One of the pioneers in the Corporate Social Responsibility sector in the country, Ms. Ritu Jhingon has had an illustrious career in Cause Marketing and developmental communication with leading media and advertising companies including Hindustan Times and Ogilvy & Mather.
Currently she is the CEO of Vedanta’s flagship programme Nandghar, which aims at transforming lives of 8 crore children across India.
Vagish Jha, the Academic Lead of Schoolnet India, talks to her.
Vagish K Jha: From being a national level sports person to management in marketing to being General Manager – Corporate Communication. Please share your journey with us.
Ritu Jhingon: It’s interesting to go so long back. My father comes from the Indian Air force. I loved swimming. So, by 13, I was a state level swimmer; by 15, I reached the national level and eventually, I went on to become the first polo captain in New Delhi, then. I wore the Delhi University colours; National Colours. I was the head girl of the school, I did a lot of treks.
Once I finished college and MBA, I joined advertising. I worked for Ogilvy and Mather to do Advertising, Marketing and Communication together. I started becoming a specialist. I got an international transfer to Ogilvy Mumbai and then I moved to Ogilvy Delhi. I was kept being ‘hounded’ by Hindustan Times, where I spent many years on Advertising.
That is how the sort of communication of branding professional started getting ebbed. At that time, CAIRN was looking for a Communications Head. I said to myself – I am happy to take this chance.
As the journey got along, I moved to a special project which is Nandghar. My Chairman picked me up as the CEO of the project. Now, with 800cr earmarked, I am working directly with the Government of India and the Ministry of Women & Child Development to deliver 4000 Anganwadis.
I think we’ve had the luxury and the pleasure of associating ourselves with Schoolnet India. The journey has been wonderful because we learnt many newer things together. The Schoolnet India team has diligently and scientifically put together e-education platform especially for this project. Pre- school learning in India is asking for much more. We got a very nice module from Schoolnet which is animation based and makes multisensory learning such fun. We are teaching cognitive skills, phonetics, storytelling, and more importantly social value stories – ‘Sanskari’ (well cultured) students are very important for to us. So, it has been a wonderful journey.
Vagish K Jha: In your 3 decades of experience, tell us how has the CSR space been shaping up since its inception? What has been the driving force behind Vedanta’s zeal to reach out to the communities?
Ritu Jhingon: In a larger perspective, ‘Daan’ (voluntary Gift) is a part of India’s cultural DNA, so to say. Over the years, several community organizations have opened charitable hospitals, some opted for mobile health vans, others opened library as a part of charity. In 2014 it became a law that CSR is a must. With the law coming in, there is a lot of good that has happened because we are probably the only country that has made CSR compulsory. Also, they have structured it in a nice way.
Since then, it has evolved. CSR committees are very important in the board, which was not here earlier. An independent director is very important in a CSR committee, which wasn’t there earlier. So, there is a structured way of giving back. It is also wonderful because you know at the start of the year – the budget and we can plan.
Adding to it is the sustainability part – linking everything to sustainability and development goals. So, both these sectors are giving us some amazing young professionals. Knowing that the Government looks at CSR as the core function, we would see many more youth coming to it.
Vagish K Jha: How does the CSR philosophy to impact and contribute to the integrated and inclusive development of the community benefit a corporate?
Ritu Jhingon: What is inclusive growth? When you see the communities around you do well and have equal opportunities. Take an example of Barmer. For 26 Lakhs population, in 2004, when Cairn went in there, it was a barren village. Today it has hotels, mineral water, etc. Water in Rajasthan is Gold. Everywhere you there today, you have water ATM’s. You have stadium built, cinema halls like the PVR’s. Earlier the situation was like, we didn’t have a Gynaecologist around. So, we would go all the way to Jodhpur to show the doctor. Now, we have doctors. There are schools here; there are science labs.
The community is growing. There is an enterprise centre that we have created in which over 50,000 people have been educated by Schoolnet India. It ran the project for 3 years. Our skill training centre of Learnet Skills is there in a place like Barmer! So, inclusive growth is very important.
Vagish K Jha: Vedanta has crossed an important landmark by having more than 1000 Nand Ghars across 4 states till now. Vedanta has the ultimate vision to eventually have 4000 Nand Ghars across 11 states in India. What is the road map? Ritu Jhingon: Yes, our vision was to complete all 4000 by September 2021. Anganwadi has been there. But for us, the moot issue is – how do we create a modern Anganwadi? So, we said, let’s give them every facility an urban child gets. Wegive them solar power units which can run 24×7. We give them television in Nand Ghar. Education is standardized. So, there is a high quality e-learning content provided by Schoolnet India. We said, we must have food the table available for every child. We are activating the government delivery system through self-help groups. If not, we are getting food through other providers for pre-cooked meals like MTR and Akshaya Patra.
“We got a very nice module from Schoolnet which is animation based and makes multisensory learning such fun. We are teaching cognitive skills, phonetics, storytelling, and more importantly social value stories – ‘Sanskari’ (well cultured) students are very important for to us.”
give them solar power units which can run 24×7. We give them television in Nand Ghar. Education is standardized. So, there is a high quality e-learning content provided by Schoolnet India. We said, we must have food the table available for every child. We are activating the government delivery system through self-help groups. If not, we are getting food through other providers for pre-cooked meals like MTR and Akshaya Patra.
We are at 1300 Nand Ghars as of now. And I must say, we are absolutely delighted with how they are shaping up. We are watching the kids in terms of when they used to go for traditional Anganwadis. We have control groups to measure the performance vis-à-vis those in Nand Ghars. In this whole state-of-art journey, we are proud of how they are shaping up. My chairman always used to say, ‘this has to be aspirational’. Anganwadis carry their own little baggage; that this is from the Government and it’s all free, you get Khichdi here. And suddenly, kids have access to television, animation stories, food coming in and all that.
In the evenings, the Nand Ghars impart Skills training for women. You will be surprised to know that people come and tell us that we have opened a new grocery store. We still expect women to be stitching and running beauty parlours. No! We want to run ‘e-Sameeksha’. So, in villages, we loan them money to put up shops or set up whatever they they want. Some wanted laptops so that they could start booking e-tickets charging `10 or `20 extra to do that work. And they were delighted. So, small experiences like that are making such large difference in women empowerment.
We have close to 50,000 kids who are being fed everyday by us in ages of 3-6. We have 37,000 women who have become entrepreneurs. For us it has been very gratifying.