Archive for the ‘Remarkable People’ Category

Growth-For-All’s Integrated Model at Work: Profile of a beneficiary

Monday, October 5th, 2009

Remarkable People!

Kamna lives at house number A-6, in Savda Ghevra, along with her 3 children and husband. When their former home at Laxmi Nagar slums got demolished, they were allotted a 12 sq.m plot in Savda Ghevra, for Rs 7000; they then constructed a pucca house here. Kamna’s husband is a government employee and works as grade IV worker in Anand Vihar. He leaves his house at 6am only to return at 11 at night. Kamna’s children seldom see their father.

The children go to the local government school. Kamna herself runs a small tea shop from her house, with erratic earnings. Her. husband earns a salary of Rs 3000 but most of his earning is spent on commuting.

 Profile of a beneficiary

Kamna speaks about how inadequate medical services in the colony were, when she arrived here in 2005. She would rush to Laxmi Nagar, to see her old doctor in case of medical emergencies. She also complained about distance of Savda from the main city, making life for her husband extremely difficult.
She has also filed many complaints to government officers for non-issuance of voter’s card and also complains about the lack of quality of ration provided from the PDS shop. She agrees though, that things have improved over time, but much more progress still has to be made.

The private doctor working in the government clinic (as part of a health project carried out by Child Survival India and Growth for All) has helped her access medical treatment faster and in cheaper ways.  She also speaks about the sweet nature of the doctor.
Even though, she herself has not used the ambulance service provided by this project, Kamna knows about neighbors who used the van to go for institutional deliveries in hospital. Ambulance is something which has benefited people a lot as they can now go to hospital without facing much hassle.

She is also thankful to this initiative which has made the hospital accessible, and somewhat welcoming. Earlier, she used to be afraid to communicate with the doctors. Now, regular interaction with government hospital has made Savda Ghevra a known name amongst doctors and therefore they are now more than willing to help patients coming from there.
She also benefits by attending meetings of the ‘Swasthya Samoohs’ (groups of women on health issues). Information is thus not beyond her reach. This has also helped her gained more clarity about work in other areas, e.g. government services, responsibility of government officials and so on. She eagerly waits for the monthly sessions on legal awareness training provided by MARG(Multiple Action Research Group) and Growth for All, which will help her consolidate her knowledge and train her on how to solve her legal and administrative problems.

During week-ends, Kamna sends her children to music, dancing and singing classes provided by Hasmukh Kala and Growth for All in the community. She would like her children to continue their practice at an advanced level.
She definitely wants to provide the best to her children, and monitors their education closely.  This according to her “will help them not become like her”. Kamna herself is a model as she has shown exemplary dedication in her personal development. She was the most regular member of the TCS-supported adult literacy classes while the project lasted. Though, at the end of it, she was only able to read and write a little, she proudly says that she can now read most important thing in her daily life, which is the “bus numbers and destination”.

Gandhian School of Management or C.K Prahlad B-School?

Monday, September 21st, 2009

Inclusive Growth!

Can social change be achieved by selfless, not-for-profit NGOs, or are businesses inspired by bottom-of-the-pyramid model better equipped to do so?

I had the opportunity to chair a discussion on ‘High-Impact Social Entrepreneurs’ at the recent TiEcon, in Delhi, where we assembled a panel comprising these diverse actors. It was a fascinating experience not only because of this diversity, but also for the discussion it provoked.  
On the one hand was Anshu Gupta of Goonj who chucked up his corp comm job many years ago, and has focused on collecting and recycling old clothing from urban areas to make sure that it reaches the needy in villages( over 30 tonnes/month!). On the other hand was Varun Sahni of Acumen Fund( leading global VC for social sector), and two young for-profit entrepreneurs, Sam Goldman( of D’Lite Design) & Amir Alexander Hasson( of United Villages)• 

Anshu Gupta is in the classical Gandhian mould, and believes that mass involvement and commitment are sufficient to take his ‘clothing for the poor’ mission to greater heights. Over the last decade or so, he has succeeded in this mission, although with great personal hardship.

Sam Goldman, the young CEO of D’Lite Design, like an Apple or Intel, is using strategies that combine great product design, high-volume manufacturing, global sales & distribution to create scale. His mission is to replace the ubiquitous kerosene lantern by clean, safe and bright lighting for the poor, in millions of rural homes. Like Sam, Amir is using a steeped-in-capitalism, though low-cost model, to take consumer products and services to rural markets, through a technology-based supply chain. Amir’s United Villages is currently operating in villages of Orissa and Rajasthan by creating rural ‘E-shops’ that sell everything from soaps to mobile phones.

Both Sam and Amir believe that scale-based businesses that provide affordable, good-quality products & services are the real answer to underdevelopment.

