The story of ASSE’s growing presence in India began in late 2011, when two ASSE volunteers, Jitu Patel and Ashok Garlapati, asked Society leaders to explore how we might grow engagement in India. The country was not then viewed as a strategic market for ASSE, but this changed quickly. India is now one of the Society’s most active global groups, along with the Middle East and Nigeria.
This initial grass roots effort led to the formation of the India Chapter in March 2012 in the southern city of Chennai. We received strong support from the leadership of the multinational conglomerate Larsen and Toubro Ltd. This mirrors our experience in forming the Middle East Chapter in Saudi Arabia, during which we received strong support from the leadership of Saudi Aramco.
From 2012 through 2014, chapter membership grew from the initial 40 members to nearly 400. To help these professionals experience the value of their ASSE membership, we hosted our first-ever global professional development conference, Safety India, in May 2014.
Our momentum did not stop there. In early 2015, the Society formed three new chapters in the states of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. This increased our total membership in India to more than 700, 75% of whom are full-time safety practitioners and 25% of whom are students who belong to five local ASSE student sections. As we look to 2016, interest in forming ASSE chapters in Gujarat, Karnataka and New Delhi continues to build.
I had the pleasure of attending the recently completed Safety India 2015 in Mumbai. This industry event is the only one in India designed for safety professionals by safety professionals. I can attest that the technical content and high caliber of global speakers were unparalleled.
Several people helped make Safety India 2015 a success, and I would like to specifically mention Suresh Tanwar, who chaired the organizing committee and is a founding member of the India Chapter. He is chief of group safety and health for Tata Group. The $113 billion organization is one of world’s largest companies, and it has a presence in industries ranging from airlines, automobiles and steel, to chemicals, consumer goods and construction. Suresh is a great example of a loyal ASSE member and dedicated safety professional who has the local influence we need to move our global initiatives forward. Our partnership with event sponsor UL is another key element of our efforts to better engage with those interested in advancing workplace safety and health on a global scale.
You may be asking why ASSE has decided to invest in India. Let me share just a few facts that paint the picture:
- India is the largest democracy in the world.
- The country has the fourth largest economy in the world.
- India’s economy grew at an annual rate of 7% for the second quarter in 2015.
- The country has the largest and youngest workforce in the world.
- India is experiencing the largest migration of this young century, as citizens move to urban areas for jobs and join an emerging middle class.
Most economists believe that if Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government can enact needed economic reforms related to taxes, land and labor issues, the Indian economy will grow to even greater heights.
At the center of all of these developments are the nation’s 1.2 billion people. There is a clear and critical need to adopt global OSH best practices that will better protect their lives and well-being. We also know from interacting with our colleagues in India that they have a great desire to improve their knowledge, skills and competencies; that India’s culture embraces the concept of volunteerism and belonging; and that ASSE’s mission resonates strongly with government officials, educational institutions, public organizations and the public at large. Through our educational offerings, information sharing and outreach, we know we can make a difference and advance workplace safety in India.
ASSE has many exciting initiatives underway around the globe. Our vision is that the Society will be a global advocate and premier leader for OSH professionals and the OSH profession. To achieve that vision, we must continue to invest in global outreach, engage more closely with the international OSH community and continue to seek new avenues for making a difference in workplace safety.