Bhuvana Acharya is walking 10km today to raise money to battle type II diabetes. She is the head of communications at Landmark Group, a Middle East retail conglomerate that is raising awareness about the disease while using the event to build its brand.
The Beat Diabetes Walkathon 2011 launches [today] at the Oasis Centre in Dubai. Why did a retailer get involved in raising money for diabetes?
In 2009, we decided to get involved in just one initiative that we could put our heart and soul behind. One cause that stood out in the UAE was diabetes. It was a condition that people knew little about and did not really understand.
Landmark is a company driven by profit, so why bother with corporate social responsibility (CSR)?
When we took this initiative two years ago, a lot of people said "why diabetes? Why a health cause? You guys are a retailer". But we said "why not?" Health is important for everybody. One in five are diabetic, of which one in two do not know they are. So we encourage everyone to get a blood glucose level test.
But why is CSR good for Landmark?
CSR has always been at the back of whatever we have done. For our chairman, Micky [Jagtiani], giving back to society has always been of prime importance for us. Over the many years of opportunities for Landmark Group, giving back is something we have kept in mind.
It is also good for the company in the long run to keep its customers healthy.
At the end of the day, we are what we are because of our customers. No business can survive without the people, be it employees or customers. It's a very interwoven society. There's always this other side to what we do, which is to the betterment of the community.
Do you think it is hypocritical that one of Landmark's brands is a sweet and chocolate shop called Candelite?
Not at all. One of our new sections in Candelite is the organic and sugar-free section. There is also diabetic sweets and candy. Whatever you eat needs to be in moderation. It's all a balance.
Why did you choose cricketer Wasim Akram to help with build the Landmark brand in this CSR initiative?
Wasim is a type 1 diabetic. He was diagnosed in his career in the middle of a Test series, so he is now a global spokesperson for diabetes. It's great for us to have him.
Diabetes is a regional problem. Is this campaign out to the whole Middle East?
We will also host walkathons across Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, as well as Bangalore in India during November, which is the international Diabetes Awareness Month.
* Rory Jones