Pizzas are good for these senior citizens

What do the words “new start-up”  and “garage” bring to your mind? The old stories about how all the tech companies started off to make today’s Silicon Valley? If that sounds a little too boring now, here is something as appetizing as a pizza. Started right here in India’s Silicon Valley by by Padma Srinivasan, 73 and Jayalakshmi Sreenivasan, 75 (as against in The Silicon Valley by a bunch of youngsters), Pizza Haven pumps in the revenues that it earns by catering to school kids and software companies (like HP, now that is some coincidence!) to running an old age home – Vishranti.

“Granny’s pizzas are a hit among the software professionals, not just because they are delicious, but also because they are sold for a cause,” said Padma.

The profit from pizzas and generous donations from some well-wishers have helped in completing the home for the eldely, named Vishranthi (Rest), in June 2008 (news from newkerala.com)

What is there to be learnt from this story? Of course, a for-profit model makes this home’s future secure. But there is a more important lesson. Sustaining a social initiative doesn’t always need a complex innovation! All it needs is for one to look around yourself and identify what they are looking for!

With the current model up and running, is the Vishranthi executive team looking for expansion? Absolutely!

“In Vishranthi, I am also planning to start an orphanage and vocational training centre for poor rural women. And again our pizzas will come in handy to finance all our projects.”

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[TC-I Call to Action]: Schools for Entrepreneurs Grant Competition

Via NGO Post, a competition held by Teach A Man To Fish called Schools for Entrepreneurs aims “to find the best school-based income-generating initiatives in India, projects which are both educational and financially sustainable.”

From student-run cybercafés funding classroom improvements, to schoolyard chicken-runs laying aside profits to pay for books, the competition aims to encourage education initiatives to come up with ways to boost their financial resources at the same time as teaching practical and business skills to their students.

Winners will receive the funding and consultancy support needed to help turn their ideas into reality.

The deadline to apply is April 1, 2009.

Nokia poised to help farmers to expand its rural base

Nokia is about to launch a set of “Life Tools” to be embedded in its mobile phones in an effort to expand its base into rural India. These Life Tools cater to the needs of the rural community with information on three different sectors namely Agriculture, Education, Entertainment. On agriculture, the Life Tool is likely to offer updated information on weather and market prices for the farmers produce on the mobile phone in the farmers native language.

As the old proverb goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Nokia’s datasheet on Life Tools provides an easy-to-understand picture. Evidently, this tool is developed not just to penetrate into rural India, but rather to the “rural world”.

If my everyday observation is any testimony, Nokia seems to have a wide user base at the lower economic sections of India, and this tool can be an excellent vehicle for informational empowerment of the rural Indian community. However, given that the rural buy is likely not going to buy these phones off a Nokia Priority Showroom, how Nokia is going to market this tool so that the buyer buys a low cost Nokia phone for its Life Tools rather than its ruggedness, ease of use or longer life would be an interesting point to observe. This may also be the crucial factor that may determine the tool’s success.

You don’t have to be an expert to make a difference

K.M. Basheer’s educational qualifications make him an unlikely leader of a medical movement. He has not studied beyond Class X. But this farmer from Nilambur in Kerala’s Malappuram district heads a society that arranges for home and neighbourhood-level care for the chronically ill. His venture, the Nilambur Palliative Care Society, has inspired several other groups.

This story is one that reminds us that you can become a successful social entrepreneur even in a space where you may not know everything there is to know. The entire story can be read here on OneWorld.

IFC to loan $25 million to WaterHealth India for rural drinking water

Clean drinking water is in my opinion the most critical issue that must be addressed in any area suffering from poverty. So any news like this one gives me hope and a smile on my face. WaterHealth India has recently received a $25 million loan to install more than 600 water filtration systems throughout India. This issue cannot be understated as, 

[m]ore than 25 percent of India’s population does not have access to clean drinking water. Unsafe water is often the cause for waterborne diseases such as cholera and diarrhea. As more villages are included, the WaterHealth project will have important health benefits as well as help generate local employment and provide training, which could significantly improve earnings for people in rural areas. [Source: Sreelakshmi24’s Blog]

WaterHealth India has already installed 200 such systems in Andhra Pradesh and so hopefully their experience will result in a significant improvement to clean water access.

Get the world’s best brains on your R&D team

Social enterprises are often searching for sustainable breakthrough innovations, but lack the resources to invest in large-scale research and development.  One creative, and increasingly popular, solution to this problem is open innovation.  The basic concept is to utilize the collected knowledge of experts from around the world to solve design challenges.

One such tool is Innocentive, which has become the premier global marketplace for open innovation.  The website connects corporations and non-profits with thousands of brilliant minds from around the world. The best solution is awarded a cash prize by the sponsoring organization.

Social enterprises in India and around the world have posted numerous challenges on Innocentive and met with great success.  In an interview with Fast Company, Dwayne Spradlin of Innocentive discusses the growing trend of non-profits turning to open innovation.  He also explains how non-profits are able to generate interest even with small rewards,

We’re doing more in the non-profit space than ever. We’ve all come here to change the world and you do that by helping organizations of all types really address their challenges. It’s particularly rewarding to work in a challenge realm that can impact human life like people’s ability to drink clean water in sub-Saharan Africa.

Not-for-profit challenges, where there’s clearly some sort of a global good associated with it, tend to draw the attention of globally-minded solvers. That means that a $10,000 or $20,000 prize—which could be quite a bit for a not-for-profit to offer—is amplified dramatically because the dividends to the solver are not only the money.

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