IHCL put in every ounce of energy into supporting the nation’s COVID warriors through meals to smile program and delivered 4.5 million meals across 38 locations.
Giving Back to the community forms the backbone of IHCL’s Corporate Social Responsibility & Sustainability Framework. This framework is the guiding principle for all programs run by IHCL.
Upholding IHCL’s values of Trust, Awareness, and Joy and in line with the Tata spirit of community service, IHCL sensed its responsibility to support the community that was crucial to the survival of the nation- the COVID Warriors. At that time, amidst a nationwide lock-down, a panic of the unknown situation ensued. Healthcare professionals worked round the clock without going home for days, the police force stayed on their feet to maintain order and thousands of migrant workers were left stranded without jobs miles away from what they could call home.
IHCL stayed true to its legacy of opening its hotels in service of the nation when needed. It did so during World War I by turning the Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai into a military hospital to accommodate 500 soldiers and 100 officers. It did so during India’s freedom movement by offering a safe space for leaders like Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. And it did so this time by offering rooms to healthcare workers.
More than 11 IHCL hotels across the country were opened to the medical fraternity while 35+ other IHCL branded hotels were opened for quarantine purposes, including for those arriving via repatriation flights. Apart from hosting medical professionals at its hotels, IHCL stepped up to ensure that those in need receive healthy and hygienically prepared meals on time. As a result of this endeavor Meals to Smiles was born.
The Taj Public Service Welfare Trust (TPSWT) was the driving engine for Meals to Smiles. The trust was set up in December 2008, in the aftermath of the Mumbai terror attacks. Inspired by the resilience of survivors and the courage of those who came to their aid, the purpose is to reach out to people affected by disasters, both man-made and natural, with support to rebuild their lives. As the nationwide lockdown was announced in March 2020 and Government of India suspended international and domestic flights, many of the State Governments issued advisories for our hotels to shut down operations temporarily and this significantly impacted our business.
Through the trust, we were able to fund the preparation and distribution of nutritious and hygienically prepared meals across the country. TPSWT with its implementation partners TajSATS and other hotels of IHCL started supplying simple and nutritious meals daily in collaboration with the local Government authorities for distribution across multiple hospitals in the country. It did not stop here, as the program extended to police professionals and stranded migrant workers in the city of Mumbai.
This was possible through the unified effort of every IHCL employee towards ensuring that Meals to Smiles continues to impact more and more COVID warriors. Risking their own lives, the hotel staff worked tirelessly to prepare meals at a large scale. Apart from standalone banqueting events, IHCL does not specialize in preparation of such packed meals at a large scale. These meals were packed and delivered by our own employees to reach beneficiaries on time. Managing logistics and delivery was a new and challenging experience considering strict restrictions on movement in cities. The crisis brought the entire organization together towards a single cause- supporting our nation’s COVID warriors.
Strategy to continue the impact:
The need to do something for the nation’s COVID warriors, who were saving lives everyday was pertinent for IHCL. The program began with serving 100 meals a day in March 2020 during the first nation-wide lockdown in late March 2020. As the situation worsened and multiple lockdowns followed, it was a challenge to continue the program. With zero cash-flows and abysmal business, IHCL took upon itself the challenge of continuing the Meals to Smiles program throughout the duration of the pandemic. Not only did the program continue, its reach expanded across geographies and reached new heights every day.
IHCL’s Cross-functional teams came together to complement each another and bring their unique perspectives and expertise to solve rapidly changing complex problems. The outreach and network of the employees helped attract funds for TPSWT which gave the program a new life. IHCL reached out to corporations, customers, employees and even to individuals to come forward and support the program in their own capacities. The momentum, consistent efforts and focused approach helped receive funds ranging from as small as Rs 100 to large amounts from various sources. Large financial institutions, Tata companies, pharmaceutical and manufacturing firms and even a few celebrities recognized the value of the program and supported TPSWT. While suffering huge financial losses as an organization, IHCL continued to work towards this noble cause. Extensive communication was done to spread the word about the impact of the program.
The teams worked like a well-oiled machinery and responded to the need of the hour in no time. Soon, we were preparing and distributing ~ 20,000 meals a day across cities. In2020, we served 3 million meals across 5 cities in 20 hospitals. Just as the world was hopeful with the vaccines coming in, local travel opening up, and the second wave of the pandemic hit twice as hard on India in 2021. With all the systems and process in places, TPSWT was able to replicate the Meals to Smiles program within a days’ time for the COVID warriors. Thus in the second wave Meals to Smiles continued its impact with serving ~ 1.5 million in 12 cities and 38 Government hospitals in no time.
The cumulative impact of Meals to Smiles was ~ 4.5 million nutritious meals in 17 cities across 38 hospitals. It was possible due to the exceptional effort undertaken by all employees of IHCL who stayed committed to the program despite various difficulties and challenges.