Varun’s Acumen Fund is of a similar view. It has raised USD 80 mn of ‘patient capital’ so far, and has already invested about Rs 100 cr in 12 businesses. The most striking example is the ‘Lifespring‘ chain of maternity hospitals across South India. These 20 to 30-bed hospitals have been set up at a low investment of Rs 40 lacs, and offer low-priced services( e.g. delivery at Rs 2000/-). A new hospital is being added every 35 days. Other Acumen-invested ventures include emergency medical services(Zikitsa, Mumbai); drip irrigation for marginal farmers;  and clean drinking water systems.

While Goonj and the others disagree strongly on the means, i.e. for-profit or not-for-profit, however what’s common to them all is their belief that real impact can be made by finding innovative answers to age-old problems that the government has been slow to solve. Roti, kapda, makaan, bijli, paani, dawai, and many others.

In the coming months, TiE, Delhi will get increasingly involved with this entire ecosystem, and that’s worth looking forward to.

Growth-For-All helps CII anchor a hugely-successful CSR ‘Best Practices’ Meet

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

Corporate Social Responsibility!

When Growth-For-All was invited by CII Northern Region to be the Knowledge Partner for the CSR ‘Best Practices’ Meet, one of our key recommendations was focus! Focus on the specific needs of the ‘home’ states of a majority of the delegates, viz. Punjab, Haryana and HP. And, more important, focus on some real action, instead of just listening and discussions.

We were delighted when other CII members agreed to go down this path.

That brought us to the real question: do these ostensibly-prosperous states have any real challenges at all?  After all, Punjab, HP & Haryana are ranked 1,3 and 6 respectively in India Today’s 2008 ‘Ranking of States’. We spent time talking to NGOs and government officers to debate this. Simultaneously, we also commissioned a researcher to scan through all available published information.

Growth-For-All at CII’s CSR ‘Best Practices’ Meet

A closer look revealed that Punjab itself had real problems. Its economic development is now the second-slowest, while its human-development indices for health and education are comparable to backward states. Livelihoods is a real challenge: while Punjab and Haryana face unemployment and underemployment on account of crisis in agriculture, HP’s problem is to meet the aspirations of its educated youth. The gender challenge is serious in all three states.

We now had our direction. And set about creating three highly-focused Panel Discussions: on livelihoods, gender and CSR. These, we knew, would provide delegates with ample food-for-thought on the real challenges facing their states. At the same time, we wanted to ensure that delegates ended the day with a clear, actionable CSR plan. So, we invited Mumbai-based Green Kettle Consulting to do a workshop-format session which would provide delegates with a framework within which to plan their own CSR.

I am delighted to announce that everything went as per plan, and we had a very-successful CSR ‘Best Practices’ Meet.

CSR ‘Best Practices’ Meet provides some practical answers to the huge gender challenges in Northern states

Saturday, February 14th, 2009

Remarkable People!

It would be no surprise to anyone that the states of Punjab, Haryana and HP face huge gender-related challenges. However, what is surprising is that not enough positive action has been witnessed; in fact, the reality is that this issue is usually brushed under the carpet.

Based on the strong hypothesis that gender discrimination can hinder the pace of development, Growth-For-All worked with CII to assemble a strong panel of speakers to focus on finding practical answers that could be supported and endorsed by CII members. Prof. Pam Rajput( Executive Director, Women’s Resource & Advocacy Center) anchored a spiritied discussion that went way beyond normal expectations. While Mr Anurag Agrawal( IAS; and author of a path-breaking book on the ‘missing girl child) emphasised the need to capture data and build case histories in order to sensitise people, Mr Subhash Mendhapurkar of NGO, Sutra, provided fascinating insights from HP. Dr Ashish Banerjee(Director, Fortis Hospital) & Mr Rajat Ray( UNFP) spoke about successful experiences with women in work-force, and the need for effective communication strategies.

Animated discussion among panelists before the session

What can corporates do to start making a difference?

The Panel came up with simple, elegant, and practical suggestions that corporates can start with. That corporates should hire more women, and focus on gender diversity was one clear answer.( In fact, Dr Banerjee provide a ringing endorsement when he said quite simply, ” women work better”). The other, equally-simple answer was that corporates should track the health and nutrition standards of their workers’ spouses as a routine practice, thereby driving widespread sensitization and awareness. Likewise, corporates are in a position to monitor incidences of domestic violence as well. Finally, corporates -especially those running factories - can create awareness about gender issues in their immediate neighbourhoods.

Some fascinating encounters

Sunday, January 25th, 2009

Remarkable people!

I’ve met some very interesting people in recent months, who opened my mind to a range of issues and ideas.

