Preetha Reddy. Photo: SaiSen/Mint
Preetha Reddy. Photo: SaiSen/Mint

Apollo focuses on healthcare: Preetha Reddy

The biggest challenge in the CSR ecosystem is operational manpower, says executive vice-chairperson Reddy

Preetha Reddy, executive vice-chairperson of the Apollo Hospitals Group, believes that the line between the group’s vision of creating wellness and their role in building a good society is somewhat blurred.

“A lot of work that we are doing is very seamless with our corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities," says the 57-year-old who has been part of the group since 1989 when she joined as joint managing director and is on the board of Apollo’s CSR committee.

Besides health-related initiatives, the group also focuses on rural development, providing an integrated healthcare service model to improve the quality of life. Edited excerpts from an interview:

Why is CSR important to you?

To us, the whole business we are into—bringing of this sort of healthcare to India—is the greatest active CSR. No other organization has looked into and developed healthcare like an industry. We are doing this for the greater common good so the line between our CSR and the work we do is not very distinct.

What is your opinion of Section 135 of the Companies Act 2013? How have things changed for Apollo because of it?

For me this is one of the best things that the previous government brought about. I love it. Everyone should be made to contribute towards society. For us, however, it was merely a continuation of what we already do. Now, of course we account for and do a lot more with more focus.

What is the primary focus of your CSR activities?

Our focus is, to a large extent, health and more than half of our CSR budget goes there. Some of the funds also go on culture—supporting fine arts, dance, music, weaving, art and craft. There is also education, and we run old age homes.

A lot of CSR activities involve children and old people. The in-between (people) can take care of themselves better, I think.

Tell us a little about your implementation partners.

The government always reaches out to us, in whichever state we are in. Take disaster management for instance. Every time there is a disaster, the hospital jumps in to help with medication and manpower. We do a lot of our work ourselves and have a full-fledged team for this. We haven’t seen a need to tie up with too many NGOs but if an NGO approaches us, we don’t mind partnering with them.

How deeply are you involved in the CSR process?

Dr Reddy spearheads every CSR initiative and has kept everyone very involved. Our Billion Hearts Beating project and the Total Health Programme is his baby. I am very involved in the Sach (Save A Child’s Heart), which is about cardiac surgery for children. A lot of people have contributed to this programme and we have done over 5,000 surgeries so far.

What is the biggest challenge in the CSR ecosystem ?

Honestly to me the biggest challenge is operational manpower. We can go out and raise money but finding enough manpower to go out there and execute our work is hard—we could do so much more, really.

What is your biggest achievement in this space?

Dr Reddy comes from the Aragonda village in Chittoor district in Andhra Pradesh. We have adopted the village and talk about nutrition, better lifestyles, and run immunization programmes here. Aragonda is a big achievement. If you go there, you will see the transformation of that village: they have a hospital, school, a skills centre, a nursing college. We don’t intend to pick up more projects and will focus on existing ones.

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