HSBC picks Swades Foundation to implement its skilling programme

The HSBC Skills for Life programme aims to cover 75,000 youth


Swades Foundation founder and trustee Ronnie Screwvala (right) and Stuart P. Milne, CEO, HSBC India. Pradeep Gaur/Mint
Swades Foundation founder and trustee Ronnie Screwvala (right) and Stuart P. Milne, CEO, HSBC India. Pradeep Gaur/Mint

New Delhi: HSBC India will allocate Rs.100 crore of its corporate social responsibility (CSR) funds over a period of five years to a programme called HSBC Skills for Life to comply with the CSR norms of Companies Act, 2013.

The launch of the programme was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his UK counterpart David Cameron during the former’s visit to the country last month.

Under the CSR rules, companies with a net worth of at least Rs.500 crore or a revenue of Rs.1,000 crore or net profit of Rs.5 crore should spend 2% of their average profit in the last three years on social activities.

The HSBC Skills for Life programme aims to cover 75,000 youth and will work on three verticals to support non-profits that provide employment and entrepreneurship-linked skills training, financial education of women, and upskill educators and teachers.

While the second and third verticals will be launched in 2016, the skilling programme begins right away with HSBC India tying up with Swades Foundation for its execution.

“This is the first pure execution-related CSR project we have taken up,” said Ronnie Screwvala, founder and trustee, Swades Foundation.

Out of the Rs.100 crore corpus, Swades will receive Rs.50 crore over a five-year period and will work with the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) and business schools as monitoring and evaluation partners.

“Our interest in skilling-related programmes began in 2012. We supported three not-for-profits—Bandhan Konnagar, SAATH and Kherwadi Social Welfare Association—over three years and learnt quite a lot from these smaller, pilot-like programmes. Now, we need to meet the 2% stipulation under the Companies Act and we had a situation where we had been spending an amount but all of sudden we had to reach the target. Our profitability is quite substantial in India and like most other large companies, we had to figure what to do that was largely impactful,” Stuart P. Milne, CEO, HSBC India, said.

Milne added that the India board “brainstormed about where we thought the need is and where we could construct a programme which will last a few years and will be scalable. We wanted to avoid having lots and lots of one-year programmes because those are very expensive to administer”.

Having worked with Swades earlier on water and sanitation-related projects, HSBC India decided to bring them on board as implementation partner. “We are impressed with their ability to execute on the ground having worked with them in the past. Besides, we have a small team at HSBC and cannot do this ourselves. What we want to do is create a platform and do something that’s over a longer period of time. As we go along we can course-adjust and decide what we do with the budgets, and time lines,” Milne said.

“At Swades, we have committed to set up an execution foundation and that is what perhaps appealed to HSBC,” Screwvala said.

Swades will screen the not-for-profit applicants for CSR grants from HSBC. The skilling programmes will centre around sectors such as retail, transportation and logistics, beauty and wellness, tourism, among others.

“To me, the most important part is will all this translate into results? A lot of people are spending time on skilling and then there is the employability factor where soft skills training is needed,” Screwvala said.

According to Milne and Screwvala, training in soft skills will be an important component of the programme. “We hope to put up a report card at the end of the year to see how many people got skilled, what percent got employed, and how many stayed in their first job and for how long. Attrition rates are high in the first job and it takes a few attempts for these people to settle down. We want to track all this through the impact assessment of the programme,” Screwvala said.

Milne said that for HSBC India, the programme is not about how many people it skills, but how many people get into livelihoods that can help them achieve their ambitions.

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