneficiaries, our implementation partners, the Volkswagen family, and other stakeholders.

About the author

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.