VIJAY CHADDA – CEO, BHARTI FOUNDATION

VIJAY CHADDA – CEO, BHARTI FOUNDATION

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Vijay Chadda is the Chief Executive Officer of Bharti Foundation, the development arm of Bharti Enterprises. He is a graduate from the National Defence Academy, Khadakwasla, Pune, India and the Canadian Forces Command and Staff College Toronto, Canada; Vijay has also completed his M.Sc. in Defence Studies from Madras University.

He has over forty years of professional experience in different fields. He has served in the Indian Army for twenty years and has headed some of the leading corporates in the travel and hospitality industry.

Vijay has served on the board of significant Travel & Tourism Associations and is a part of various National Committees in the area of Education, Skill Development and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). He has represented the organization at various renowned national forums.

As the CEO of Bharti Foundation, he has played a key role in project expansion and enhancement of quality standards and system efficiency, while constantly keeping the team morale high to deliver their best in challenging circumstances.

Under his leadership, learnings and best practices of the Satya Bharti School Program have been taken to the Government schools, under the aegis of the Quality Support Program. He has guided the organization from running its own schools to engaging deeply with the Government and mentoring Government schools to enhance the quality of education.

Q. How has the CSR and Sustainability program evolved at Bharti Foundation?

A. Over the years, our programs have witnessed evolution in scale, depth as well as in their approach. The Foundation started as a grant-making organization for the initial few years but then decided to implement its own programs, retaining education as its key focus.

We launched our flagship program – Satya Bharti School Program in 2006. With primary, elementary and senior secondary schools, this rural initiative provides free quality education to underprivileged children, with a special focus on the girl child. The program is running 254 primary, secondary and senior secondary schools, reaching out to more than 45,000 across 6 states and aims to transform students into educated, responsible and self-reliant citizens with a deep sense of commitment to their society. Both classroom as well as out of classroom activities help students to develop holistically; helping them imbibe the right values, life-skills and confidence. Active involvement of parents, community and like-minded organisations are integral to the Satya Bharti School program.

The impact of quality education is being scaled up by transferring the learning and best practices of this program to Government Schools, through the Satya Bharti Quality Support Program. The program aims to improve the over-all school quality in Government schools in partnership with the State Governments.

In addition to its primary focus area of education, the Foundation initiated Satya Bharti Abhiyan in year 2014 to improve sanitation facilities in Ludhiana and rural parts of Amritsar. The program achieved the distinction of having delivered more than 18,000 individual toilets, directly benefitting over 90,000 beneficiaries in Ludhiana and rural Amritsar. In addition to rural household sanitation, Satya Bharti Abhiyan is also investing in improving sanitation facilities in the Government schools of rural Ludhiana by building toilets for girls, where none exist.

To sum up since inception we have reached out to 3,00,000+ students and 13,000+ teachers through more than 2,100 schools/centres across 15 Indian states through our initiatives in the education sector. The programs have impacted over 2 million community members across rural India. Our programs have already been recognized as one of the largest private enterprise initiatives of the country in the education sector.

Q. What is the background to decide on these initiatives and what social issues do these programs or initiatives seek to address?

A. Today, with approx. 68% of the countrys population residing in rural pockets, the need of the hour is to equip villages to participate in the growth process effectively. Bharti Foundation was set up with a mandate to improve access to quality school education in rural India, with the intent of enabling young children to be employable and emerge as responsible citizens of the country.

Education continues to be the primary area of intervention for us. The Government has ushered in several changes through the education policy to bring in accountability, quality and delivery to the forefront. Bharti Foundation is also working hard to strengthen the parameters of quality education with focus on holistic development, responsible citizenry and enhanced participation. The Satya Bharti School Program, has been quite successful in ensuring holistic development of underprivileged children while maintaining special emphasis on the inclusion of the girl child. The Foundations initiatives to foster quality education through partnerships with State Governments are illustrated both through the mainstreaming of out of school children into Government Schools through the Satya Bharti Learning Centres and the support provided to improve quality of education at Government schools through our Quality Support Program. While quality rural school education continues to be our primary focus, Satya Bharti Abhiyan, a rural sanitation program assumes a lot of significance for us in view of its potential impact on rural life and the economy in general. The Program has shaped up in a commendable way during the last one year in Ludhiana and rural parts of Amritsar, Punjab.

Q. What are the key CSR projects of Bharti Foundation and which one, you consider the FLAGSHIP project?

A. The Satya Bharti School Program is our flagship initiative which is not only setting new benchmarks in quality education to underprivileged children (with a special focus on girl child), but also creating replicable and scalable components which are adapted by the Government and other like-minded organizations. The Satya Bharti School curriculum is based on the National Curriculum Framework (NCF) 2005 and is also aligned with Central Board of Secondary education (CBSE) guidelines for its Senior Secondary Schools and with respective state boards for primary and elementary schools. The curriculum encourages students to develop their abilities to think and question. This has led to the development and provision of additional models and introduction of innovative methods of teaching learning in the rural context. The children from Satya Bharti School across states not only made their mark in academics, but also excelled in national and internal competitions like Pramerica, Design for Change, School Enterprise Challenge etc. The EY report (2014) outlines the impact of our schools on the community with increased aspirations for their girl child, adoption of hygiene practices, a more inclusive society etc.

