Meenakshi Bhalla describes an organisation which is giving abandoned and destitute children a new life
In June 2003, Raju was only seven when he was abandoned, found by the police and brought to the Indian Association for Promotion of Adoption & Child Welfare (IAPA). He was a withdrawn child and had scabies. It was later found that he even suffered from tuberculosis. But although his parents could never be traced, life changed for him that day. IAPA placed him with an experienced foster family on its rolls even while it followed the statutory norms under the juvenile justice system. He lived with his foster family for two years, during which he was treated for his illness, taught better hygiene, enrolled in school and taught to be more social. Once he was medically fit, IAPA found him an adoptive family. He is among the few older children who have found a permanent home.
IAPA, a non-profit, voluntary organisation was started in 1970 by a group of social workers, adoptive parents and lawyers who were concerned about the fate of abandoned and destitute children based on their personal and professional experience. Over the past 40 years, it has evolved and expanded the scope of its work from promoting adoption among Indian parents to strengthening family life, health, development and education of children in difficult circumstances.
It works with children who have lost their own families permanently, those who risk a blighted future due to a family crisis, underprivileged children who need support for education and infants born out of wedlock who risk being abandoned. As with Raju, IAPA works at finding permanent homes for abandoned or orphaned children and even while they wait for adoption, it arranges for them to be cared for by foster families that provide personalised attention and nurturing of the child.
Adoption is a sensitive subject. But approaching it, regardless of who is asking the questions, with a clear and comfortable understanding of your own personal feelings facilitates the discussion. For the child, abandonment leads to the burden of feeling rejected. ‘Why did my mother leave me? Did I do something wrong? What if my adoptive parents leave me, too? Will they still love me if I get into trouble? Will my friends think less of me if they find out I was adopted?’ These questions haunt abandoned children until they feel secure and comfortable in their new environment. IAPA offers family counselling, mental-health awareness programmes and even health check-ups and child guidance programmes—all these services are aimed at ensuring stability and security for the child as well as the parent giving a child for adoption or new parents who adopt a child.
IAPA tries to spare children the trauma of separation from their own environment and being placed in an impersonal institution. It does this by finding alternative care with the child’s extended family or even with a willing neighbour. In rare cases, it even finds a temporary foster family. IAPA’s holistic approach extends to life-skill enhancement, vocational guidance and facilitating income generation through self-help groups or bachat gats. It also provides financial aid and counselling and works at tapping community resources wherever necessary. At any given time, IAPA has about 100 children and their families under active assistance.
Additionally, IAPA works at awareness building and advocacy to influence policies and raise service standards. The need for adoption is now widely recognised, so IAPA focuses on preventing the abandonment of children and ensuring the secure surrender of traumatised children. One way of doing this is through dissemination of useful information at community levels in lower socio-economic strata.
You could support IAPA’s programmes, like a child’s long- or short-term foster-family care, sponsor a child’s education or vocational training, provide medical assistance or donate/volunteer for various services.
Indian Association for
Promotion of Adoption
& Child Welfare
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HUL’s sales growth has again not kept pace with inflation, net profit is down despite an advertising blitzkrieg of 71% in the December quarter
The third-quarter results of Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL) shows that the company continues to be a rudderless boat. It has sunk further into a quagmire of low growth and high advertising expenditure. HUL, of course, sees things differently. The company which has some of the best-known consumer brands (Lux, Liril, Dove, Pepsodent etc.), claims to have reported “strong growth”. Strong growth in this case meant 5% rise in sales during the third quarter (Q3) of FY10 over Q3FY09.
HUL has also stated that its volume growth has “accelerated” by 5% in the December quarter. Compared with the scorching growth every single consumer products company is recording, HUL’s idea of strong growth and accelerating volume growth is strange. If 5% growth rate is strong in a market like India, what will you call the 16% sales growth reported by Godrej Consumer Products Ltd during the same period? Godrej has a much smaller portfolio of products but these are obviously marketed in a much smarter way compared to HUL, which at one time was looked upon with awe by marketing professionals. Indeed, sales of the core of HUL’s product range—soaps and detergents—actually shrank by 2.4% quarter-on-quarter.
HUL also claims that increased cost savings and buying efficiencies improved gross margins. This looks like a dubious claim. In Q3FY09, sales were Rs4,307 crore and operating profit was Rs723 crore, a gross margin of 16.8%. In Q3FY10, operating profit barely inched up to Rs742 crore on sales of Rs4,504 crore. This yields a margin of 16.5%. Operating margin fell; it did not rise, as HUL claims.
HUL’s December quarter looks pretty pathetic by itself, belying the optimism and cheer of its press release. Set against the galloping advertising expenditure, it should look worrying for shareholders. During the third quarter, HUL, a 52%-owned subsidiary of Anglo-Dutch giant Unilever, spent Rs632.88 crore on advertising and promotions, a 71% jump over the same quarter last year. During Q3FY09, the company spent Rs371.02 crore on the same. Since this ad spend did not lead to higher sales, it means either this huge spending was a drain or HUL’s sales would simply slump if they were not propped up by advertising and promotions.
The key problem with HUL that remains unaddressed for almost decades now is that it has no pricing power, very little competitive edge and its marketing has become totally ineffective. The December quarter results reinforce this view.