Wheels of Change

With inclusive growth at the core, Bridgestone India has been implementing sustainable projects for vulnerable communities
Committed to its global mission of Serving Society with Superior Quality, the tyre major is focused on changing the lives of people of its surrounding communities. Bridgestone was founded by Shojiro Ishibashi in 1931and the company is committed to support the realization of a sustainable society. “Bridgestone is forever committed to improving how people move, live, work and play,” says Parag Satpute, Managing Director.
With a goal of improving the living standards of marginalised communities, initiatives related to better healthcare and education, livelihood and growth have been rolled out pan-India. “The programmes are designed to reduce social exclusion of the marginalised, underprivileged people,” says Ranu Kulshrestha, Head CSR.

Joyful childhood at Udbhav School, Hyderabad

MOBILITY Mobility is accessibility and sustainability is the road to a greener life. “Mobility is the key to opportunities,” says Kulshrestha. Bridgestone India has given hope to many, training and helping the physically challenged and supporting women. Breaking gender stereotypes and giving women an equal opportunity in unconventional careers is a focus area for the tyre company. “We support women to become bread earners by training them for different careers like cab drivers, last mile delivery personnel and two-wheeler mechanics,” says Kulshrestha.
Bridgestone has been instrumental in upskilling the youth, men and women in all ways, from imparting training related to tyres, HMV driving and supporting vocational courses to giving motorised wheelchairs for easier self-mobility

 Children relish the mid-day meal.

Project Samarthya: Bridgestone facilitates employment opportunities for persons with physical disability by ensuring smart and accessible mobility options such as customised power-based wheelchairs. Besides the wheelchairs, the organisation also connects them to industry experts for guidance and mentoring.
For this, Bridgestone collaborated with Delhi-based NGO Yes! We Can. “The motorised wheelchairs provided by Bridgestone are a game changer in giving us equal opportunities to fulfil our aspirations,” say Samuel and Meena Mani, founders of Yes! We Can. “My wife and I always wished that we could offer people the choice to make a choice! By giving mobility to us with these motorised wheelchairs, Bridgestone has played a major role in our mission.” The couple was left physically challenged due to cerebral palsy but their go-getter spirit has fought against all odds. “Disability should not become a reason to live an isolated life.”

And they connected with 250 like-minded people for bringing colour into their lives. The NGO’s members were also supported by Bridgestone with motorised wheelchairs.

Disabled at the age of three, Heena can travel all alone from her home in Shastri Park, Delhi, thanks to the motorised wheelchair. She can board the Metro to meet her friends whenever she feels like.

For some, the disability is congenital. Nimmi Jain calls the motorised wheelchair she got in 2021 a milestone. She could move out of her home after 40 years and buy clothes of her choice. Young Pooja is a wheelchair model and finalist of Mr & Mrs Wheelchair India.

For all these people, the motorised wheelchairs represent a new way of life, giving them independence, freedom to move around, socialise with friends and also an ability to earn a livelihood. It makes them confident as well.

For financial independence, the NGO members are encouraged to bake and make handicraft décor items such as jute bags and folders. “Bridgestone suggested that we make corporate gift items and they will support us in marketing and popularising these items on social media,” shares Meenu.

Children relish the mid-day meal;

Women Cab Driving Project & Yantrika:

For many women, driving is a dream. But Bridgestone India turned it into reality and made this a career for these women, bringing in its wake financial independence and emotional security.
The organisation partnered with Indore-based Samaan Society to train women from 700 settlements in Indore as cab drivers and two-wheeler mechanics. Rajendra Bandhu, lawyer and director of Samaan Society, says, “Bridgestone has supported us in this first-of-its-kind initiative. As women drive social change, our objective was to see the presence of women in every sector. Most of these women, in the age group of 30-40 years, are not highly qualified. Many have been subjected to domestic abuse and work as helpers or daily wagers. When we conceived the idea of training women drivers, we approached Bridgestone. And despite the disruption caused by the pandemic, women are now working as cab drivers and auto mechanics.” After the training, an all-women mechanic workshop started operating under the aegis of Yantrika in Indore.

The driving course lasts from three to five months. Each batch consists of four women. Daily, four to five batches, that is 20 women are trained.

The women, who now sit confidently behind the steering wheel. are all smiles. Bhavana Joshi provides On-Call cab service to passengers in Indore. The 44-year-old mother of two has now found her identity. From a domestic help to an e-rickshaw driver, 35-year-old Seema Domane is all smiles for she now earns more and is praised by her passengers too.

Priyanka Singh is working as an instructor in Ocean Motors Maruti Driving School. As her love marriage turned sour, she became depressed. “I am 32 years old now and have been a single mother for the last 10 years. This driving course is hope for women facing domestic abuse. I came to know about this initiative via Facebook. And it’s all been worth the effort.”

Yantrika Service Centre in Pipliyahana, Indore, is run by six women. This all-women mechanic team repairs four to five scooters and bikes daily. There are two more centres in Palda and Mahinebhar, Indore. For 22-year-old Shivani Raghuvanshi, becoming an auto mechanic is a dream come true. “As my father is an auto mechanic, I loved nuts and bolts. However, my father and brother did not want me to take up this as a career. But my mother supported me,” she smiles at her newfound independence. Durga Meena lost her husband in 2020. She used to stitch clothes but the tailoring was not enough to meet the household expenses. “My father supported me and I trained as a mechanic. Now, I am happy to have a better income,” says the mother of two teens.

During the troubled days of the pandemic, Bridgestone also associated with Samaan to distribute food and ration to the women who are the sole bread earners for their families.