Archive for August, 2008

The idea of Growth-for-All is now a year old

Sunday, August 17th, 2008

Inclusive Growth! 

It was on August 15th 2007, as India turned 60, that the Growth-for-All movement was launched.

In an email to several friends, I had shared my thoughts, “ GROWTH-FOR-ALL will be a significant development-sector initiative  which will involve a large number of individuals & organizations( corporates, NGOs, CII, etc) to see how our collective efforts can achieve a lot more. Over the next year or two, we hope to run some key ‘pilot projects’ focused on urban & rural poor communities.”

A year later, this collective effort has blossomed. The core idea of individuals, corporate and governments working together to focus on inclusive growth and integrated development has taken off. The first ‘pilot’ project in Delhi’s Savda Ghevra resettlement colony is now almost 8 months old. 

When Delhi CM’s office pointed us towards Savda Ghevra a year ago, they knew that they had a problem on their hands. Several thousand slum dwellers had been hastily relocated to a barren patch of 256 acres on the outskirts of Delhi. Growth-for-All’s household census also revealed the other problems. Among the 11,381 residents of Savda Ghevra, there are hundreds of people without livelihood. 655 kids don’t go to school for myriad reasons – admission problems, perceived cost, lack of interest, etc. Almost 1400 adults can’t read or write. No water supply; over 1500 families don’t use the community loo. Only 262 families throw waste in the dumpster. Just one doctor in a 3-hour shift.

Since the Growth-for-All initiative began,  over 100 youth enrolled in a 3-month vocational training by Dr Reddy’s Foundation, and now work at places like Pizza Hut & Spencer’s. 20 women are about to start carpet weaving for Jaipur Rugs Co. Over 2000 patients visit the 3 Suraksha Clinics each month… supported by Samir Arora. Health camps & ambulance service about to start.  15 women enrolled into TCS’ designed Adult Literacy Program. Almost 100 youngsters( mainly girls) learn music and dance over week-ends, at Hasmukh Kala. Computer classes are on the anvil, thanks to PCs contributed by my friend Deven Taneja’s company, PC Solutions. So, that’s the integrated model of Growth-for-All at work, with multiple partners & individuals chipping in what they are good at.

Lot more remains to be done. 468 people want to start their own business, ranging from general stores to tailoring shops & beauty parlours. Over 400 want jobs. 1500 adults want training in areas ranging from computers and English, to construction skills and tailoring. In the absence of running water, arrangements for Rain-water harvesting need to be made so that water becomes available. Kids who can’t go to school need to be nutured via non-formal education; likewise, those who are enrolled still need supplemental education.

Where can individuals & organizations help?

Individuals can help in many ways – either with their ideas, time or financial support. In teaching kids for a few hours each week-Maths, English, computers, Science, etc.. By mentoring adults who want to start their own business.
Corporates and other organizations can help with Rain-water harvesting, Strategies for waste management & sanitation, or by supporting other programs like sports.

The power of Growth-for-All’s collective model lies in large-scale participation. Big or small, everything helps. Ideas, time or financial support.

As the idea of Growth-for-All becomes a year old, and the successes are visible, we look forward to active participation from many more.

Singing and dancing mark pre-Independence Day celebrations at Savda Ghevra

Sunday, August 17th, 2008

Remarkable People! 

Not the majesty of Red Fort… not the grandeur of a mega celebration. Just a simple shamiana near the ‘centre square’ of Savda Ghevra. But lots of vivacious dancing and singing.

Patriotic songs

As almost 70 young girls( & a few boys), all enrolled in the Hasmukh Kala program,  took over the stage, their families and neighbours watched in excitement. Starting with Vande Mataram & Saraswati Vandana, the kids moved on to patriotic songs and popular, folk ones. As colourful costume after costume came on stage, the kids in the audience realized what they had missed out, and the clamour for enrolling into Hasmukh Kala grew louder.

Colourful dances

Orchestrated by Guru ji, the event was a resounding success. The architect and pioneer of Hasmukh Kala, my friend Hemu Javeri, had come down from Bangalore to see this outcome. As Hemu charts out more ambitious plans – including a scholarship program and an expansion with Growth for All – this initial success at Savda Ghevra reaffirmed that the Hasmukh Kala concept has the potential to truly engage and empower underprivileged girls & women, besides bringing joy and laughter to the communities.

