About ACF

Friday, July 27, 2018

ACF & Ministry of Rural Development Partnership - Training 1125 Youth from West Bengal

Official Launch of ACF and DDU-GKY in Sankrail, West Bengal in July 2018

ACF plays a key role in skilling the nation's youth, and in yet another collaborative partnership, has joined hands with the Ministry of Rural Development under the Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushalya Yojana (DDU-GKY) scheme - committing to train 1125 youth in industry-specific courses in Sankrail, West Bengal, over the next three years. 

DDU-GKY is a part of the National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM), tasked with the dual objectives of adding diversity to the incomes of rural poor families and cater to the career aspirations of rural youth. It's vision? To transform rural poor youth into an economically independent and globally relevant workforce!

It is also uniquely focused on rural youth between the ages of 15 and 35 years from poor families, which is in alignment with ACF's SEDI strategy and approach. 

On 20th July 2018, Ambuja Cement Foundation launched the project ‘Empowering India – Powering the World’ under DDU-GKY, with an inaugural ceremony organized in Sankrail, Howrah. 

The event which was inaugurated by Shri Purnendu Basu, Minister for Technical Education and Training and skill development, Government of West Bengal, witnessed participation from over 250 people - including the Government, current partners, employers, community representatives, employees of Ambuja Cements Limited, Ambuja Cement Foundation and SEDI students.

A Sankrail SEDI Student learns Mobile Phone Repair

ACF has been selected by the government to implement the project based on the quality of training, infrastructure, and processes - to date, ACF’s Skill and Entrepreneurship Training Institutes have trained over 40,000 youth across 10 states, and in West Bengal alone, 5100 youth have been trained in a variety of trades.

'Looking Back With Pride' - Silver Anniversary Celebrations in Punjab

25 years is a big milestone, and celebrations of ACF's silver anniversary continue in high spirits across the country. In July, ACF team members from Ropar, Bathinda, Roorkee, and Dadri came together to mark the occasion and reflect on the journey so far.

Mr. B L Taparia, Ms. Padmini Somani and Ms. Pearl Tiwari, Directors of ACF Board, were present on the occasion and were moved beyond words by the energy of the day.

Ms. Pearl Tiwari thanked the entire team for their relentless hard work and dedication. She also took pride in the fact that "Ambuja is one of few companies that thought of community development much before CSR came into the picture." 

"The fact that ACF is today seen as a leader in CSR is due to the magic potion we have had. This magic potion comprised of the incredible vision and humility of the founders, Mr. Narotam Sekhsaria and Mr. Suresh Neotia, and of course the perseverance of the ACF team and their families who supported them." Ms. Tiwari said.

Ms. Padmini Somani expressed her joy to be part of the celebrations.  "My father had a vision of helping the community prosper." Ms. Somani said. "I have seen this vision come to life on the ground, through the significant impact that ACF has created - this is a tribute to all of you and the hard work you have done to achieve this."

"I urge people to commit to giving back to the society in whatever small way they can." Ms. Somani said.

Mr. Taparia expressed his delight in witnessing ACF's growth over the years, both programmatically and from an organization perspective. 

"Our credibility amongst the partners has tremendously increased due to the strong governance and compliance systems we have in place - I congratulate the team on the successful implementation of both quality projects and transparent systems which have contributed to this."

The 25-year celebrations a special occasion for the entire ACF family. This is the occasion to reminisce on all the toil and hard work that has resulted in the organization that ACF is today. It is a proud time for everyone.

Of course, no celebration is complete without the participation of the people, and the event saw students of Ambuja Manovikas Kendra, self-help group members, and local community join hands with ACF staff in celebrating.

ACF operations in Ropar began in 1999 with Ambuja Manovikas Kendra and gradually expanded into other program areas including agriculture, women empowerment, and education. 
ACF teams at other locations in the region – Bathinda (Punjab), Dadri (UP) and Roorkee (Uttarakhand), have also implemented these programs, including the establishment of Skill & Entrepreneurship Development Institutes.   
Today, in all these locations, ACF is working to enhance the livelihoods and overall prosperity of rural communities.

