ET Cases03 October 2017
For more than six decades, the Aditya Birla Group has been and continues to be involved in meaningful welfare-driven initiatives that distinctively influences the quality of life of the weaker sections of the society. The Group is currently working in 5,000 villages globally and reaches out to 7.5 million people annually.
The Group’s engagement with the underprivileged is channelised through the Aditya Birla Centre for Community Initiatives and Rural Development, with Mrs. Rajashree Birla, the chairperson providing vision and direction. The Centre’s focus areas are healthcare, education, infrastructure, the girl child and sustainable livelihood. The Group focuses equally on women empowerment projects, believing that a woman’s potential is limitless. A very good example are the factories of Madura Fashion & Lifestyle (MF&L), a division of Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail Limited (ABFRL)1,2. With a group of women working determinedly towards making the company’s and their own future beautiful, Madura has become a monument of pride for the Aditya Birla Group. Originally known as Madura Garments, MF&L was born in 1988 at the cusp of the unshackling of the Indian economy. Fashion in those days was not what the consumer’s aspirations merited. Madura became a partner of the new Indian in this journey of self-discovery.3
Madura factories employ over 8000 women from remote villages of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh (Annexure I). Their beginnings are from three different states but their destination is the same. These women did not have the luxury of proper education or a supportive family. Yet, they have decided to fend for themselves and face hardships with a fighting spirit.
Working in the factory may be their job, but these women do not start their work from here. They rise before the sun, finish all their household chores, attend other calls of their family lives and then travel several miles, by the company transport or even on foot, to reach the factory. Here, they begin with Aditya Vandana (Rising Sun Hymn) – a beautiful hymn that instills inspiration and energy. This is followed by a recital of the organisation’s vision and values, which serves to strengthen their commitment and kindles their passion to improve their lives with hard work and determination.
Most projects are started for profit and later layered with a CSR initiative, however, empowering these women with the basis of a job, some education, a crèche for their kids and freedom was never a deliberate ‘initiative’. Madura began with the motive of making each one of these women strong enough to overcome their difficulties. It was a unique business plan that created profit with the spirit of its employees.
Madura, a second home to many of these women, spares no effort to make them feel confident, encouraged and empowered. It tries to instill a sense of security in them, adding more meaning to their lives than any regular job. Why else would Ratnamma choose to walk 10 kilometres every day to reach work during a four-day transport strike? Not just her, hundreds of women walked as much as 15 kilometres to reach work.
Amaiamma, one of the production line supervisors, raised her hand to help her colleagues when a batch of 1,800 units was rejected on the 25th of the month that had a target of 1.5 lakh unit. As teams frantically tried to readjust resources to make up, Muniappa and other production supervisors, too, stepped up to perform semi-skilled and unskilled tasks within their teams to help with finishing jobs, pulling together the required target seamlessly by the 28th of the month. This collective effort accentuated the sense of accomplishment from individuals to team.
Gowri faces a string of difficulties within the walls of her home but she is never late to work or without a smile full of promise and hope. She participates in Namma Dina (Our Day) – a day that celebrates the workforce through entertainment and awards. Little things make her feel loved and keep her going. The caring environment stretches well beyond the factory floor.
On reaching home, Jyoti would be separated from her kids by her in-laws. Nevertheless, with empowerment and training that Madura gave her, she contacted the authorities and put an end to this injustice. “I would like to transform my family, and I want my children to have parental care and I know Madura is walking with me in this endeavour,” she smiles.
Stella has two kids and an unemployed husband who is into bad habits. Therefore, she gets the children with her and drops them off at the crèche in factory. She puts in her best effort and wins the Catch Them Right Award for her commitment to the job and for contributing the best to her L1 Team. She is a role model for her peers.
The commitment of these women is fuelled by a sense of accomplishment as they share their Kaizens (continuous improvement ideas) that are acknowledged by supervisors and peers and rewarded by the organization. Few share that their kids associate these awards with the hard work required to attain something similar at their schools and shyly admit to their immense joy as a source of family pride.
There is a mesmerizing zeal and pride in every one of these women. They are not just out there to earn a living. They are out in the world to prove their worth. This pride brings out the kind of commitment towards their work that is not a common sight elsewhere.
Madura factories are brimming with many such empowered women out on a journey to transform their lives through hard work, commitment, passion and seamless support for each other. These women find their sense of belonging and appreciation from the hard work that they put in the factory and driving them to outdo their own capabilities. The factory too draws its strength from these fighters. The designs come to life, with their undying spirit, inspiring Madura to deliver every day of the week, every month of the year.
This caselet was written by Dr. (Mrs) Pragnya Ram, Group Executive President – Corporate Communications & CSR, Aditya Birla Group. It is intended to be used as the basis for classroom discussion rather than to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of a management situation. It is based on primary research.
1 “Madura Fashion and Lifestyle”, http://www.adityabirla.com/businesses/Profile/madura-fashion-and-lifestyle (accessed date: February 9, 2016)
2 Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail Ltd. (ABFRL) emerged after the consolidation of the branded apparel businesses of Aditya Birla Group comprising ABNL’s Madura Fashion division and ABNL’s subsidiaries Pantaloons Fashion and Retail (PFRL) and Madura Fashion & Lifestyle (MF&L) in May 2015 (accessed date: March 1, 2016)
3 “About Madura”, http://abfrl.com/madura/#about_us (accessed date: February 9, 2016)
Dr. Pragnya RamGroup Executive President, Corporate Communications & CSRAditya Birla Management Corporation Private LimitedAditya Birla Centre, 1st Floor, 'C' WingS.K. Ahire Marg, WorliMumbai 400 030.
91-22-6652 5000 /2499 5000
Fax: 91-22-6652 5741/ 42