Quiz: India’s most Innovative company?

Here is the quiz:  Which of the following Indian organizations made it to the Fast Company’s list of 50 most Innovative companies in the world?

1. Infosys
2. Wipro
3. Dr. Reddys Labs
4. Aravind Eye Care System

The answer is 4. Aravind Eye Care System! Its remarkable. Aravind is the only Indian organization in the Fast Company 50 list and shares the honors with many other with others like Google, Cisco, Intel, Apple and the Obama Campaign (Yes, you heard me right!)

Below is the excerpt from Fast Company:

The network of not-for-profit hospitals and vision centers performs 300,000 eye surgeries each year — 70% for free — using broadband connections to on-call doctors in city hospitals for instant diagnosis. Camps in rural areas screen thousands of patients weekly. “We are going from village to village to provide eye care to the unreached,” says Aravind’s chairman, Dr. P. Namperumalsamy. Aravind won the 2008 Gates Award for Global Health.

Well, the folks in the Indian media need to take note. We have never seen Aravind in the list of India’s Most Innovative Companies in the past (where it rightfully belongs)

Click here to see our previous coverage on Aravind.

Update: Envirofit is taking it up a notch

Not long ago, we had written about Envirofit, a company that manufactures and sells clean burining high-efficiency cookstoves to consumers in India.

Nextbillion reports that they have already sold 10,000 stoves and are ramping up production quickly. Of course, its a drop in the ocean, but definitely a great start. Congrats!

[TC-I Call to Action]: Grassroutes Fellowship Program

Maybe it’s time to unleash the Che Guevara in you! 

The Grassroutes Fellowship Program encourages youth to embark on road-trips, interact with change-makers at the grassroots and understand first-hand the problems that plague our nation.The Program sponsors 6 teams of adventurous, passionate young people every year on such 10 day road-trips. Applications are due November 15, 2008 for the winter edition of the fellowship.

During the Program, the Fellows will have to:

  • Research and understand the on-ground reality – the problem at hand, the non-profits, the change-makers and their actions, the role of the community and the local government.
  • Play the role of social journalists and capture the stories of all the people involved in community development
  • Lend a helping hand to the change-makers during the 10 days in their own little ways.
  • On their return, Grasssroutes will help the fellows produce quality videos of their travelogues and bring to fore the amazing work being carried out by change-makers at the grassroots. Such media will be hosted on the Grassroutes portal and the fellows will work towards inspiring the larger Indian society to contribute to the work of these non-profits and similar activities in other places

Grassroutes is run by non-profit society  called Yofa (for Youth Factor) that provides a banner for people to run novel projects to engage youth into social action. Yofa and Grassroutes were founded by a team of BITS Pilani alumni in early 20’s.

To hell with the markets

It sounds like a mandatory social responsibility order on profit making public sector enterprises (PSEs) in Gujarat. Below is the brief from Times of India:

In a controversial order, the Gujarat government has asked all profit-making public sector enterprises (PSEs) in the state to contribute up to 30% of their annual profit before tax to Gujarat Socio-Economic Development Society (GSEDS), set up to support weaker sections of society.

What adds a twist to the story is that many of the companies are listed in the country’s leading stock exchanges. How would the investors react? Well, the PSEs have lost hundreds of millions in market valuation:

‘‘It’s a retrograde step from the capital market point of view. A better way to implement CSR is to ask PSEs to increase the dividend payouts so that the Gujarat government receives higher sum to donate to any society of its choice,’’ said V K Sharma, the head of Anagram Securities.

To hell with the markets? Maybe not. It’s a little bit of an irony that Gujarat is arguably one of the most market-friendly states in the country with strong captialist idealogies. In fact, Mr. Modi recently won the state elections running on a platform of economic growth and prosperity!

Rs. 1000 Crore Social Responsibility Engine

Rs. 800 to a 1000 crore, that’s how much the Tata Group, one of the oldest and largest business houses in India spends annually on Corporate Social Responsibility [Via Economic Times]

The Tata Trusts control 65.8 per cent of the shares of Tata Sons, the holding company of the Group. The combined development-related expenditure of the Trusts and the companies amount to around four per cent of the Group’s net profit, its website said.

These philanthropic trusts have created national institutions in science & technology, medical research, social studies and the performing arts.

Previous coverage on the Tata’s CSR Efforts:

  1. Discover your inner Social Entrepreneur on the Train
  2. India’s CSR Leaders: How much can they really change?
  3. A New Software that Keeps Politicians As Honest as Possible
  4. Tata – Heart of Gold or Steel?

