Kimoha workers
Workers at the Kimoha factory in Jebel Ali Free Zone Image Credit: Anas Thacharpadikkal/Gulf News

Dubai: “It is like my family, I stay here like it is my home.”

For the last 27 years, Indian national Anand Kumar has been working with the same company in the UAE and the support he has received as a worker has been life changing.

“Work doesn’t really feel tedious, the company supports us a lot. I have two daughters and because of the education allowance we get, I was able to send one of my daughters to a nursing school and she is working in a hospital here in Dubai now,” the factory worker told Gulf News.

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Another worker from the same company – label manufacturer Kimoha Entrepreneurs FZCO – has been with the company for a lot less – just over four years. But for him, too, the association with the company has been life changing.

Having joined the company straight out of college, Saikiran said: “I started from zero and now I am a Taqdeer hero. My family has benefitted a lot, our [financial] background has changed completely.”

The “Taqdeer hero” is a campaign that is part of the Taqdeer Award, an award programme that recognises best practices in worker welfare. While the award – held under the patronage of Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of The Executive Council of Dubai – had previously invited companies from across Dubai, now it has gone global. Companies that are located anywhere in the world can participate in the award and now receive a seven-star rating if they meet exceptional standards of worker welfare.

Kimoha Entrepreneurs FZCO has participated in all previous cycles of the Taqdeer Award, winning a four-star rating in 2017 and then winning five-star ratings, which were previously the highest rating the award gave, for the 2018, 2020, and 2022 edition.

Gulf News spoke to Ramakrishna Karanth, the company’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) to find out what companies should know about the Taqdeer Award assessment process.

With the entire application process online Karanth said that the application process was easy to follow, and companies must simply ensure they are providing the required documents that support their application.

When it comes to worker welfare, the company has several programmes in place, from a common mess area where workers can eat at highly subsidised rates, to recreation rooms, common prayer areas and celebrations of all festivities. Apart from these facilities, the company also has policies in place that support workers in different aspects of their lives – all workforces receive health insurance coverage, not only in the UAE as required by law, but also in their home country, which covers them for medical emergencies when they travel back home. Children of all workers also get education support and overtime pay is also given at a higher rate than legally required.

When companies participate in the Taqdeer Award, they must submit their application and provide details of how they are focused on workers welfare. The second stage then involves an assessment process, with qualified assessors paying site visits at the establishments.

Speaking to Gulf News about this assessment process, Karanth said that while the company already had a strong focus on worker welfare, the interaction with the assessors helped them create a more open and dynamic conversation with workers on what they wanted.

Commenting on the site visits and assessments, he said: “Apart from really checking up on whether you are really practising what you have promised, one thing that really comes out during the assessment is how much are these policies useful to people? This aspect is important. If the employees are really benefitting from the policies, that is when the organisation gets plenty back, too. Their commitment, their involvement with the company and their happiness … it percolates to our business results, too. In these aspects, Taqdeer has helped us in making us understand and assess what we are doing. It also gets the employees involved, which really helps."

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Kimoha is just one of the many companies in the UAE that has benefitted from the infrastructure and support businesses get when operating in Dubai. Karanth spoke to Gulf News about how the company started with a 150 square metre office in 1988 to a 17,000 square metre factory today, with two more factories in Umm Al Quwain and Dammam, Saudi Arabia.

Image Credit: Anas Thacharpadikkal/Gulf News

The company has consistently performed well at the Award, and one of the reasons for this, according to Karanth, is that it has always focused on treating its employees like an extended family.

“What put us in good stead for success with the Award was that we are a family-owned company. Our owners always worked with the concept that family must be looked after. The people who are working with us are our family members.”

But while worker welfare was part of the company’s DNA, the auditors who came in from Taqdeer helped them take that approach further, using international standards.

“It helped us take continued feedback from our employees and fine-tune our processes – what is right and what is wrong? If it is wrong, how can we correct it? The process really helped us to walk the talk and work along with our employees on a continued basis. It genuinely helps us in the journey as a company and there is a clear opportunity for us to learn as well,” he said.

What put us in good stead for success with the Award was that we are a family-owned company. Our owners always worked with the concept that family must be looked after. The people who are working with us are our family members.

- Ramakrishna Karanth, CEO of Kimoha Entrepreneurs FZCO

Assessors from Taqdeer Award check various aspects of the company’s operations and provide a detailed report, that can also help organisations get a better understanding of where they stand. From checking the production floor, interviewing the workers, and visiting the residential accommodation to verifying documents that have been provided by applicants, the thorough checks give the Award committee as well as the organisation a clear insight of the level of worker welfare that is being practised.

This report also saves companies from hefty annual monitoring costs, providing valuable feedback, enhancing processes, and fostering continuous improvement, all aligned with international standards, benefiting both the organisation and its workforce.

Image Credit: Anas Thacharpadikkal/Gulf News

Walk around the Kimoha facility and this will easily be visible. The office mess, where most of the workers eat their lunch or dinner, has a tiny book on the side – a feedback diary, where workers can write in if they want to get different varieties of meals or have something to say about the food being offered.

“We charge just Dh2 from each worker. The nominal charge of Dh2 isn't about the money but grants them the right to provide feedback on the food. They can tell us that they want something different or something better, because ultimately, they have paid for it,” Rajesh K Bhimani, the administrative director at Kimoha, said.

And it is the little things that make the biggest difference for the workers who spoke with Gulf News. From annual picnics, to carom competitions and regular prayer meets, they seem to have found many reasons to smile.