Fr N Casimir Raj, Director XLRI
The Hindu BusinessLine (Sept 11, 2006)
It is an initiative that is aimed at providing an insight into "another side of India that lives in the 18th century". It is also aimed at ensuring that the rural marketing skills of its students are honed in an arena where it is needed. XLRI Jamshedpur has adopted two villages for "integral development" over the next five-year period. Each of these two villages has around 300 people and the pilot project aims at facilitating their economic uplift.
According to Fr. Casimir Raj, Director of XLRI Jamshedpur, students of the institute were first "exposed to the plight of the villages" last year. It soon dawned upon all that it would augur well for both the student community as well as the village folk to facilitate entrepreneurship among the latter. After collection of relevant data, self-help groups are provided with seed capital for producing goods based on locally available raw materials. These include coir products, bags, wax products and leaf plates. "It is not that these products are not made at present. The idea is to eliminate the middleman and provide a fillip to the rural marketing skills of students. Also, this will make them conscious of their social responsibilities," says Fr. Raj.
According to him, students are made to stay in the villages from Friday through Sunday. They have the local food and use open toilets to get a flavour of the real India. "The experience also helps them attune mentally to what will ultimately be their corporate social responsibility as corporate citizens. The students have appreciated the experience and they realise their CSR obligations. May be, only 10-12 per cent of the villagers will ultimately become successful entrepreneurs but the experience will always be with the students, who are expected to come up with appropriate marketing modules for the products that are made by the villagers," Fr. Raj said.
The XLRI alumni, too, has welcomed the initiative. In fact, it has expressed its keenness to contribute to the Social Entrepreneurship Trust that is aimed at training village-level entrepreneurs at the micro level and providing scholarship to village children.