Monday, July 23, 2018

5 Ways to Magnify Impact Through Collaboration.

The recently released 'Global Philanthropy Report – Perspectives on the Global Foundation Sector'  has found that an increasing number of Foundations (42%) recognise the importance of 'partnerships with other philanthropic institutions' as a key element to achieving their goals.  

The research, which studied close to 80,000 foundations across 19 countries, suggests that funders have found ways to amplify the impact of their investments of both time and money, by going beyond traditional grantmaking and collaborating with others. 

At ACF, we have experienced the power of collaborative efforts over the past 25 years - and also confronted the barriers to it. Whilst collaborative partnerships are recognized as an important tool to achieve impact and scale, it is important to note that such alliances can be difficult to create, manage, and sustain. 

Reflecting on our experiences and learnings, a few lessons stand out:
  1. Establish Trust & Openness: Our first task when putting together a new partnership is to lay out the groundwork for establishing trust and a culture of openness and transparency. Whoever coined the phrase “collaboration moves at the speed of trust” was onto something. Recognising that each player in the partnership has a distinctive style of working and specific goals to achieve, we work towards finding common ground and using that as a lever to build consensus on the goals of the partnership. Whilst at times things may not work as expected, being forthright and expecting the same candour from our partners, has allowed us to take timely corrective actions.
  2. Map out Roles & Responsibilities: It’s no secret that we have been able to accomplish much more than we ever could alone, by pooling our resources, capabilities and experience with others. By the same token, it’s also taken a great effort to make these pooled resources work cohesively together, towards a greater good. Specifying roles and responsibilities for each partner, being transparent about expectations from the partnership, sharing information and establishing a governance structure for the partnership have been the secret sauce of our successful partnerships.
  3. Expect The Unexpected: The only real things in life are the unexpected things! A rapidly evolving business environment, like the one we find ourselves in, brings with it unforeseen challenges which can derail even the most meticulous plans. These have, on occasion, adversely affected the financial circumstances or priorities of our partners, compelling them to renege on their commitments to the partnership.  At such times, being empathetic, flexible and willing to adapt, has helped us navigate this complex environment and build resilient long-term partnerships.
  4. Remain Open to Exchange of Ideas: Our successes have been built on the pillars of learning, networking and listening to others.  Each idea shared by our partners, be it the village communities, local government or donor agencies, has expanded our understanding of the ground reality and challenged us to think 'outside the box'. Our most impactful programs and services have been born out of challenging ourselves and stretching our thinking.
  5. Build Relationships: At the end of the day, we’ve learnt that it’s not the organisations, but the people in those organisations that we partner with, that counts. Our greatest efforts have been directed towards knowing and understanding our partners as people and nurturing our partnerships just as we do our relationships.

As Henry Ford once said, “Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.”


Nandita Dalal is thePartnerships Consultant at Ambuja Cement Foundation

ACF & NABARD Water Initiatives Deliver 8:1 Social Return on Investment

According to an independent social impact measurement study, ACF's Daseran watershed project in Darlaghat has delivered a Social Return on Investment of Rs 8.44 for every Rs 1 invested.

Implemented by ACF and funded by NABARD, the watershed project sought to address multiple challenges being faced by farmers and communities in the area due to erratic rainfall and limited water harvesting structures, which was adversely affecting both households and agricultural activities in the area - thus inhibiting overall prosperity. 

Watershed development leads to the conservation, regeneration, and judicious use of human and natural resources (land, water, plants, animals) within a particular watershed. It attempts to reach a balance in the environment between natural resources on one side, and man and grazing animals on the other. It takes people’s participation because conservation is possible only through the whole-hearted involvement of the entire community. 

