GURGAON, India — Apollo Tyres Ltd. is doing its part to help alleviate some of the huge social problems that plague the second-most populous nation on earth, particularly concerning the AIDS epidemic.
The Indian tire company conducts a vigorous AIDS prevention program, said Neeraj R.S. Kanwar, joint managing director and chief operating officer. "In India, the trucking community is the main AIDS carrier," Kanwar said. Since this represents the prime constituency for Apollo, the nation´s largest truck tire maker, it makes sense for the company to work toward awareness, prevention and treatment.
Sunam Sarkar, chief of corporate strategy and marketing for Apollo, said truckers live under difficult conditions, usually on the road far away from home. "On many levels their awareness of AIDS is poor. They happen to be our core customers, and we happen to be in regular contact with them. We felt this is one way of doing something that is sustainable since we are working with our key stakeholder group."
In India truckers gather at huge transport areas, places that have short-term housing, shops, mechanics and dhabas-truck-stop restaurants that serve local cuisine. Apollo runs AIDS education programs at the centers and provides condoms to the truckers, Sarkar said.
The company even operates four clinics at the truck centers, which provide general health care but are focused especially on AIDS.
Apollo, which has 9,500 employees in India, has an AIDS education program for all its workers, Kanwar said. He said since Apollo now owns Dunlop Tyres International in South Africa, the company also will extend that activity to South Africa, a nation beset with the disease.
Apollo has other corporate social responsibility programs, including health care clinics, water treatment and sanitation projects and education in villages throughout the country. Kanwar said most of the firm´s plants are in rural areas, so it makes sense to help those communities.
Among other activities, the firm supports a War Wounded Foundation that helps wounded soldiers establish a new career. For such veterans, "charity is the last thing they want-they come from a military background," and typically from rural areas, Sarkar said. Today as many as 50 of these soldiers or their widows are Apollo dealers.