Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Sun King Solar Lanterns in Rural India

Mayank Sekhsaria is a young man who returned from the US with a dream: "honest, high-qualilty solar lights could change lives" in rural India. Today, GreenLight Planet's small and relatively inexpensive solar lamps, Sun King, are used by over 100,000 villagers.
More info at: http://www.greenlightplanet.com/

The Rags-to-Riches Story of Sarathbabu

When 27-year old Sarathbabu graduated from the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedaba, he created quite a stir by refusing a job that offered him a huge salary. He preferred to start his own enterprise -- Foodking Catering Service -- in Ahmedabad....

some excerpts from his story...

"I was born and brought up in a slum in Madipakkam in Chennai. I have two elder sisters and two younger brothers and my mother was the sole breadwinner of the family. It was really tough for her to bring up five kids on her meagre salary.

As she had studied till the tenth standard, she got a job under the mid-day meal scheme of the Tamil Nadu government in a school at a salary of Rs 30 a month. She made just one rupee a day for six people.

So, she sold idlis in the mornings. She would then work for the mid-day meal at the school during daytime. In the evenings, she taught at the adult education programme of the Indian government.


By the end of the second year, there were many lucrative job offers coming our way, but in my mind I was determined to start something on my own. But back home, I didn't have a house. It was a difficult decision to say 'no' to offers that gave you Rs 800,000 a year. But I was clear in my mind even while I knew the hard realities back home.

Yes, my mother had been an entrepreneur, and subconsciously, she must have inspired me. My inspirations were also (Dhirubhai) Ambani and Narayana Murthy. I knew I was not aiming at something unachievable. I got the courage from them to start my own enterprise.

Nobody at my institute discouraged me. In fact, at least 30-40 students at the IIM wanted to be entrepreneurs. And we used to discuss about ideas all the time. My last option was to take up a job.


Reservation should be a mix of all criteria. If you take a caste that comes under reservation, 80 per cent of the people will be poor and 20 per cent rich, the creamy layer. For the general category, it will be the other way around.

...Take my case, I didn't have any system that would make me aware of the IITs and the IIMs. But I will be able to guide my children properly because I am well educated. I got the benefits of reservation but I will never avail of it for my children. I cannot even think of demanding reservation for the next generation."

Read the full story here

From fields to a BPO in 6 months

15 May 2010 - Tikli, Haryana (WFS) – Just six months ago, Puja, 18, and Bimla Devi, 35, spent their day cooking meals, tending to cattle and working in the field -- the everyday routine of village women across Haryana. Never in their wildest dreams had they imagined that they could one day be sitting in an office working away furiously in front of a computer.

Today, this is the remarkable reality of hundreds of women in Tikli and Aklimpur villages. Their agrarian way of life has not changed – they still cut fodder for their cattle and clear the cow dung -- but they are now equally adept at using a computer. They work in a business process outsourcing (BPO) centre which has set up shop in the heart of their village. A first-of-its-kind women-only rural BPO in India, this centre was started by 'Harva', which stands for harnessing value of rural India.


Saturday, June 26, 2010

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Social Enterpreneurship in India - Historical Antecedents

Well, finally I have started keying-in my understanding of Landscape of 'Social Entrepreneurship" in India... It is an arduous task to make sense from some 50-odd inputs (open-ended questionnaire responses and telephonic interviews) from the stakeholders in the sector - social entrepreneurs, funders/investors, foundations, etc. -... Hope I will succeed in making sense of this in a manner which contributes to the space...

This is what I could key-in today about the Socio-Cultural Milieu & Historical Context - the roots of what is called now "social entrepreneurship" (my understanding being: an initiative to make a social impact - in India...
(this being the 1st part of a very very long paper which - insha-allah - I will be able to unleashed on unwary public in the coming week :)

any feedback is most welcome!

To understand the contemporary status of social entrepreneurship in India, it is important to appreciate the socio-cultural and historical context in which it exists. Various studies have highlighted that in Indian psyche one’s place in the society has a moral perspective, in which one’s duty towards the others/ society plays a significant role. Chakraborty (1987), for instance, found that the orientation of ‘giving’ and the need to fulfill one’s duty towards the society (as opposed to fulfilling individual needs) is deep-rooted in Indian social values and identity. Similarly, McClelland (1975) found that Indians have a social achievement motivation, which is characterised by a desire for contributing to the collective well-being and achievement of super-ordinate goals.

