A growth strategy given priority within the Ricoh Group is “value-creating CSR,” which achieves two goals at the same time: solutions to social problems as well as corporate growth. We conduct collaborative activities with stakeholders to become part of the solutions for social issues, and in doing so, we not only address global concerns but also simultaneously utilize our technologies, products and services, and human resources to build new markets, attract new customers and introduce innovation.
In India, which has the world’s largest population of children, many children either cannot attend school at all or drop out before completing the minimum level of education offered. Various factors are to blame, including low-quality educational services and a lack of necessary infrastructure and supplies. So Ricoh, which provides products and services that support learning environments, decided to draw on these strengths to help remedy the situation. In 2011, we launched a program in cooperation with Save the Children to contribute to education in India and thereby build a platform for national development.
In May that year, we began an education support program in the state of Andhra Pradesh, in southern India. We donated duplicators to schools, authorities and NGOs and conducted workshops on the use of duplicators to effectively raise the quality of lessons and to share information. Also, seeking to improve the learning environment in this region, we encouraged school management committees, teachers and communities to raise awareness regarding education and to cultivate the necessary expertise, promoted club activities for children, and developed a network of people involved in education to provide a better environment for teaching and learning. Through these activities, we laid the foundation to improve standards in an independent and consistent manner so that more children are able attend school regularly.
Looking at results achieved over the past three years, we found that the enrollment rate in the region rose to 88%, from 81%, and classroom attendance for sixth graders jumped to 90%, from 84%. The government has also recognized the value of duplicators and now allocates a budget for buying ink and other supplies to keep duplicators in running order.
In April 2014, we began a program to enhance education quality through the use of projectors and digital teaching materials in the classroom, designed to make the learning process more fun and thereby encourage greater student input. We packaged teacher training materials with the digital teaching materials and asked each local government to provide widespread teacher training on the use of projectors and digital teaching materials. This should support steady improvement in the quality of classroom education. Some aspects of this program are linked to a preliminary survey on an educational service business, which is utilized as part of a preliminary survey on prospective cooperative projects—to promote business models for Base of the Pyramid (BOP) businesses—with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).
The Ricoh Group hopes that this program will lead to a higher attendance ratio, improve students’ comprehension level, and enable schools and teachers to steadily enhance education quality on their own.
Under the shadow of economic progress in emerging and developing countries, an impoverished class—often referred to as the BOP (Base of the Pyramid)—still exists. These people endure a wide range of social challenges. Seeking to help solve the issues that these people face while cultivating new businesses, Ricoh has contributed to a project in a rural village in the state of Bihar, India, since 2010.
Our approach to this project did not start off with a search for issues and needs that could be addressed by Ricoh’s resources; rather, we sent staff to actually live with the people and build trust, and thereby gain an understanding of the local customs and culture. In the process, we identified the real issues that trouble the community, worked with the people there to find solutions, and explored new businesses utilizing our resources to expedite these solutions.
Our partner in this project is Drishtee, a social enterprise. The task of considering ideas for sustainable businesses fell to local residents, largely project members living in the area. In the end, two ideas were selected: Photo Print Shop, which provides Ricoh’s resources to photo-loving villagers; and Women’s Shop, a woman-to-woman business offering everyday items. For both businesses, we provided the local entrepreneurs with the necessary training and support to open and run their shops. Through these businesses, we are contributing to better income potential in the village as well as the empowerment and independence of women.
As of July 2014, two Photo Print Shop locations and 18 Women’s Shop locations had been opened in the states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. We support the operation of these shops as we look into the development of products and services that will contribute to the development of their businesses. In this way, we will build new business models in rural areas.
“My days are more rewarding since I opened the shop.”
There are three reasons why I opened the shop. First, a shop in the village would mean that the women here would not have to go shopping at the store four kilometers away. Second, I could do my own shopping right here. And third, I could bring in some money for my family.
Since the shop opened its doors for business, I’ve handled lots of products and I’ve been able to talk to a variety of people. I just love it. The village women say the shop is so convenient. They really appreciate having a shop right in the neighborhood where they can buy an item that they suddenly run out of or pick up a small gift to take if they suddenly have to pay a visit to someone.
Before I had the shop, I just whiled away my time at home, not doing anything of particular importance. But now, I spend time working, and I can chat with my customers. My days are much more rewarding. I’m now making profit of several thousand rupees a month. If I can boost sales higher, I’d like to expand the shop. Then, when the kids are older, I’d like to get qualifications to be a beauty professional and that should bring in more customers.