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Foreign firms give CSR a hearing

BS Reporter  |  New Delhi 

Starkey, the hearing aid manufacturing company, will enter India in November. The firm will organise a charity event in four cities in October.
Foreign companies investing in the country is not But many of them are signing in on the new trend of giving back to society in the form of corporate social responsibility (CSR).
British Telecom has been here for the last four years, Wrangler has just joined in. And the newest entrant is Starkey Foundation. It is a charity which is entering India next month along with the hearing aid manufacturing company.
The company is better known by the charity rather than the other way round and its proprietor Bill Austen is publicised as the Santa Claus for the hearing impaired.
The launch of the company's manufacturing centre in November will be preceded next month by a gala event when the Starkey Foundation will announce its arrival. Bill Austen, the owner and builder of the 40-year-old company, will preside over the charity events in four cities. Two thousand children with hearing impairment will get digital hearing aid equipment worth Rs 50,000 each.
While the company hopes to make at least a ten per cent dent in the Rs 250 crore hearing aid industry in the country, Starkey MD Rohit Mishra says that for Starkey profit is not the only goal.
"Our foundation was started in 1970 three years after the company was launched in the US," Mishra says. Mishra adds that CSR driven giving is a much recent trend.
He says that the charity aims to identify and help up to 10,000 beneficiaries per year .Starkey is talking to corporates to fund the charities, and even the batteries needed for each pair of the hearing aid equipment.
The other companies in the market, like Seaman, Phomak and Oticon are not known for their charities. "Starkey sets the rules of the game wherever we go," says Mishra with some pride referring to their charity efforts.
Last three months have been hectic for Girija Sunder, director, business development of the company and her team which doubled up as the team of Starkey Foundation as it scanned pre-schools for the hearing impaired in the country. The team was looking for candidates who could be provided with the hearing aid equipment at the foundation's first charity.
British Telecom has stayed ahead of competition by topping in sustainability records while the new entrant Wrangler has chosen the endorsement route to stay ahead in CSR.
Last month it announced plans to endorse international NGO Habitat for Humanity which has so far been known for just one project in India.
That it is a rat race even to stay ahead in CSR is clear but, company representatives tend to see it differently. Says Anshul Chaturvedi marketing manager Wrangler while denying that CSR is often free publicity and good marketing: "We are the only international apparel brand to take up something like this in India."
He adds that the expenditure is mainly on the special T shirts with Habitat for Humanity (HFH) written on them, which are provided to all volunteers who build homes for the NGO HFH. But he does not know if any homes would come up in India. In India we would create awareness about the NGO by selling these T shirts, he says.
British Telecom gives back to Indian society
British Telecom, which has been recognised for the seventh consecutive year as the world's top telecommunications company and a sector leader in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, has been working in the social development circuit in India for the last five years.
The annual Dow Jones Sustainability Index review is based on a thorough analysis of corporation's economic, environmental and social performance, assessing issues such as corporate governance, risk management, branding, climate change, supply chain standards and labour practices.
British Telecom supports three community investment programmes. the first of these is Kites or Katha Information Technology and e-Commerce School, a project in association with NGO Katha, in Delhi slums in Govindpur. Here it has taught about 3,000 children basic computing skills as well as complex software programming.
It also supports a programme called Lifelines India. It also has an IT training centre in partnership with St Crispin's "" a registered charity in Pune, India which provides a residential home and school for 675 underprivileged children.
A state of the art computer lab (11 computers, audio visual teaching aids, power backup facilities and theory classroom) situated in St Crispin's school. It aims to train 1,400 children in IT skills over the next three years.

First Published: Tue, September 18 2007. 00:00 IST