Q. How Companys CSR vision aligned with the growth of the nation?

A. We are fortunate to bear witness to a time when India is poised to lead the world with its phenomenal economic prowess and democratic ethos. With global attention firmly fixed on the countrys economic potential, and the general discourse veering towards growth every now and then, it is indeed a challenging, and yet exciting time for organizations engaged in promoting the agenda of inclusion.
Bharti Foundation is working in the rural parts of India, providing access to quality school education with intent of enabling young people to be employable and emerge as responsible citizens of the country. Our educational programs has a special emphasis on the inclusion of the girl child, similar to Governments Beti Bacho Beti Padhao initiative. The Foundations initiatives to foster quality education through partnerships with State Governments are illustrated both through the mainstreaming of Outofschool children into Government Schools and the support to enhance quality of education in Government schools through our Quality Support Program. Inspired by the Honble Prime Ministers call to the corporate sector in his Independence Day (2014) speech to strengthen the Governments Swach Bharat Abhiyaan initiative, the Foundation has adopted district Ludhiana and rural Amritsar as its focus area for the improvement of sanitation facilities under Satya Bharti Abhiyaan.

Q. The level of involvement of employees in the CSR all over the country is very limited, except few selected companies. What is the level of Employee Engagement and involvement in CSR activities of Bharti Foundation?

A. At Bharti Foundation, the level of employee engagement keeps increasing year on year. All our programmatic achievements have been well supported by the Giving spirit of employees within the Bharti Group through financial support and volunteerism. Employees of Bharti Group companies are consistent partners through the unique ACT (A Caring Touch) initiative – willingly contributing through payroll donation and volunteering. Our volunteering program like Young Leaders provide opportunity for corporates to participate in on-site/off-site CSR volunteering activities. In year 2017-18, 53 Young Leaders volunteered in 2017-18 at Satya Bharti Schools across Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. They assisted the teachers in classrooms, trained students in various skills such as communication and leadership and also interacted with communities, during their stint with the Bharti Foundation. The programs are specially designed to promote employee engagement and helps in team bonding away from the arduous working hours.

The most satisfactory alliance has been with like-minded individuals. With programs like Bharti Learning Series, we encourage professionals across industries, to put an effort as small as spending time with children which can go a long way in bringing change in individuals life. The sheer feeling of accomplishment or joy that they get by sharing a small story with them can be quiet overwhelming.

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

A.The Satya Bharti School Program stands out like a beacon a model that has shown success by confronting reality and finding solutions around the constraints and challenges and thus ensuring sustainability. We can easily sum up the accomplishment of Satya Bharti School program by listing the scholastic and co-scholastic achievements of our children. For example, this year, the combined score in Class XII CBSE board of five Satya Bharti Adarsh Senior Secondary Schools in Punjab was 93.25%. Girls also outshined with 16 of them scoring more than 90% and above in Class X boards and secured top positions in all five Satya Bharti Adarsh Senior Secondary Schools. 35 students from Satya Bharti School got admission into Jawahar Navodaya Vidalayas (JNVS) – complete residential schools for meritorious students, supported by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), Government of India. Bharti Foundation has built approximately 18,000 toilets in Punjabs Ludhiana making it an Open Defecation Free (ODF) district benefitting approximately 90,000 people. Bharti Foundation has now undertaken another similar initiative to make Amritsar District in Punjab ODF with a target to build 50,000 toilets in collaboration with the Punjab Government. With this, Bharti will become the first corporate to facilitate ODF status for two districts in the country.

Bharti Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Bharti Enterprises, has carved a strong niche for itself in Indias development sector with proven models and large-scale execution in the area of rural education for underprivileged children. The Foundation provides universal platform and works in close collaboration and partnership with various corporate foundations, NGOs, institutions and government bodies working in the field of education to adopt best practices and also build capacity.

Q. How do you find your CSR in Bharti Foundation is different from other Foundation?

A. Bharti Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Bharti Enterprises, has carved a strong niche for itself in Indias development sector with proven models and large-scale execution in the area of rural education for underprivileged children. The Foundation provides universal platform and works in close collaboration and partnership with various corporate foundations, NGOs, institutions and government bodies working in the field of education to adopt best practices and also build capacity.

Bharti Foundation is being run as rigorously as corporate organizations, incorporating all best practices. Training programmes focusing on leadership development, behavioral training, managerial skill development and opportunities for vocational learning are offered to employees. Benefits like financial help in times of a family crisis and free medical facilities in affiliated hospitals are also made available. Bharti Foundation is the only corporate foundation, to get listed among the Great Place to Work For survey by Great Place to Work Institute, the global management consulting and research firm. We give an environment of learning to our employees and that is why they are valued in the industry after working with us. Many of them go back to the corporate world often, taking corporate social responsibility (CSR) profiles in big companies benefiting from what they have learned here.

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.