October 20, 2022

When People Change, Everything Changes

P.K.Laheri is one of ACF’s longest standing Board Members, and has had one of those careers where the mind simply boggles at all that was seen, heard and been a part of.  He served as the Chief Secretary of Gujarat for 3 years and was the Chairman and Managing Director of the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited, Gandhinagar – responsible for the development of one of the largest water infrastructure projects Gujarat has ever seen. Oh to have been a fly on the wall … 

In a frank discussion with Thrive, he gets straight to the point and shares his thoughts on ACF’s past, present and future. 


What needs to be the vision for ACF going forward?

“The vision for ACF in the past has not been static, but dynamic, which is important in this sector.  We need to keep things open ended and be flexible to the needs that keep changing in the communities – for example, when COVID-19 arose as a recent crisis, we did not hesitate in stepping to the fore.” He said. “With rapid changes in technology and styles of living, development needs will keep on changing. The approach of ACF has not been in a rigid framework, which has been instrumental to its success, and it should remain that way.” 

“However, whilst our variety of programs is very large, we continue to work on one very important thing, which is central to everything we do – the attitude of local people. Basically changing the attitude of people is the single largest impact and achievement of ACF. If people don’t change, you only change circumstances and resources – when people change everything changes.  This should always remain at the core of ACF’s Vision and work.” He explains. “There are many other companies that haven’t been able to utilise their CSR to create the kind of impact that ACF has been able to do, and perhaps this is the reason.  In that regard, ACF has done the best in the toughest of circumstances.” Mr. Laheri says.

How did you first get connected to ACF and what captured your imagination to get involved?

“When I was working in the Gujarat Investment Corporation, Gujarat Ambuja Cement Ltd. (ACL) had started as  public limited company. I was heading the implementation committee so I was in touch with the company and have remained for over 36 years.” He said.  

“I have always had live contact with the promotors of the company and whenever we met we discussed how we could be of some use to the local population – using transport owned by local people; wherever we mined limestone, harnessing the dugout pits for water harvesting; and using local people for employment.  The problem was that local people weren’t skilled, so the company had to train them in the necessary skills. I liked the ethics and values of the promoters in this regard.” He said.

“When they first came to Kodinar, it was a very backward area – irregular monsoons, drought, low rainfall - things were difficult for the people and when ACL started functioning they realised the crucial issue was water for drinking and agriculture. Many years later, a person who was working with us and later became Minister, was travelling with us one day when we drove through the area.  He commented on how there was every shade of green, where once it was total brown. There had been a total transformation of the landscape!”  He outlines.  “Today , thanks to the concentrated work of creating water bodies and connecting them, the region has become very fertile and people have forgotten what it was like to have scarcity of water there. Kodinar now has the largest concentration of horticulture especially coconut, the kesar mango and sapota – overall people are now able to take 2-3 crops a year which has been transformational for their lives.” Mr Laheri explains.

Has your background and experience in Government helped guide ACF in developing Government Partnerships?

“In Gujarat there is strong tradition in taking a joint sector approach, where the government invests part of the money - it’s an old tradition.  Whenever government is investing in industry, then industry should also invest in social issues.  ACL was ahead of their time in doing that long before the mandated CSR act.” Mr Laheri explains.

“The Government has lots of schemes and we’ve been able to harness them for the benefit of the people.  For example Krishi Vigyan Kendra’s are government run, and one of our founders was very keen that the one in Kodinar should be started by us. But there is scope to do so much more,” he says.


What keeps Mr. Laheri busy in his retirement?  Giving back, of course.  Apart from ACF, Mr Laheri is actively involved in philanthropy and enjoys responding ‘to the need of the hour.’  ACF is fortunate to have the support of this experienced gentleman.


October 20, 2022

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