Business Standard

Combating malnutrition through CSR programmes

Companies like Glenmark, Biocon, who currently dont have products in the segment are working in the area

Sushmi Dey Mumbai
With the new Companies Bill coming through, making it mandatory for industry to invest in corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes, a lot of companies in the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) segment, as well drug makers, are identifying malnutrition as an area to work on. While FMCG players such as Nestle and Danone, already present in the nutrition segment, are keen to spread awareness and campaign about the issue, pharmaceutical companies such as Glenmark and Biocon, which currently do not have products in the segment, are working in the area as part of their CSR initiative.

Glenmark, which recently joined hands with the Ficci Aditya Birla CSR Centre for Excellence to combat child malnutrition, feels there is a need for innovative solution to counter the crisis. “We need to introduce innovative ways to disseminate information on right and healthy practices among rural masses. Time has now come to employ practical solutions rather than theoretical ones to ensure that our children remain healthy,” says Cheryl Pinto, director corporate affairs, Glenmark. While the company has no plans to foray into neutraceutical segment, it says it is committed to work towards the social cause.

Similarly, Biocon, which is currently largely focused on oncology and preventive care-related CSR, is now exploring new areas such as child malnourishment to work on. “When we work on ground, we see there is a need to spread awareness and work in this area. Child malnourishment is a major problematic area in our country and needs to be addressed,” says Rani Desai, head-Biocon Foundation.

Unlike various developing countries, in India, child malnutrition is a bigger problem than infant mortality. According to experts, while India has been able to save children from dying as infants, most of these children survive as unhealthy and disabled population because of malnorishment, which is an even dangerous situation.

While the industry is of the view that resources should be used adequately by the government to cater to rural areas and address the problem, the civil society insists the problem of malnourishment be solved by the government alone as a public service.

Alex George, director, Action Aid India, insists marketisation of the campaign against malnutrition be barred as that results in introduction of unnecessary products in the market.

Some also feel the government needs to address the problem with proper regulations and checks in place. Vandana Prasad, member, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, says there is a need for a systematic implementation of government programmes to address malnutrition. As a market, the segment is growing rapidly. Currently, the neutraceutical market is pegged at around Rs 1,000 crore with major players from both FMCG and pharma sectors entering the space.

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First Published: Aug 24 2013 | 11:14 PM IST

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