Watershed development is important because there are a variety of consequences to deforestation, wrong farming techniques, livestock over-grazing and faulty land use - which lead to the destruction of plant and tree cover, exposing the earth to natural forces like heavy rains, direct sunshine and high velocity winds. This can lead to soil erosion, floods, or water scarcity. Further, agricultural yields are lowered, resulting in a decline in the income levels of the community, and eventually leading to migration of labour from rural to urban areas in search of livelihood. 

After the ACF and NABARD collaborative intervention, today, when Solan receives 600 to 900 mm, the new water structures capture and conserve rainwater - making it available for both agricultural and drinking purposes.

The SROI assessment was conducted to understand the broader socio-economic value creation of these watershed activities across the 18 villages in Kunihar block of Solan District, Himachal Pradesh - with positive impacts seen in the areas of agriculture, dairy, health and overall societal well-being. 

Examples of positive outcomes include:

· Increase in agricultural income and production;

· Increase in availability/irrigation of agricultural land;

· Income change in the sale of mil and milk products (butter, curd, paneer) among farmers;

· Increase in dairy production;

· Farmers' credit limit increased from Rs1L to Rs3L;

· Farmer Producer Companies availed seeds at cheaper rates - savings of 30-40%;

· Tap connectivity and pipelines reduced the drudgery of women and children in fetching water;

· Water quality improved and was well maintained;

· Increase in community spirit;

· Increase in drip irrigation, mulching and fencing - boosting production by 40%;

Conducted by Sustainable Square, the study utilised the Social Value International SROI framework, which is standardized by the United Kingdom’s SROI Network. It is the leading and most advanced framework for social impact measurement, by valuing financial outcomes from non-financial impetus. 

Central to the SROI methodology is the monetisation of outcomes in order that they can be measured in a consistent way using a common currency. This of course allows computation of a ratio of benefits to costs as the measure of impact which, expressed in monetary terms, can be set against the initial financial investment. 

The process of monetising the relevant outcomes involves identifying financial proxies for each separate outcome. The SROI ratio is calculated by dividing the total present value by the investment. 

Additionally, the goodwill and credibilty built by ACF through this project helped pave the way to launch agricultural and livelihood programs with minimal community outreach and mobilisation costs.

Anagha Mahajani - General Manager, Program Research & Monitoring, Ambuja Cement Foundation

Studying By Day, Stitching By Night - How Taufique Ahmed Battled the Odds to Secure a Better Future

On 7th July 2018, the honourable Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi, visited Rajasthan to seek feedback from around 2.5 lakh beneficiaries of various central and state-run public welfare schemes under the 'Pradhan Mantri Jansanwad' programme.

During the event, it was a proud moment for Ambuja Cement Foundation (ACF) when Taufique Ahmed, a graduate from Skill & Entrepreneurship Development Institute (SEDI) Naguar, was showcased as a success story under the Skill India initiative, implemented by Rajasthan Skill and Livelihoods Development Corporation (RSLDC)

Hailing from a Lower middle-class family with limited financial ability, building a career was never an easy option for Taufique. In fact, when most youth go to colleges post their 12th, Taufique was forced by circumstances to pick up a thread and a sewing needle to be able to financially support his family. 

Stitching was hard work and Taufique soon realized that beyond subsistence, the skill didn’t offer any growth. Never one to surrender to his circumstances, Taufique decided to pick a skill that would offer him growth & financial independence. Through an acquaintance, he heard about SEDI, Naguar and decided to meet the head of the institute. 

An interesting exchange took place at this meeting. Convinced that a certificate of proficiency in English speaking would increase his prospects of finding a suitable job, Taufique asked if such a certificate could be arranged for. The Head of the Institute responded by drawing a bow and arrow on a piece of paper and asked Taufique to show his archery skills with it. The point was well taken and Taufique enrolled for a course in hospitality at SEDI in Naguar. 

