In 2007, at the dawn of a huge debate of corporate social responsibility v/s corporate social obligation in India, being less than a decade old in India, Toyota Kirloskar Motor (Toyota’s Indian operations), took upon itself the responsibility of providing free vocational training to young men from less fortunate backgrounds. While most companies accommodated social service one day in their calendar years, Toyota had committed to 365 days of service to its community. Toyota established the Toyota Technical Training Institute (TTTI) within its 430-acre campus just outside of Bangalore (India). A 3-year residential technical training program was instituted, based on extensive benchmarking from its headquarters in Japan. A batch of 64 bright young men from across the state, just out of high school, are admitted into this program every year based on merit, good physical and mental health.
The program centers around Toyota’s values, including academic classes on engineering and practical training at Toyota’s manufacturing facility on the same campus. The course focuses around technical skill courses such as painting, welding, automobile assembly and mechatronics. While I worked with Toyota, I consider myself fortunate for having been able to contribute to the development of these students as good citizens through a civic education program I instituted (that became a part of their regular curriculum) with the support of my colleagues, Toyota management and TTTI. Most students are recruited from remote rural areas in southern India, and here, they have access to hardly a meal a day and no opportunities to speak English. By the end of 2nd year, most students are not only fairly conversant in English, but are also familiar with basic Japanese. There is equal emphasis laid on development of the body and hence, the students are provided well planned nutritious meals three times a day and have standard sports facilities to pursue any sport of their interest. Apart from this, the students are also given a monthly stipend that they can either choose to spend on their visits to bigger cities in the neighborhood or send money back to their villages.
A lot of resources are committed to this program – professional trainers (academics, language, sports), administrative staff, residential complexes, training facilities, sports ground and a lot of grants for additional development. At the end of 3rd year, the students graduate to join Toyota’s manufacturing workforce. However, when the automotive industry started suffering heavily after the financial crisis in 2010, it became harder for Toyota to hire all of its graduates from TTTI into their manufacturing workforce. While several critics had argued about TTTI being Toyota’s extensive training initiative rather than a social initiative, they were taken by surprise, when Toyota went a step further in helping their graduates secure employment with their supplier companies. This was Toyota’s contribution to not just the students, but also the entire automotive industry. This is when the program made a transformation from just employing low-income talented individuals to making them “employable” individuals, realizing the true potential of an organization’s contribution to the community. After 8 years, the Toyota Technical Training Centre still continues to run successfully.