“What is that life worth which cannot bring comfort to others?”
At a time when comfort had become a luxury that only a few could afford, this question, posed by Dabur India’s founder Dr SK Burman years ago, carried more weight than ever before.
“These words have not only laid the foundation stone of the company but have also been the guiding light for all community development and philanthropic initiatives of the family,” says Dabur India’s Vice Chairman Mohit Burman.
The consumer goods giant, which is over a century old, has managed to hold on to that light to this day, even under the shadow of the pandemic and its waves.
Doing their bit, the group and the family behind it, the Burmans, established the ‘Dabur Care Fund for COVID-19’ right when the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country. It had earmarked funds towards relief efforts to help meet the immediate needs of those most affected by the pandemic. In addition to that, the company also donated to the PM CARES Fund and ensured that the vulnerable section of the population had access to food and essential supplies.
As the country transitioned from the first wave to the devastating second wave, Dabur knew it had to step up. “With the rising COVID-19 cases during the second wave, supply of oxygen had emerged as the need of the hour. It was an unprecedented situation and we were extremely pained by the huge loss of human life due to dire shortage of oxygen,” says Burman.
The humanitarian crisis spawned by the pandemic saw Dabur’s altruism reach new heights. The 2021 ranking of Indian philanthropists by the Hurun Research and EdelGive Foundation shows an exponential increase of 502% in philanthropy by the Burman family as compared to last year. With a contribution of Rs 114 crore, Dabur secured the 10th spot in the ranking.
For Dabur, philanthropy is routed through two foundations: Chunnilal Medical Trust and Dr SK Burman Trust. This is apart from its corporate social responsibility (CSR) allocation—Rs 31 crore for the current financial year.
As the second wave of the pandemic rolled in, Dabur made sure that it provided oxygen to as many affected as possible. It joined forces with district administrations to ensure an uninterrupted supply of oxygen. But what’s interesting is that the company looked beyond the present stopgap solution for the issue of oxygen shortage. By establishing three oxygen generation units in government hospitals in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, Dabur’s plan is to provide a more long-term solution to meet the medical-grade oxygen demand in the country.
When asked what would be next year’s sum in terms of allocation for philanthropy, Burman says that they have never fixed a financial target for their development initiatives. “It has always been based on the need of the hour. The previous year has been unprecedented and there was a critical need to act with fierce urgency to support the health of the community. We responded to this need and stepped up our efforts in these trying times,” says Burman. As for setting a financial target for the company for the next five years, he says that he wouldn’t want to fix one as it would evolve with the need of the hour.
The company says that it has always supported initiatives aimed at ensuring equitable access to health, education and, very passionately, sports. For Burman, sport has been an integral part of his life and he feels that there is a need to promote sports in the country through a focused approach to identify raw sporting talent from the hinterland, promote them and bring them to the mainstream world of sporting events. “Despite being a country of a billion-plus citizens, we are still not a sporting powerhouse. I firmly believe that sports can be one of the greatest vehicles for philanthropy in the future,” he adds.
It is certain that the light that has been guiding the company for over 100 years and over several generations is far from being extinguished.