While the decision to take admission for the vocational course was a relatively easy one, studying in the absence of any income for him and his family was a tough one. He eventually decided to do both, study and stitch. 

The perseverance is inspiring. Taufique would come to SEDI in the day, finish his classes & studies through the day, and then go home to burn the midnight oil, stitching clothes. He didn’t just manage but excelled in his persistence. With 94% attendance and the best student badge under his belt when he graduated 5 months later, in September 2015, Taufique was raring to face the world with his newly acquired skills & confidence.

His first job, facilitated by SEDI, was with Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital in Mumbai. Having realized early on in life that time is money, he took up a second job as well, as a steward in a restaurant. Mornings were dedicated to the hospital while evenings were spent serving guests at the restaurant. Lodging & food was taken care of by the hospital. Within 6 months itself, Taufique was able to save Rs. 50000/- through his dogged determination & hard work. 

Taufique, however, was not one to rest on his laurels. He approached SEDI again and requested the institute to help him find a job in the Gulf which would help him in further securing financial stability back at home. SEDI, operating with its core philosophy to offer sustainable livelihoods to rural youth, reached out to a few fast food chains and eventually got a positive response from Jan Burger in Saudi Arabia.

Today, Taufique can be spotted at the Jan Burger outlet at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Within 2 years itself, he’s been promoted to the role of a cashier and hopes to scale greater heights. He earns Rs. 29000 per month plus tips which keeps his family back home financially stable. He seems fairly content, although the thirst to learn still lingers.

"A mere certificate in English would not have brought me to these heights” he admits, wreathed in smiles. We agree.

Through 27 Skill & Entrepreneurship Development Institutes across 10 states in India, ACF offers 35 different courses covering sectors such as construction, health, capital goods, automotive, retail, hospitality, security, beauty & wellness, and garment making among others to rural youth. Till date, ACF has successfully trained and placed over 40000 students. Learn more about how ACF is skilling rural youth here

Sandvik Gender Award for 'Bridging Digital Gender Gap'

Shri Sorath Mahila Vikas Sahkari Samiti (SMVSM), ACFs Women's Federation in Kodinar, has taken home the prestigious Sandvik Gender Award for its work in 'bridging the digital gender gap' in Gujarat.   
This is their powerful story...


In 2017, Internet penetration in urban India was 64.84% against a mere 20.26% in rural India.  And it was male dominated, with only 29% of online users being female.

Recognizing the advantages of digital literacy to women, in 2015,  ACF, Tata Trusts and Google India, launched a ground-breaking project to bridge this gap. Armed with 2 tablets/smartphones, sim card and charger, an army of 50 women set out on bicycles. Their purpose? To teach rural women to 'surf the net.'

But road blocks came in their way. Local men didn't believe women could learn technology! Wasn't ACF better off to teach young people how to use the internet?  Their trust wasn't gained until they saw tangible results. Manishaben had abandoned her saree business when travelling costs to purchase stock made it unviable.  But with internet at her fingertips, she dealt direct with wholesalers - ordering via WhatsApp, paying on net-banking.  Today her profit is up to Rs 1000 per saree.

The men were on board - some buying smartphones for their girls so they could earn too.  But whilst women were curious, they doubted themselves.  Many didn't even own a phone, let alone smartphone. But they saw the internet opening doors and their confidence grew.  Anitaben stumbled upon the 'Manasvini' scheme - where women were selected to distribute sanitary napkins. Today she earns Rs 10,000 monthly as the local coordinator.

Word of the internet spread rapidly.  In 2015, 50 Internet Saathis reached 7000 women. But by 2017, 130 Internet Saathis trained over 1 lakh women - now 'tech savvy' ladies! Best of all, they can buy their own smartphones now!

Of course this is just one program of many!  The ACF supported Federation, comprising over 6000 members, has also played an instrumental role in helping vast numbers of women achieve financial independence, whilst mobilsing them to tackle various social issues including alcoholism, domestic violence, sanitation and widow discrimination.