Historically too, these values have influenced India’s rich history of social action, volunteerism and philanthropy. This fact is also manifested by the history of legal status of voluntary sector organisations (NGOs, NPOs, CBOs, etc.) in India. As long back as in the 19th century, the then government of India had enacted two separate acts – the Societies Registration Act, 1860 and the Indian Trusts Act, 1882 – which were aimed to regulate and to provide legal status to not-for-profit entities which existed for the benefit of the society. The Societies Registration Act of 1860, for instance, was specifically created to provide legal status to:

“…societies established for the promotion of science, literature, or the fine arts, for instruction, the diffusion of useful knowledge, the diffusion of political education, the foundation or maintenance of libraries or reading rooms for general use among the members or open to the public, or public museums and galleries of paintings and other works of art, collection of natural history, mechanical and philosophical inventions, instruments or designs.”

Similarly, the Indian Trusts Act, 1882 was created for charitable entities which could have been established for a number of purposes, including the poverty alleviation, education, medical relief, provision of facilities for recreation, and any other benefit to the general public. The enactment of these two acts shows that by that time, such organized efforts had reached a critical mass which large enough to necessitate creation legal framework to recognize their existence.

Interestingly, the Indian Independence Movement during the first-half of 20th century, led by leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, also had the idea of social transformation embedded in the very concept of freedom. It was actually more than just a struggle for political freedom against the colonization by the British Empire. The notion of freedom promoted by the forefathers of the country had a strong element of developing an empowered grass-root society (Gandhi’s gram-swaraj – self-rule which percolates down to remote villages), and a strong focus on developing social leaders who can facilitate the growth of self-sufficient village-level community organization, who can empower their stakeholders. Gandhian doctrine of ‘trusteeship” (i.e., business is trustee, not the owner, of the wealth of the society) focused on the economic equality and empowerment of the society. It influenced not only a large number of industrialists of the time (even large ones such as the GD Birla and Jamunalal Bajaj), but also became a guiding principle of many large social ventures (e.g., SEWA, Lijjat, etc.) in the post-independence India. Even after India gained independence in 1947, the idea of developing an empowered society was carried forward by many of Gandhi’s followers (Vinoba Bhave, Baba Amte, Jai Prakash Narain, etc.), and influenced many youth to join the development/social sector.

In the early years of independence too, the developmental policies of government of India envisaged and invited participation of non-governmental organizations and voluntary agencies to support the state-sponsored programs through its Central Social Welfare Board, National Community Development Program, National Extension Service, etc. (ADB, 2009). Over the years, India witnessed a rapid increase in the voluntary sector grass-root organizations, which were seen as development partners of the state for grassroots interventions for poverty alleviation, education, livelihoods, civil liberties, environment, health, etc. The Sixth Five-Year Plan (1980-85), in fact, formally recognized the role and importance of the voluntary non-governmental organizations, and listed nine areas for their participation in development:

  1. Optimal utilization and development of renewable source of energy, including forestry through the formation of renewable energy association at the block level
  2. Family welfare, health and nutrition, education and relevant community programs in the field
  3. Health for all programs
  4. Water management and soil conservation
  5. Social welfare programs for weaker sections
  6. Implementation of minimum needs program
  7. Disaster preparedness and management (i.e. for floods, cyclones, etc)
  8. Promotion of ecology and tribal development, and
  9. Environmental protection and education.

A decade later, in the Eight Five-Year Plan, the participation of voluntary organizations was further enhanced by envisaging their role in drawing development plans through rural appraisal and by involving the local community. Since 1991, when structural reforms were implemented under Govt of India’s New Economic Policy, the partnership of voluntary sector agencies with the state has become relatively diminished and muted. Nevertheless, the sector continued to play a significant role broadly in the following:

  • Policy planning and implementation of government programs.
  • Monitoring the impact of development programs initiated by the government
  • Policy advocacy to influence state’s development programs, and
  • Capacity building of the grassroots community, and of governmental agencies

A study by Srivastava and Tandon (2002) for the Society for Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA) throws some revealing insights about the nature and magnitude of the proliferation of Non-Profit voluntary organizations in India. The survey found that:

  • There are 1.2mn Non-Profit Organisations in India, which engage nearly 20mn people as paid employees or on volunteer basis.
  • However, 73.4% of these organizations were very small with one or no paid employees; in contrast, only 8.5% had more than 10 paid employees.
  • While 26.5% of these NPOs were religious in nature of their activities, the rest were secular bodies focusing on social development issues such as education, healthcare, community development (it must also be noted that in India – like elsewhere in the world – the religious institutions also work promote social development activities).
  • The estimated receipts of funds by these NPOs was Rs.179bn (1999-2000). However, 80% of this was generated from local activities, community contribution and donations; among these 51% were self-generated, while 12.9% came from donations – and 7.1% from loans.

This historical and socio-cultural backdrop to voluntary initiatives – by individual and group - to make a social impact have some significant implications for social entrepreneurship in India, which will be discussed later in the paper.

OK, this is a draft only...