Loans that can save Lives

Indians have a much higher pre-disposition for heart disease, and are genetically three times more vulnerable to a heart attack as compared to people living in many Western nations. While cardiovascular medicine has made great strides in the last few decades, heart surgery continues to be a costly affair for most of the poor in India.

On the other hand, the Bangalore based Narayana Hrudayalaya has been in the forefront of providing quality cardiovascular care for the poor – adopting a Aravind like model of charging the rich and subsidizing the poor. Now the hospital is experimenting with a new idea – collaborating with State Bank of India to offer loan product on a pilot basis for poor heart patients undergiong cardiac treatment [via Economic Times].

“The SBI Hrudaya Suraksha scheme is being launched as a pilot project to evaluate the concept of offering loan on easy interest terms for those below poverty line – earning less than $2 a day – who need urgent cardiac intervention,” SBI chairman and managing director OP Bhat said on the occasion.

Narayana Hrudayalaya founder Devi Shetty said the loan amount (Rs.50,000) would meet about 80 per cent of the total cost (Rs.65,000) for a heart surgery of poor cardiac patients to be identified and subsidised by the hospital. The average cost of a heart surgery at Shetty’s health cities is about Rs.100,000

Interestingly, the loan product was launched by Nobel Laureate Mohammad Yunus during his recent visit to Bangalore.

Who let the Dogs out?

The folks at LiveMint have a radical idea to address the stray dog problem in the Indian cities – Privatize them! [Via India Uncut]

The fundamental problem is that stray dogs are “public property”, which creates what economists call “negative externality”. Those who feed and pamper the dogs while benefiting from wagging tails and warm cuddles are not held responsible for the nuisance dogs inflict on other citizens.

What is the way ahead? Privatize stray dogs. The municipalities of India’s metropolises should put stray dogs on sale. Animal rights activists and dog lovers are free to buy and own the canines as pets. They shall be held legally liable for damages their pets inflict on others

Very intriguing and compelling argument. I’m just worried about enforceability of such an idea. But, I’m sure its worth a try.

Making condoms cooler through cellphones

It’s definitely an out of box and innovative idea, and could be just what is needed to make the word ‘condom’ more socially acceptable in India. The BBC World Service Trust has launched a condom ringtone for cellphones, a 45 second short which repeats the word condom over and over again [via BBC World Service Trust]

The latest phase of our campaign to normalise condom use in India the BBC World Service Trust has just launched a mobile phone ringtone campaign to promote the use of condoms.

The ringtone campaign is part of a wider mass media campaign by BBC World Service Trust to prevent transmission of HIV in India and highlight safe sex practices. The project is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

While TV, Radio and Print are used widely for socially-relevant messaging, this is probably the first time the cellphone ringtones are being used as a medium for creating awareness on a social issue. This is clearly a smart move, given that as of June 2008, a stunning 25% of India’s population had access to a cellphone.

Check out the video below. You can also download the ringtone here.

Discover your inner Social Entrepreneur on the Train

The Tata Sons are starting to be quite innovative in designing their CSR efforts [via Financial Express]:

Tata Jagriti Yatra 2008 will be an inspirational train journey undertaken by around 400 young and enterprising participants, between 18-25 years, from India and overseas, Tata Sons’ Executive Director, R Gopalakrishnan, said in Mumbai.

The youth will participate in an 18-day train journey interacting with social and economic entrepreneurs across the country, encouraging the spirit of social entrepreneurship, he said.

Of course, this is not the first time the Tata Group has taken an interest in social entrepreneurship. Earlier this year, it launched a International Social Entrepreneurship Scheme in partnership with UC Berkley and University of Cambridge [TC-I coverage here].

If you are one of those lucky ones between 18 and 25, you should find a way to get on that train [and may be live-blog for TC-I!]

International Conference on CSR at Chennai

University of Madras is organizing a International Conference on Corporate Social Responsibility between from the 5th to 7th of November, 2008. They have interesting names lined up, including writer Dr. Ramachandra Guha and social activist P. Sainath.

More details here

Dont miss this Groundbreaking TV Show

Last week, we wrote about Rohini Nilekani’s excellent op-ed in The Hindu, on the changing face of philanthropy in India. She is in the news again, Rohini will be hosting a new show on NDTV 24/7 called Uncommon Ground. The show will bring leaders of corporate India and the not-for-profit sector together to discuss challenges that India face today.

