BT-YES Bank Best SME Survey
Three years ago Sameer Khera, 48, and his younger brother and partner Bhavik Khera, realised that environmental norms for companies were getting more stringent in Gujarat. Clients had also begun checking to ensure that the suppliers were compliant with various environmental and social regulations.
FULL COVERAGE:India's Best SMEs
These clients are mostly international, as about 70 per cent of the business for SEE Linkages comes from international markets. It works with companies such as ABB, GE, Emerson and Bombardier, among others.
Ask the elder Khera about why he thought it necessary for the company to put in efforts towards meeting social and environmental regulations and he says: "It's a key driver in differentiating ourselves from other companies, because overseas there is a big push."
"In our sector, very few companies do it," he adds.
The company's business operations, wherein it manufactures and supplies components and assemblages to companies, does not create a lot of contaminants. However, to dispose of whatever little waste that it generates, the company has tied up with an industry body that collects the waste once every 15 days.
"Being a small company, we are not directly in the position to manage the waste. So finding the right agency within the industrial area to manage the waste that we generate was an issue in the beginning," says Khera.
The company also focuses on water harvesting. That too is more from a business point of view. Khera says it has a lot to do with managing resources in the conditions that the company operates in. "Though we do not release any chemicals, but our machines need a lot of water and we use coolant which is used in the machines."
Khera points out that the water that is available from the civic body is very hard and using that water which would cause problems in machines, leading to the company getting into water harvesting.
Where it primarily faces challenges is internally. "One thing is to establish the mindset within the company itself and that took us time. We started about three years ago, but we've got our act together only about six to eight months back," says Khera, adding that the company keeps on going through audits: customer audits as well as from their auditing firm Dun & Bradstreet, to drive the point among employees that it is imperative to give back to the environment.
"We try to organise these every few months so that there is a movement, a feeling within the company that it is not just that the management is serious enough to do this but they're getting external people to audit it as well," he says.
However, pure play business decisions are not the only thing that drives the family-run company. The company is putting together a corpus by the name of SEE Foundation that was set up two years back and works for social causes.
"We've always been supporting some event or the other, but even though we were spending money, we felt that the effort was not showing. At least not in the way we thought it should," says Khera.
The foundation is focused on three primary areas: education and health care for the girl child, preserving and conserving the heritage in Vadodara, and nation building.
Why girl child specifically? We ask. "This probably comes from the fact that both me and my brother have daughters. And my sister, Reetika Khera, is also very active in the social space." The foundation funds close to 100 girls for education and is also associated with a project called Savera to support underprivileged girls. The company has also funded a Sickel Cell Anemia Project in the nearby Chhota Udaipur area.
The company, which spent about seven per cent of its profits last year on corporate social responbility initiatives, has been spending more than the stipulated two per cent according to the Companies Act for a long time now because it wants to organise the foundation in a professional way. "We're trying to build the corpus because we want this foundation to be self sustaining and we decided to fund it a little more than we would otherwise do just so that it starts making a difference and it starts showing results," says Khera.