Mrs Anjaly Duggal Chib( IAS), Punjab government’s Resident Commisioner in Delhi spent over an hour describing the various dimensions of the gender issue in Punjab.  While the outward manifestations of the gender issue - in the form of dowry and female foeticide - are well known, I understood well, for the first time, how basic cultural upbringing  perpetuates this inferior status further. Whether it is to do with women not taking a share of family property, or women eating after the men have eaten, or the fact that boys are taken to hospital faster, or how a ‘get rich fast’ attitude leads to dowry demands, these are facets of the gender issue that were put across very lucidly.

Around the same time, I also met Ena Singh, who heads UNFPA, and tackles the gender issue with the same vigor and passion. She emphasized how it was critical for everyone to get women in Punjab into visible, non-conventional jobs like driving a crane, a tractor, or a taxi. This, in her view, would be an important step in changing society’s perceptions of what women can do, or should be doing. She  gave the example of the newly-started Azaad Foundation in Delhi, which is a ‘by women’, ‘for women’ NGO that aims to train poor women in Delhi to become drivers, besides organising them into a taxi service.

I was also introduced to Niranjan Khatri, who drives CSR for ITC Hotels’ Sheraton and luxury brands. Niranjan told me about their tie-up with the Ministry of Social Justice to train 400 destitute women in aspects like hygiene, cooking, housekeeping, and safety, which would prepare them for careers in hospitality or as domestic help. For instance, the Eva Floor at ITC hotels, meant exclusively for lady guests, is staffed only by women.

Then there was the conversation with Manish Sabharwal of TeamLease, who is on the PM’s Skills Development Mission. Manish broadly described the Mission’s attempt to create a supply of  range of skilled and semi-skilled talent for the job market simply by making available a vast array of vocational training options. It ended on a strong note of disagreement because I felt strongly that the approach would falter on two counts. One, because it appeared to be too much of a simplistic, cookie-cutter approach which fails to take into account the executional complexities. The bigger disagreement was on account of the Mission’s assumption that bulk of India’s unemployed should be directed to job-based employment, as opposed to self-employment. In fact, the Mission’s bias seems to be against self-employment. To me, it seems not just impractical, but a wrong objective to aim for. A large proportion of India’s unemployed youth- for reasons of education, or mindset - will not be the right match for the vocational training options offered.  More important, because they don’t want to commute long distances, or be dislocated from their communities, many are happiest being in self-employment. While I completely agree that inadequate or sub-optimal self-employment is undesirable, but any employment generation policy simply cannot discount the value of creating a vibrant self-employment culture and eco-system.

Finally, there was young Sumant Dubey, an executive at TERI, who reached out to me. He spoke about a range of innovations that various people and organisations were exploring. Apart from TERI’s own ambitious Solar Lantern project, he told me about the Water Purifiers’ project run by Nandi Foundation, and an Eco Tourism project in Maharshtra.

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.

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.

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!

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!!

‘Hasmukh Kala’ initiative brings music and dance to Savda Ghevra

Thursday, May 8th, 2008

Remarkable People!

Music and dance take over the lives of 50+ children on weekend afternoons as they learn intently from their ‘guruji’, Mr Lal. These kids, mostly girls, learn music and dance as part of the ‘Hasmukh Kala’ program launched at Savda Ghevra.

Hasmukh Kala launch

The brainchild of my friend and IIM classmate, Hemu Javeri, Hasmukh Kala builds on the vision and experience of his family’s decades-old Swami Samarth Foundation in Mumbai. Hemu and his friend Shailja Dutt( the Delhi-based CEO of Stellar Search, the reputed executive search firm) first visited Savda Ghevra few months ago to get to know the community better. Thereafter, Hemu and Shailja quickly gave shape to the ‘Hasmukh Kala’ program, identified the right teacher, and got started.

Guruji and Shailja Dutt

Hemu has articulated his vision  upfront,”Hasmukh Kala is a unique initiative that is dedicated to a woman who has inspired me over the years. Music is universal, and Hasmukh Kala is focused on using music, dance and drama, to empower women and unite communities. Through guru-shishya based training methods, and with instruments from both Indian and international music, intense learning is imparted to students to enrich their lives. The goal would be for our students to reach the pinnacle of music, dancing and acting and empower them to achieve their dreams!”.

 One hour each of singing, dancing and instrumental music is now the regular routine on Saturdays and Sundays. A few boys also join in to play the ‘bongo’. While most of the talent at Savda Ghevra is raw, ‘guruji’ has already spotted some real bright sparks. Everyone is pretty excited - the kids, guruji, as well as Hemu and Shailja.

Hemu and Shailja are busy planning a big community music event on August 15th, as well future roll-out of Hasmukh Kala, in tandem with Growth-for-All’s own expansion in 2008 and 2009.

For me, personally, it is immensely gratifying to have committed people like Hemu step in and complement the Growth-for-All movement, with their own thoughts and vision. This is a virtuous cycle which lends great strength.