Large crowd enjoying the event

As important as this successful event was, what was more important was the process. In Hemu’s words, “ it was a treat to see the buzz around the place as they prepared for the event. That itself was worth it”.

This collaborative effort( conceived by Hasmukh Kala, supported by Growth-for-All & Delhi government) once again demonstrates the collective power of well-meaning individuals, organizations and the government. As we take the Growth-for-All movement forward, this is an encouraging proof-of-concept.

Bill Gates writes on ‘Creative Capitalism’; Delhi government adopts Brazil’s Bolsa Familia project; and Kalam to teach at IIMA

Monday, August 11th, 2008

Weekly Review

The week started with Time magazine’s cover story, “How to Help Those Left Behind”, where Bill Gates expounds his views on how a new creative capitalism can make the world better for all.

Midway through the week, Indian Express reported Delhi government’s plans to implement Brazil’s Bolsa Familia project( search for a link), which apparently brought down poverty by 27%.
And fittingly, the week ended with an announcement that Prof Kalam would teach a new course at IIMA, “Globalising a Resurgent India through Innovative Transformation”

In their own way, each of these developments have the potential to make a huge difference to the way India runs its development and anti-poverty efforts.

Gates firmly believes that corporations can use market forces and innovations to complement what governments and non-profits do. Apart from tailoring products & services that reaches the poorest( think C.K. Prahlad!), he believes that corporations can do a lot more provided the right incentives are offered, e.g. recognition, fast-track approvals.
Gates’ heart and wallet are certainly in the right place, and he is already making a difference with his Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; but, I reckon that capitalism’s participation in social development will always be controversial. After all, where do you draw a line between a “Buy One, We’ll give the poor a Free One” promotional offer, and a genuinely participative effort.

Be that as it may, I certainly see – and have seen( in Gates Foundation-supported Khushi Clinics)- the impact of importing professional business best-practices in the social sector. So, if creative capitalism causes controversy, we can live with that, as long as it makes a difference. At Growth-for-All, we have already seen this while working with Dr Reddy’s Foundation & TCS.

Likewise, the Delhi government’s effort to provide a single-window access to beneficiaries who want to access 42 social schemes run by various departments, will certainly make life simpler. While the revelation that Brazil’s Bolsa Familia project- which is the inspiration for Delhi- achieved 27% reduction in poverty, seems like hyperbole, I can imagine how much simpler things would be, if a single window were available. Just recently, Growth-for-All has been witness to the utter confusion and opacity that Savda Ghevra residents face, while grappling with school admissions for their kids.
Why didn’t anyone think of this before?

Ex-President Kalam’s course at IIMA aims to fill this gap beautifully. By getting B-School students to think about issues of governance and policy-making, we will hopefully have a cadre of business professionals who can inspire Creative Capitalism, besides driving ideas like Bolsa Familia indigeneously.

India is alive & kicking at the grassroots: Unicef’s amazing Village Planning process

Friday, August 8th, 2008

On the road!
I had the chance to see a fascinating experiment in grassroots-level village planning process when I travelled to Latur district( Maharashtra), in June. Latur is one of the 17 districts where Unicef has been testing its integrated approach to addressing health and social issues.  

Program display at the ‘Village Information Centre’
From small beginnings in 2002, this effort now covers ALL the 1000-odd villages in the district. The starting point is a 5-day workshop in these villages, that involves village volunteers, Gram Panchayat members, Anganwadi workers, etc. The group collectively debates and identifies the top issues that need to be addressed in the coming years. These issues range from the predictable ones like child marriage and infant health, to surprising ones like alcohol being fed to crying babies!

Be that as it may, the wonderful thing is that the village takes these challenges and targets in their own heads, and track progress in the ensuing years.
Unicef, as the nodal agency, has put together a dedicated band of local NGOs who take charge of co-ordinating and facilitating this on-going effort in a couple of Blocks each.
My local guides during this trip were the two sisters- Zia and Shanno – from NGO ‘Saath’, which is responsible for Ausa and Ahmedpur blocks.

Real evidence that infant & mothers’ health issues can be turned around in India

Friday, August 8th, 2008

On the Road!