The show kicks off this Sunday, July 27, 2008 at 9:30, with Mr. Mukesh Ambani & Dr. R.K. Pachauri featured in the inaugural episode. Here is more on the show from the press brief from NDTV 24/7

Uncommon Ground’ is unique because there has never been a dialogue like this before on Indian television. Marked by lively discussions and intense rguments, each episode of Uncommon Ground will have a well known corporate head facing an equally well known social activist or developmental scientist. It aims to open up lines of communication that would spur the growth of modern India in a manner that is both rewarding and inclusive

Yunus inspires a bollywood movie character

Once in a while, its not uncommon to see a Bollywood movie taking on a pertinent social issue and the same time striving to be commercially successful. On that spirit, the latest bollywood release titled Summer 2007, is taking on the issue of farmer suicides in the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra [via Reuters India]

In “Summer 2007,” which opens in cinemas on Friday, five medical
students from Mumbai stray into a village, unprepared for the deaths
and misery they encounter there.

“They get embroiled into this whole saga of who’s responsible, why
is there so much poverty and disparity,” said Atul Pandey, the film’s

The film also explores the possibility of micro credit as a solution
and has a character inspired by Mohammad Yunus, the 2006 Nobel peace
prize winner and founder of Grameen Bank, Bangladesh’s biggest
micro-credit institution.

Click here for past TC-I stories on the farmer suicides.

Are we humble enough?

I hope many of you did not miss this excellent op-ed by Rohini Nilekani on this Sunday’s edition of The Hindu. A philanthropist herself, Rohini talks about the changing face of philanthropy in India. Rohini has an interesting take on this new movement to create change:

But as I look around now, a lot of us, especially in the newer foundations, are in a big hurry to achieve social change. We want to reduce inequity and we want it now! We want measurable outcomes, we want replicability and we want scale. Some of this impatience to improve things quickly comes from the corporate ethos, where performance measurement is embedded in the  culture. Much of the new talent in the foundations and in the new citizen sector organisations comes from business.

For the answer to emerge, we will need patience, compassion and reflection. We will have to stop looking at issues in silos and constantly, and with humility look to support the elements of integration that build community; that recreate human values rather than just ‘things.’

Its a good time to point you to an earlier op-ed written by Vinay on this blog. He was highlighting the debate about the need for humility among social entrepreneurs. My guess is that there will be even more discussion on the topic in the coming years, as we start seeing bigger foundations emerge with even more money to spend. I only hope we are constantly reminded of the need for ‘patience, compassion and

TC-I Call to Action

Our weekly review of opportunities. Want us to post a job or an opportunity, drop us a word at info@thinkchangeindia.org


  • UnLtd India is an innovative foundation that exists to be a home for early-stage social entrepreneurs in India. It finds funds and supports exceptional individuals to enable them to develop as leaders, start up sustainable, high-impact initiatives, and prepare their fledgling organisations for further investment. They currently are looking for an Associate in the Incubation Team (more info here) and also an Administrator (more info here), both positions based in their Mumbai office.
  • NS Raghavan Center for Entrepreneurial Learning (NSRCEL) is part of the prestigious Indian Institute of Management Bangalore, with a vision “to be a world-class center of excellence for seeding, nurturing and promoting entrepreneurship with emphasis on start-ups and existing organizations with high growth potential”. NSRCEL is engaged in business incubation, teaching, training and research in entrepreneurship.They are looking for a Chief Operating Officer (COO). Please click here for more information.
  • Endeavor is a non-profit organization that offers high-impact entrepreneurs the support and tools they need to scale. They are currently looking for a Managing Director to Head thier India office. More details are available here


  • We had mentioned recently about the Teach India initiative launched by the Times Group. They are looking for ook for selfless individuals to come forward and help change the future of a child forever, by giving just a few hours a week to Teach India. More info here

Introducing TC-I’s newest team member: Aishwarya Mishra

You may have noticed in the last three weeks some new and interesting perspectives in this space – and also a new name behind those posts. Well, we are excited to announce our newest recruit to the TC-I team, Aishwarya Mishra.

Aishwarya Mishra is a software engineer by profession. He has completed Engineering in Computer Science from Cochin University of Science and Technology. He dabbles in a lot of things – quizzes, debates, sports, playing guitar.

He writes his personal opinions on social issues at http://wheredoiblog.blogspot.com. He is part of a group of friends who are trying to bring about an improvement in the standard of living in Indian society. You could read about their efforts at http://targetingtheroots.blogspot.com .