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Focus on rural areas, says Ratan Tata

Industrialist Ratan Tata has urged business leaders to create livelihood opportunities in rural areas.

india Updated: Apr 21, 2006 14:12 IST

Observing that Indian industry needs to be socially responsible, industrialist Ratan Tata has urged business leaders to create livelihood opportunities in rural areas as well as ensure jobs in the future for the country's growing young population.

"In addition to creating value for shareholders, industry has a responsibility to the 60 per cent of (India's) population that is not industrialised and is living in rural areas," Tata said while delivering the 2006 Robert S Hatfield Fellow lecture at Cornell University.

"We (businesses) need to operate with principles and values," he said adding that in a country like India with a large disadvantaged population, one "cannot create great wealth without making an effort to spread the wealth."

But whenever there was talk about social responsibility, "We've been told we're depriving our shareholders of something that belongs to them," he said.

According to Tata, while that might be true in the short term, the goodwill gained by bringing mobile medical units to rural communities in India and offering job training in South Africa has paid off for the Tata Group in the long term.

Asserting that India has tremendous human capital, he noted that one-fifth of India's billion-plus people is below 20 years of age and by 2040, the country will have the world's largest working-age population, surpassing even China's.

"These young Indians want a place in the sun, education, a job, the kind of life they know exists away from television. Will there be jobs for them?" he asked.

If not, the country may see "the makings of a revolution," Tata added.

First Published: Apr 21, 2006 13:11 IST