Good training to work force helpful for employment and removing poverty
Mehran Group is taking best practices to safe and comfort its workers and customers under COVID challenge
Interview with Mr Gul Mohammad Lot – Chairman, Mehran Group of Industries
PAGE: Tell me something about yourself and your organization, please:
Gul Mohammad Lot: I was born in Pakistan, in the Diplo area of Thar District in Sindh. I joined my father, Mr. Ghulam Muhammad Lot, in his business at a very young age. As far as education is concerned, I completed my bachelors from the London School of Business in administration and obtained my Master’s degree in political science from the University of Sindh, Hyderabad.
Mehran Spice & Food Industries started its journey in 1975 and within a few years of its inception, the company grew to become one of the leading spice & food industry globally. Mehran is a world leader in quality rice, equipped with the most advanced rice plant from Germany. Mehran Spice & Food Industries is an ISO 9001 & ISO 22000 certified leader in the quality food business. Our mission is to be a consumer oriented company with a keen insight of food products ensuring quality, consistency and an authentic taste, backup with state-of-the-art technology to obtain optimum result. Mehran Spice & Food Industries have been honored many national and international awards.
PAGE: Kindly share with us the CSR activities of your organization during COVID 19:
Gul Mohammad Lot: These are challenging times for everyone. The threat posed by the COVID-19 has consequences. It presents an unprecedented challenge around the world. At Mehran Spice & Food Industries, we are committed to fulfilling our part to help prevent any further spread of the virus. Mehran’s deepest sympathies go out to all those who have been impacted by the coronavirus outbreak throughout the world. These are challenging times for everyone but We, Our people, and the Communities we proudly call home will rebound, just as we have done after every other global crisis. We will all emerge stronger, more resilient and more united than ever.
At Mehran, we are doing our part to help prevent the further spread of the virus, while also supporting the needs of our customers, consumers, employees and communities. We have – and always will – put the health, safety and security of people first. Our approach is grounded in our company’s purpose, which ensures that we continuously strive to make a difference for the people in our communities and in our workplaces. We realize the role we need to play, bringing in collective wisdom and resources to support the fight against COVID-19. Social distancing plays a vital role in order to mitigate the spread of this deadly infection.
The Government of Pakistan announced lockdowns throughout the country in March 2020 in order to promote social distancing, which basically directs the public to maintain distance both socially and physically. Even extended lockdowns further worsen economic troubles, but social distancing by means of lockdowns is the only weapon that can destroy the spread of this transmittable disease.
No doubt, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities are intended for the general public, but it starts firstly from the employees of the companies. Mehran Spice & Food Industries have taken precautionary measures for their employees to work from home and stay safe. We ensure to use masks and washing hands with sanitizers frequently at work places.
Those values have a place in this time of uncertainty and anxiety. We’re definitely in a time of need right now and transferring the ideals of CSR to the dislocation caused by COVID-19 can be of great benefit now for all of us, as employees, as consumers and most importantly, as people trying our best to get through an extremely challenging time. Businesses should first focus on the people they depend on most, their employees. The absolute top priority should be ensuring employee comfort and safety. Nothing else even comes close at a time when a dangerous health threat covers the globe. Of course, the responsible thing to do for all of us under these circumstances is to show that employers are primarily concerned with creating a safe workspace, with all the reasonable precautions that can be taken.
PAGE: How much amount should FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods) allocate for CSR activities and poverty alleviation?
Gul Mohammad Lot: The business activities of FMCG have an important contribution to make to economic development in developing countries. This contribution is particularly significant because the volume of private capital flows exceeds that of development assistance. International and domestic business activities and investments in developing countries have the potential to create positive impacts at several levels for people living in poverty. The extent to which the wealth created by business can reduce poverty is determined by many factors. An industry’s operating structure, the values and strategies are critical factors. The significant challenges for Pakistan are scarcity of resources, poverty, and health issues etc. If it is to become a major player in addressing financial inclusion and poverty, Pakistan’s economy must play a significant role in job creation and poverty reduction. Moreover in this regard, for sustainable community and for social development of the country, one must take the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) the central part for the economic and welfare integrity of the country.