This was a trip where I really got a close look at how primary healthcare is structured in India.
There seems to be a 3-tier structure at work. Primary Health Centers( PHCs) cater to population of around 30,000- with 2 doctors & 6 beds. There are ‘Sub-centers’ for every 5000 population, and this comprises a building with Auxiliary Nurse-cum-Midwife( ANM), and a Multi-purpose Worker( MPW). For smaller populations- 1000 nos.- there is the Anganwadi Worker( AWW).
I met Anganwadi worker, Usha tai, now in her 11th year, at Village Mahunale( 137 H/H). She tracks births/deaths/immunization/deliveries, and her persistent efforts are now achieving 100% hospital deliveries.( Incentives are also helping: 700/- for hospital delivery). She is certainly well-regarded for her good work.

Lalita Ghote & Pangave Baburao at Tirthwadi’s Anganwadi 
I found similar evidence at Tirthwadi’s anganwadi( population 1000). AWW Lalita Ghote & Helper Pangave Baburao ensure great care for 47 kids( aged 3-6). They gave me a beautiful demo of how an entire community is now familiar with the importance of tracking growth indicators( height, weight, etc) for infants and kids.

Tracking growth indicators at the anganwadi

At Sub-center Jagalpur, it was immunization day when we landed there, and a constant stream of families was coming in to meet ANM S.S Kudi Metha, Health Asst N.A Tripati & MPW P.M Tripati. (This Sub-Center won prize for best sub-center in ’07).

Jagalpur’s ‘Sub-Center’

I suspect that these locations I went to are among the better ones you’ll get to see. The 3-tier structure; the committed, motivated delivery of services; the interfacing with Unicef and NGOs- its all so robust that it appears fail-safe.
If only, this model- which is truly sound, on paper- were executed with equal thoroughness elsewhere in the country, healthcare would not be a big issue any longer.
Growth-for-All’s task will be to benchmark other locations against this seemingly near-ideal situation.

India’s demographic dividend on display: how 4000 youth have taken charge in Latur district.

Friday, August 8th, 2008

On the Road! 

When one reads or speaks about India’s demographic dividend, it is usually in the context of a large BPO or software work-force, or booming consumer markets, i.e. an engine for economic growth. Often, the flip side is also presented by worried social observers when they ponder over disgruntled, unemployed youth fueling Naxalism or extremism.
But, there’s hardly any talk of how youth can totally transform the social landscape of India in a substantive manner.

In this context, what I encountered during my Latur trip was simply mind-boggling. No less than 4000 volunteers( 3200 males & 800 females), spread across 1000 villages, are engaged in solving real problems in their neighborhoods.
After initial training by Unicef, in which 4 volunteers from each village participate, they go back  with confidence.

List of youth volunteers in a village

One of the volunteers, Amar Jadhav, narrated this story to me: when he and others heard about an impending adolescent marriage in their village( Kishorigarh), two volunteers – accompanied by the Sarpanch & few villagers – descended on the house.

 Amar Jadhav narrating his story to me

After initial resistance, the family relented and waited till the daughter turned 20!
The scale and impact of such efforts is truly breathtaking, as is the manner in which volunteers have neatly meshed with the local Panchayats, village communities, as well as the government.
I was curious to understand what really motivated these youngsters to volunteer, and be so committed, and asked several of them. The simple answer is that they get respect and life skills. Going forward, some hope to become Panchayat members themselves, while others have ambitions to join the police, or even politics!
If only we can replicate this story across India, then India’s demographic dividend can truly become a powerful engine for economic and social growth.

The government works… when people start owning their own future

Friday, August 8th, 2008

Remarkable people!

Often, NGOs are most required when the government has gone to sleep, and there’s a vacuum. So, I was curious to find out if that was the case in Latur district, too.
So, when Zia took me to meet Block Development Officer T.K Navale, I was half-expecting a mixture of disinterest and cynicism.
I was wrong. Navale actively helps the NGOs and their volunteers, not financially, but in several other ways. Sometimes a pat on the back; certificates & medals to volunteers on other occasions.

