A dentist by qualifications and profession, Dr Priti Adani, has also been spearheading the philanthropic and CSR initiatives of the Adani group through the Adani Foundation. In a Q&A with Namrata Kohli, she dwells on the group's initiatives in empowering communities across the Indian landscape
How do you look at the philanthropic landscape of country? Has India’s corporate sector been able to balance personal gains with social good?
Philanthropy, now named as CSR, has been integral part of business houses. The Tatas have been the pioneers. I share the Adani group's view that any business can only survive if it is sensitive to the society it is working with. Some (business houses) work directly on the causes, while others work through NGOs, but it’s a fact that all businesses have recognised this.
What are the values that the group believes in and how does Adani Foundation align with them?
The very philosophy of the Adani group is “Growth with Goodness”. The Foundation is definitely aligned with that. While the group is creating world class infrastructure for the growth of country, the Foundation is adding to the human capital and the human development. I feel that is very important. In society, when women, children, people in general are empowered, the nation is empowered.
You are a qualified dentist. What are the elements that a woman and a professional at that, brings to the cause of social change and why do you think women spearhead in philanthropic work in majority of the organisations?
I personally believe that great philanthropists are driven by a purpose in life. Being a doctor, I have also touched upon many instances where I realised misery of life is much beyond medical condition. Philanthropy does not have much to do with gender - it has more to do with the inner call and intent and we have leaders such as Kasturbhai Lalbhai and Azim Premji who are inspirational. However, women do have the advantage at the grass root level, as they can relate to problems in a better way since it almost comes naturally to them. Secondly, they have an empathetic and sensitive approach that goes beyond business. That’s why you have more women philanthropist.
What kind of time and money do you invest at Adani Foundation?
I entered this field by choice. You know, when one chooses to work in the philanthropic sphere, one will see worldwide there are common three attributes – compassion, conviction and commitment. In this scenario, time is no constraint, one has to invest unlimited time. When it comes to financial terms, during the current year we have invested Rs 128 crore.
How do you get the max bang for the buck?
We have a very systematic approach. We get a fair idea of next year’s budget in January, and the development plan for the whole year is made. We plan what we are going to spend and that amount is allocated uniformly across various geographical locations and causes, and our team then starts to develop a yearly implementation plan. We have a strong monitoring system too and even have third-party evaluation for our projects. We try to maximise the use of resources intelligently and productively.
How did it all start?
We started about two decades back. It started with a very small but simple initiative and gradually evolved to a lifecycle approach. Our goals are addressed to serve the needs and aspirations of the needy and marginalised sections of society, or “the last man on the developmental queue". We focus on rural areas. The initiatives we have can be broadly divided into two categories: One is a Collective Impact Programme where we work in the core areas of education, community health and livelihood rural infrastructure, and address a particular geography. We are working across 2,250 villages in 18 states and the objective of these programmes is to improve the socio-economic conditions of the society at large. Second is Catalytic Impact Programme. So if there is a particular problem that has assumed national dimensions, then we address that problem. Suposhan is one such which addresses malnutrition. Likewise Saksham is for skill development and we have multiple skill development centres across the country where we also work with various partners. Our aim is to skill 300,000 youth by 2022. There is also a recent movement called Swachhagraha, for creating a culture of cleanliness. We work with school children across India - close to 1.5 million students so far. The fourth one, Utthan, is about improving quality of education.
What is the approach of your foundation?
Our approach is inclusive and bottom-up. Community members are involved in decision making right from need assessment, to implementation of the project, to monitoring. When we are participating with the community, it becomes a more inclusive environment. When we talk about the organisation and the people, I have 360 qualified and committed professionals. In this kind of group, the commitment and passion comes first and degrees and qualification comes second. We reach out to 3.2 million people beneficiaries every year across 18 states and every year more are added.
What area of social reform are you involved in? How do you choose causes?
We look at two or three things while identifying the causes we are involved in. It should be a problem where we can make a difference. There are hundreds of problems around and if we go around addressing each and every one of them, we may not be impactful. We look at those where we can bring about a sustainable change. Mostly we align with the SDGs or Sustainable development groups.