In the rigorous selection process, SMVSM was selected as one of 24 finalists out of the 384 applicants, and was later declared the winner in the Community Organisation category. The award was presented to Ms. Motiben Chavda, Director, SMVSM by Sindhutai Sapkal, a renowned Indian social worker and activist.

Converting 'Waste' into Livelihood - Biomass Innovation Applauded!


ACF Chandrapur has been recognized for its innovative 'biomass' initiative which helps generate an alternative source of income for farmers by utilizing agricultural waste (such as cotton stalk) as fuel for industrial usage. 

The project not only prevents environmental pollution (due to the burning of the cotton stalk) but is also helping farmers to earn additional income. Additionally, ACF’s Farmer Producer Organisation in Chandrapur has earned Rs 10.74 lakh (out of total turnover Rs. 2.43 Cr.) by supplying 10,743 ton of cotton stalk in the last three months.    

On 8th July 2018, Honourable Minister of Finance, Planning and Forests (Government of Maharashtra) Mr. Sudhir Mungantiwar felicitated ACF Chandrapur for successfully implementing the Sustainable Livelihood Initiative by promoting Alternative Fuel Resources in Korpana block. 

The project was selected under the competition titled KHOJ - an initiative by the office of District Collector, Chandrapur - which aimed to provide a platform to citizens to share innovative ideas either at a conceptual or implementation stage. 

Mr. Sopan Nagargoje (Project Manager, ACF Chandrapur) and Mr. Deepak Salve (Producer Unit Coordinator, ACF Chandrapur) represented Ambuja Cement Foundation at the felicitation event. Other dignitaries present during the event were MLA Mr. Sanjay Dhote, MLA Mr. Nanabhau Shamkule, Ex-MLA Mr. Atulbhau Deshkar, Z P President Mr. Devrao Bhongle, Chandrapur Mayor Ms. Anjali Ghotekar, Ballarshah Mayor Mr. Harish Sharma, Chairman and Nominee Director of Forest Development Corporation of Maharashtra Ltd Mr. Chandansingh Chandel, Chandrapur Dy. Mayor Mr. Anil Fulzele, District Collector Shri. Ashutosh Salil and Z P CEO Shri.Jitendra Papalkar.

Challenging Perceptions - News from AMK

AMK students have once again challenged perceptions of what the differently-abled can and cannot do, with 4 students passing their NIOS exams with more than 60% marks.

Jaskaran Kaur (16 years), Amandeep Singh (20 years), Jashandeep Singh (16 years), and Vikas Kumar (17 years) achieved the outstanding results with support from AMK teachers, parents and exam writers (amanuensis).

This makes the total number of AMK students to clear their NIOS exams, total 10.

AMK has won the Overall Championship Trophy for the third year running, at the Punjab State Cultural Competition. With over 300 participants from 26 special schools of Punjab, a delegation of 17 AMK members participated in the 'Umang' competition (13 students + 04 teachers) which was organised by Special Olympics Bharat.

AMK students brought home many prize ribbons, and the team was awarded a cash prize of Rs. 15000/- for winning Overall Championship Trophy.
Ramandeep Kaur (first from the left - front row)

AMK athlete Ramandeep Kaur has been selected in the Indian Female Unified team to represent India at the Unified Football World Cup in Chicago USA, hosted by Special Olympics International who is celebrating 50years of the Special Olympics movement.

24 teams (16 male + 8 Female) from across the Globe will be participating in this World Cup, and Ramandeep is the only athlete selected from Punjab to participate in the event.  Athletes attended a send-off ceremony in Delhi with five times World Amateur Boxing Champion, Mary Kom, present to bid them farewell.

In special preparation for the tournament, AMK provided her with one-month regular training under an expert coach at the local academy with the support of the District Sports Department. 

AMK students continue to excel in sports and participation at World and State Special Olympics events.