Pakistan has one of the world’s most impressive agricultural systems and agriculture could become the main driver of economic growth and poverty alleviation. Organizations need to invest on agriculture sector and to use un-cultivated land and make it productive, through this farmer get opportunity to grow agriculture produce on it and workers can earn income and reduce poverty. Many developing countries, including Pakistan, face significant rates of underemployment and unemployment.
FMCG can have an impact on employment because of their size and their reach into the local economy. The business operations of FMCG are at the center of a long and complex value chain with both forward and backward linkages. This section of the research aimed to assess the extent to which the producers and suppliers (backward linkages) and distributors and retailers (forward linkages) who are linked to FMCG through its value chain are able to participate in the benefits of FMCG success. The creation of value, income, assets, and employment in itself is not necessarily an indicator of positive impacts for people living in poverty: this depends on how the benefits of the value chain are distributed, which depends in turn on other factors, an important one being their bargaining power within dynamic markets for raw materials and labor.
In the end, we have to realize that, despite FMCG has very different missions and goals, they share a common commitment to contributing to poverty reduction and development and allocate some amount as well in respective fund.
PAGE: Which areas in our country do you think need more CSR activities by the corporate sector?
Gul Mohammad Lot: At Mehran, we believe that CSR is not an expense or charity. CSR is strategic, building long term relationships with neighboring communities and stakeholders. Relationships that are mutually beneficial enhance corporate reputation and respect for the company’s business and products, and provide a sustainable competitive advantage. As a good corporate citizen Mehran focuses on meeting the expectations of its internal and external stakeholders. We not only invest in its employees, make efforts for customer satisfaction and operate ethically, but also undertake a wide range of projects to benefit in areas of Education, Health, Vocational Training, Environment, Community Development and Response to Natural Calamities.
Our CSR programs are an ongoing initiative in which new areas are identified and existing ones are improved by providing basic infrastructure and other necessities that are beneficial for the surrounding communities. Communities are happy that the Chairman of Mehran is there for help when they need it most. The private sector, several public sector organizations had also given the significance to the CSR value and now contributing a lot for welfare of country and its people. Both local and international enterprises are paying great attentions on CSR in Pakistan and had developed their CSR departments for effectively implementation of CSR policy by providing shelters, medical aids, food and clothing to the uprooted and needy people.
PAGE: What must the corporate sector of Pakistan do for the skill development programs to tackle poverty in Pakistan?
Gul Mohammad Lot: There is no denying the fact that poverty is indeed the mother of all evils. Poverty has many dimensions in Pakistan. The poor in Pakistan have not only low income but also lack access to basic needs such as education, health, clean drinking water and proper sanitation. Poverty in Pakistan has historically been higher in rural than urban areas. At present, one-third of the country’s population continues to live below poverty line. A number of factors explain the existence of increase in poverty in the last decade. However, poor governance is the key underlying cause of poverty in Pakistan. With regard to economic factors, decline in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate is the immediate cause of the increase in poverty over the last decade. Lack of education, large scale imports and over-population are other causes of poverty.
It is required to manage skills development programs and to train work force about technical and non-technical education and will be trained in demand-driven trades across the country. This training will remove poverty and provide an opportunity to our youth to get employment. In order to decrease poverty, enhance employment opportunities, provide skilled workforce to large, medium & small scale industry and to meet the international labor market needs, the Government has already initiated ‘Prime Minister’s Youth Skill Development Program for unemployed youth belonging from lower and middle class families.
To generate employment opportunities on a scale needed for long-term poverty alleviation, it is necessary to create an environment conducive for private economic activity, and encourage domestic and foreign investment.
The current policies of poverty alleviation are more centered on other sectors and the efforts to make farmers well equipped are little. The efforts of this segment are too high, their compensations too low. Most of them struggle to make ends meet. It is ironic that those who are the reason for food at our tables are themselves struggling for their basic needs.
Training to work force about agricultural sector is much more powerful in lifting people out of poverty as compared to investing in other sectors. It will improve the incomes of nearly half of our labor force, increase food supply, reduce its prices, boost our agricultural exports and help stabilize the macro economic situation and promote economic growth.