Recognition for volunteers

 Block Development Officer T.K Navale

He certainly doesn’t feel threatened or feel that his role is being usurped. On the contrary, he actively offers his co-operation because, as he says, “ the NGOs are volunteers are doing my work. They help us reach a large number of people with information regarding government schemes”.
One measure of success in his Block is the fact that this kind of co-operation has resulted in eight Gram Panchayats now proudly declaring themselves “ Zero Open-defecation”. And, word is spreading fast to other villages, which will soon follow suit.
More power to the people… and enlightened souls like T.K. Navale!

Dark clouds in the horizon: the Livelihood challenge

Friday, August 8th, 2008

Inclusive Growth!
Among the many young volunteers I spent time with were Rahul( Class 12), Sunil Gaikwad( MA, B.Ed), Ghanshyam Mhaske(BA), all from Village Mahunale(Chakur block). I was keen to understand their backgrounds, motivations and future plans. While they are all reasonably educated, none of their families own land; they have no hope of picking up a government job, while they have limited access and skills for private sector jobs.

Group of youngsters, animatedly discussing development plans
For the moment, they are deeply involved as volunteers, but what will happen a few years hence when 4000 aware, educated youth stare at a blank future?
Clearly, agriculture needs to be enhanced via greater productivity and new techniques. Allied activities like dairy farming need to come into play. But, there is little evidence or effort right now in Latur district.
Equally important, Self-employment will also be a key ingredient. But, as the enlightened T.K Navale pointed out, to succeed, self-employment needs training and success stories. Among the few successes that Navale could point out is a Food Stall. “ The Idli-vada stall has long queues”, as he says, but Latur district needs many more success stories and answers to crack the livelihood challenge.

Putting FMCG companies to shame: Rural Marketing 2.0?

Friday, August 8th, 2008

On the Road!

My final-year ‘Term Paper’ at IIM was on Rural Marketing. Thereafter, during my many years of working with FMCG( or other mass-market) companies, the rural marketing challenge would inevitably come up as a topic for discussion. Some companies are hailed as pioneers in rural marketing, while other lag behind.
Having taken a close look at how the network of NGOs and volunteers operate in Latur district, it is time to proclaim that Rural Marketing 1.0 is passé.

It is quite an eye-opener to see how this ‘field-force’ achieves comprehensive coverage of ALL ( almost 1000 villages) in the district, every month.
I met Sheikh Firoz( B.A) with 1.5 years experience now. He could well have been a Sales Executive in a consumer good company, if you look at the way he works. As a Field Co-ordinator( F.C), he has a monthly ‘Beat Plan’ of 32 villages. On a typical day, this is what his beat itinerary looks like: meet Gram Panchayat( 10 am-12 noon); meet SHGs in meetings( 12-2 pm); Meet Young Girls Group( 3-5 pm); meet youth( after 5 pm). It’s a new village every day, but he comes back to the same village a month later.
Firoz has learnt that planning leads to success; that relationships with key village folks is important. Over the last one-and-half years, he has acquired confidence while dealing with village politics, and handling antagonism from those who want immediate gain.
All ten Blocks of Latur district have such dedicated FCs who, through their monthly beats, ensure 100% coverage of villages.
Clearly, FMCG companies, who talk about rural marketing, have a long way to go!!

Mobile Phone wins over PC, but the PC needs to catch up…. For all our sakes.

Friday, August 8th, 2008

Inclusive Growth!

 ET readers, CNBC viewers and Business School students know it well that India is mobile-phone country. Penetration and sales of mobile phones far exceed those of personal computers. It is literally as though the mobile phone has tapped into a deeply latent need of Indians to chatter away with their dear ones. On the contrary, the serious PC- while indeed making headway in the Indian market- lags far behind in terms of its impact on the lives of Indian families, especially lower-income and rural ones.
Consider this: during my two days in Latur district’s villages, I barely came across anyone who used computers or saw schools where kids had access to PCs. BUT: every youth and woman volunteer I met had a mobile phone, whose numbers were well publicized, and were the accepted means for fellow villagers to reach out to them.
However, as a result of this dichotomy, there is a great deal of spoken communication among the volunteers, NGOs and villagers, but the programs are overall weak in terms of documentation, information access, tracking and reporting.
To plug this key gap, the PC needs to catch up with the mobile phone… for the sake of development.

Growth-for-All will soon embark on an ambitious program to get corporates and others to chip in with used PCs which can be deployed in village schools and community centers. Watch out for more information.