By Sanjay Nayar Jan 12, 2017

When KKR’s 40 for 40 volunteer program was announced earlier this year to celebrate the firm’s 40th anniversary, the KKR Mumbai team was extremely excited to maximize this opportunity to help local communities in need.

This is because – for all of the economic growth it’s experiencing, advancements made across sectors and regions, and the attention received as an investment destination – India can still greatly benefit from improved access to basic infrastructure, amenities and housing given the dramatic poverty many citizens in the country face.

According to Habitat for Humanity (“Habitat”), a global NGO dedicated to providing decent and affordable housing to the needy, India as the world’s largest democracy experiencing rapid economic growth has done much to reduce the poverty rate 15 percentage points from 37% in 2005, according to the World Bank. Yet income inequality remains a serious challenge as nearly 22% of the country’s 1.25-billion person population were still classified as impoverished as of 2012.

Hand-in-hand with poverty, Habitat estimates that India is experiencing a shortfall of 60 million housing units, with more than 73 million families lacking access to proper shelter. To meet the country’s vision of a home for all by 2022, an additional 110 million units have to be built.

With this societal challenge in mind, the KKR India team decided to partner with Habitat for our 40 for 40 team project. The assignment was to build homes in Karjat, a city 40 miles outside of Mumbai.

Many tribal residents in Karjat lack housing resources and instead live in temporary homes known locally as kuccha. These are often dilapidated structures that need to be repaired or rebuilt periodically, built with weak foundations and walls made from reeds and packed soil, and offer minimal protection against Karjat’s climate and wildlife. These residents additionally lack proper sanitation infrastructure.

Over two weeks in December, 27 members of KKR’s Mumbai office spent two days working in two teams to build permanent houses and sanitation units for families in Karjat. While largely inexperienced at construction and building, our team did what we could to lay foundations, structure brick walls, lay cement and move materials.

It was a fun and meaningful experience as these small activities contribute to Habitat’s greater mission to provide communities with basic infrastructure to provide stability and self-reliance to global citizens through housing.

We are delighted to report that the hours that the KKR and KKR Capstone team has volunteered equates to 54 man-days of work. This translates to a sizable impact on the Karjat community, and it was immensely gratifying meeting the families and owners of these new homes.

A member of KKR Capstone’s team in Mumbai, Mayank Tiwari, summed up the experience best when he said, “We sometimes tend to forget how fortunate we all are having a roof over our heads and bread on the table.  Working together as a team to build homes for those less fortunate, toiling with our own hands, was one of the most gratifying experiences in life and while at KKR Capstone – it felt that together we were achieving something meaningful that would last … truly a great way to pay back our community!”

Our contribution is a small one when considering the enormity of the issue of inequality in India (and beyond), but as a team, we truly appreciate the opportunity to give back what we can to the community. And looking ahead well beyond our 40th anniversary year, we look forward to continuing to find ways to volunteer and be mindful of how we can all do our part.

[1] KKR Capstone is an operational team of highly experienced industry executives and functional specialists. The team works exclusively for KKR and its portfolio companies on the ground in partnership with management teams to create sustainable improvements. With offices in the Americas, Asia and Europe, KKR Capstone has the capacity, capability, and scale to support complex, global businesses. KKR Capstone is not a subsidiary or affiliate of KKR.