The Aryan Benevolent Home is a 95-year-old charitable institution that provides services to more than 700 vulnerable persons daily.

Following the reaching of its milestone 95th anniversary, the Aryan Benevolent Home has undergone a major overhaul to its structures to face the crisis confronted by the organisation.

The Aryan Benevolent Home is a 95-year-old charitable institution that provides services to more than 700 vulnerable persons daily. It provides succor on a 24-hour basis to the aged, frail, disabled, mentally challenged, abused women and orphans; spreading its activities over seven facilities in the greater Durban area, an aged-care facility in Glencoe and child facilities in Lenasia, Gauteng.

Since its inception in 1921, it has been non-denominational, catering for all races and religious affiliations. However, in the past decade, the organisation was hamstrung by a number of factors, including but not limited to, financial shortcomings, governance and policy inadequacies, infrastructure and equipment challenges and budget cuts by the State and donor public. The crisis necessitated the installation of a new Board and senior management mandated to traverse the challenging terrain it now faces.

Durban portfolio manager, Mohil Bandulal now chairs the board and has enlisted the skillset required to deal with the challenging terrain. The new board comprises well-known businessmen Eshu Seevnarayan and Naren Pattundeen, both of whom have a long standing track record in the South African business environment; Aarti Dheda, who worked as an Executive Director at Unilever implementing strategic and business planning as well as supply chain management structures in over 20 cities around the world; Nirode Bramdaw who brings experience from the health care sector and media and Rajeev Pattundeen, a well known businessman with a proven track record in the shoe industry in South Africa. In addition he has appointed accomplished businesswoman Koosum Kalyan as Patron.

Standing in the newly renovated kitchen of the ABH are board members, Rajeev Pattundeen, Naren Pattundeen (patron), Nirode Bramdaw, Aarti Dheda, Eshu Seevnarayan and president, Mohil Bandulal.

Ms Kalyan is a global businesswoman who spent her corporate career in the Oil and Gas and Mining Industry. She was in Executive Management portfolios at Shell in Southern Africa and in London. She currently serves on a number of Boards as well as on the Advisory Council of the Thabo Mbeki Foundation.

“Whilst I am grateful to have been elected to Chair the ABH at this epoch-making time in its existence and guide it through to reach its centenary year in good standing, we are all acutely aware of the challenges facing the ABH,” said Bandulal.

He added that his vision was to steer the ABH through the turbulent waters it now treads and is confident that with the current skillset and talents of the incumbent board, the ABH could reverse the deficit it inherited. Of necessity the new Board members are working almost full-time in implementing the turnaround strategy.

“The new Board has inherited a very sorry state of affairs and we are operating in crisis mode. This is a large organisation, probably one of the largest NGO’s in the Province with an annual budget of just over R40m. At current levels we are operating at a deficit of R1m per month on operations coupled with the challenges posed by aging infrastructure. We have met with all our stakeholders and advised them of the crisis we face at the home.

“Looking after 700 patients requires that we serve about 650 000 meals per annum and we bake 40 000 loaves of bread per annum for our use. However we are in dire financial straits with our underfunding per patient, spiralling operating and medical costs contributing to the R1m deficit which we have to meet every month.

“I am encouraged that there is much goodwill in the marketplace and with the State, our staff and patients, to assist us in working through the crisis. We are shortly unveiling a turnaround strategy which is essentially about keeping the current footprint of the organisation, with a differentiated service offering, whilst cutting costs and raising service levels, with a zero waste policy. We therefore invite you all to partner with us on this journey of “CHANGE”, this being the new mantra at the ABH.

Naren Pattundeen expressed his vision for the future of the organisation as: “A determined strategy to overcome the tough economy we operate in. “I intend to concentrate my efforts on financial controls and managing the income and expenditure of the organisation in a more scientific manner so that accurate financial forecasting can give rise to both internal and external stakeholder confidence,” said Pattundeen, who has already implemented several measures to tighten up on pilferage and wastage.

Amongst other organisational efficiencies brought to the ABH, ranks the building of a centralised store for consumables, together with a streamlined procurement process, redesign and renovation of the kitchen and wash areas and several energy and water-saving initiatives. The ABH Chatsworth campus now boasts a vegetable tunnel farm which meets the twin objectives of reducing our costs in the kitchen and also providing a therapeutic activity for the residents. A newly-seconded Financial Manager has also overhauled the accounting and reporting systems and has undertaken a Human Resources audit, which is currently underway to enable right sizing the organisation. Other changes also include an overhaul of the IT infrastructure and systems and processes in general.

Seevnarayan added, “The environment we operate in today is vastly changed from that in which the ABH was founded 95 years ago. Organisationally we need to keep pace with best governance practices and ensure that we are compliant both on a financial and regulatory basis. We are also looking at appointing new board members to reflect the diversity of the society we operate in, and accommodate people with disabilities and our senior staff.

“We have already taken legal counsel on our contracts, structures and governance and we have written and adopted a definitive Board Charter to ensure my colleagues and I act with due care and skill, which was sorely lacking in the past,” he said.

“Our new strategic plans together with the massive undertaking and delivery thus far must serve to build confidence in the new Board and garner widespread public support to join hands with us in ensuring the ABH sees the coming century in.

“We are therefore making an earnest appeal to all stakeholders and donors to embark on this journey with us, of creating a brighter future for the young orphans and adding light in the twilight years of the aged and infirm. We need all the financial assistance we can get and together with the State and public support, I feel confident that the yeoman work started almost a century ago will continue at full speed,” added Bandulal.

Published in The Rising Sun on September 27, 2016