Why L&T’s AM Naik was inspired to provide affordable healthcare and skilling for India’s underprivileged
When Anil Manibhai Naik was in college, he was a movie buff, often watching three movies a day. His father found out and wrote him a letter saying he was confident that the young boy would not forget the ‘mukhya dhaya’ (main goal) of his life.
“That line proved to be a life-changer. For the next few weeks before the exams, I shut myself in my hostel room and studied. I came out with flying colours. After college, I decided that the time for fun and games was over. I began working with what can be called missionary zeal,” says Naik, who is the Group Chairman, Larsen & Toubro Limited.
Naik says his family has a long tradition of service to the nation and the community. “My role model is my father. He was a freedom fighter and a true Gandhian. Gandhiji’s message that the real India lives in its villages struck a chord with my father, and he decided to leave Mumbai, where he was teaching at one of the best schools in the city, and chose to re-settle in rural south Gujarat. He became the principal of a village school which had a large percentage of children from the disadvantaged sections of the society. He devoted his entire life to the service of children from these communities,” says Naik.
Naik says, “I come from a family of teachers, or what is known as ‘master kutumb’ in Gujarati. My grandfather was the first Principal of the Gurukul school at Endhal, my village, and my father was the Principal of the school at Kharel, where I studied for some years. My elder sister was also a teacher all her life. So education, or more specifically education of the disadvantaged, was part of the family tradition.”
Affordable healthcare for the underserved
While the inspiration for community service and education comes from his family, it was the tragic death of his granddaughter Nirali in 2007 that led to the creation of the Nirali Memorial Trust in 2009.
“She was only two when we lost her to cancer. My grieving family decided to transform our personal tragedy into a mission that would benefit thousands in the community. My focus for philanthropy is on South Gujarat, my janmabhoomi, and Mumbai, my karmabhoomi.”
“Our mission is to provide the finest medical care to the largest number of people,” he says.
In 2009, he decided to integrate his various philanthropic initiatives. “I set up two trusts – the Nirali Memorial Medical Trust to channelise my contributions to the healthcare sector, and the AM Naik Charitable Trust to help in education and skill-building,” says Naik, adding that both trusts ‘reflect life – one protects it, and the other transforms it’.
The trusts primarily operate in south Gujarat and Mumbai. “We have set up hospitals in Kharel, Surat, Navsari, and Mumbai. We run mobile clinics taking modern medical care to distant villages. Our facility in Powai has served over 75,000 people since its inception in 2017. We provide 19 specialties, including cardiology, neurology, urology, and spine at a nominal fee of between Rs 200 and Rs 300. We charge only Rs 750 for a dialysis session. We have also done over 1,500 surgeries at affordable costs. Our cancer hospital became operational in March, and we are in the process of tying up with various government schemes to provide subsidised/free treatment as per the government norms,” says Naik.
Skilling the next generation
In 2018, the Government of India appointed Naik as the Chairman of the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC).
“As the head of the NSDC, I have been implementing the government’s flagship scheme Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY) for the last six years. Since then, we have trained over one crore youth through short-term training and RPL (recognition of prior learning). The scheme has positively impacted the income levels and overall employment of trained candidates,” says Naik.
The Naik Charitable Trust has set up a skill-building centre in Kharel, which offers basic skill training in nine trades for boys and girls. “The only qualification needed to get admission to this technical training centre is that you must have no qualification! School dropouts and those who could not complete their education for any reason, can get themselves trained and find an opportunity to transform their lives,” he says.
Naik has also created multiple initiatives at L&T. The Skill Trainers Academy (STA) at Madh Island, Mumbai, launched in 2021, will provide high-impact training aimed at the skilling ecosystem in the country.
“Our goal is to develop a skilled workforce that can not only meet the skill requirements of India, but also cater to the global demand."
"For decades, we have been involved in giving the underprivileged an opportunity to learn skills that will make them employable and improve their standard of living. While there is a massive demand for skilled labour from countries such as Japan, Russia, and Germany, nobody wants to induct unskilled and semiskilled manpower from India and invest in their training. This is the gap we as a country should work towards filling at the earliest.”
Anil Manibhai Naik, Group Chairman, L&T
Speaking about L&T’s initiatives for COVID-19 relief, he says the company gave Rs 1.5 crore to procure and donate 24 ventilators to alleviate the shortage of medical equipment in South Gujarat. L&T has also started working on providing medical-grade oxygen generation units.
“We will also be contributing 22 oxygen generators to various hospitals all over India where the shortage is most severe,” says Naik. L&T has also partnered with an NGO to provide oxygen concentrators in Chennai and other locations are also in the pipeline.
Speaking about what drives him, Naik says, “I believe in outcomes. It is not enough to say that you are concerned about the disadvantaged. Concern must be translated into action, and action into results. It is up to you to make sure that you are making a difference to people’s lives.”