[Guest Post] (Op-Ed): India announces “safe” climate change action plan, misses a chance for international leadership

Editor’s Note: Guest Blogger Jordan Bower is an intern at Indicorps, where he is promoting growth of Ultimate Frisbee in Ahmedabad as a means of inspiring leadership and community integration among local youth.

The defining struggle with climate change is that we can’t have our cake and eat it too.

The economic development boom currently occurring in India is directly related to the increased production of carbon emissions believed to contribute to climate change. Policy makers are faced with an uncomfortable choice between capping growth outright or encouraging “responsible” development without restrictive limits. Yesterday, in announcing a draft of its national action plan on climate change, India’s government sided with the latter option.

From the Indian Express:

India has decided to stick to the safe path on dealing with climate change. In the much-awaited draft of its national action plan, there is no word on carbon cuts or caps on industry. Instead, it is “avoidance of emissions.” In the penultimate draft, there were caps specified for various sectors, including industry, which have been dropped — for now. The catchword for the action plan is “saving” or “efficiency” rather than capping.

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[Guest Post]: Bridging the Digital Divide: More Than Tomorrow Project

Editors Note: Guest Blogger Marshall J. Krinitz is the founder of More Than Tomorrow Project, which has successfully established two computer learning centers in the state of Himachal Pradesh. We here at TC-I were quite thrilled by their work and invited Marshall to write us a guest post.

Many developing nations are aggressively pursuing strategies to increase their access to communication and information technology, motivated by a healthy vision of the future. They envision a future where educators can enhance meager libraries with online texts, where tele-medicine supplements the limited resources of rural hospitals, where local artisans can market their crafts to a global audience, and where the next generation of innovators script computer code for international businesses.

Yet there are a number of significant obstacles impeding this vision. First, while the price of a personal computer has receded remarkably in recent years, PCs still cost more than the average annual income in many developing nations. Second, the Internet is a medium of written text, which makes it inaccessible to those who cannot read. Likewise, as a majority of the content on the internet is disseminated in English many potential users in the developing world are severely limited in what they can access and accomplish online. Lastly, while there is a great deal of content offered online relevant to the information needs of, for example, a wine aficionado or golfing enthusiast, what is available online to help a rural farmer solve the problems she faces everyday?

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[Guest Post]: Making LifeSpring come alive

The following is a guest post by Jason Ye, a MD/MBA student at Columbia University and an InSITE fellow alongside yours truly. Jason visited India during his spring break on a project organized by Columbia’s International Development Club and worked on pro bono consulting project with LifeSpring Hospitals. Go here for a post on this venture to provide affordable medical care to women and children. While Jason’s work must remain confidential, he was able to reflect on his experience during his work with this great organization.

I had always wanted to visit India, but never thought that I would go for at least another 15 years. When I fortuitously stumbled upon the opportunity to work with LifeSpring, a maternity hospital in Hyderabad, I jumped on the opportunity. It would seem that the entire trip accidentally fell into place. I was able to speak to the client for the first time only a week before I left, just barely got an appointment to get travel vaccinations, got my tourist visa the day before I traveled and bought my plane ticket on the morning my plane left. When I finally arrived in Hyderabad, I still had no idea what to expect. But my experience in India far exceeded any expectation that I could have had.

The first thing that I noticed was the famous Indian hospitality, which was so sincere and gracious that it sometimes made you feel uncomfortable. But besides kind, my hosts at LifeSpring Hospital, a niche provider of low cost, high quality obstetric care, were some of the most passionate and resourceful individuals I have met. Driven by their mission to bring quality health care to patients regardless of their income levels, they are testing the lower limits of low cost health care. A normal delivery costs only $38 USD and a caesarian section costs only $150 USD, a stark contrast to about $6,000 USD and $13,000 USD respectively at a US hospital. Despite the discrepancy in prices, the Indian doctors were as good as any American one; I verified this personally after scrubbing into a caesarian section. Although the facilities cannot compare to a US hospital or the elite private Indian hospitals, it was still much better and safer than the government hospitals.

After days of observations, research and interviews, I arrived at a set of recommendations which I hope will help LifeSpring continue its noble mission. But to some extent, I was the one who benefited most from this pro bono consulting project. LifeSpring’s vision of helping those who are most in need has reaffirmed the reason why I wanted to be a doctor. Its clever business model has taught me that success in entrepreneurship is not determined by capital, but by passion.

Of this I am certain: I will return to India and I will return to LifeSpring.

[Guest Post]: Investing & Handholding – The Aavishkaar Goodwell Way

Editors Note: Guest Blogger Keyzom Ngodup works with Intellecap, a pioneering social venture capital firm focused on making double bottom-line investments in India. In addition to capital and investment support, Intellecap is unique in that they also provide a range of support services that enable social ventures to move from start-up stage into growth mode. You can read Keyzom’s other posts here.

Full Disclosure: In this post, Keyzom writes about Aavishkaar Goodwell — a sister organization to Intellecap.

Karnataka-based microfinance firm Grameen Koota closed its first round of private equity investment when it received INR 92 million (USD 2.3 million) from Aavishkaar Goodwell, an India-focused microfinance development company. Aavishkaar Goodwell will work closely with Grameen Koota`s management to help transform it into a national player that plans to reach out to over 2 million microfinance customers over the next 5 years.

Grameen Koota was started in 1999 by T. Muniswamappa Trust a not-for-profit trust with a clear mission of delivering need-based financing and capacity building services to the poor in a cost-effective and sustainable manner. Guided by its vision to bring mainstream financial services to the poor, Grameen Koota has built a customer base over 140,000 microfinance clients and is one of the leading microfinance players in the region. In October 2007, Grameen Koota successfully completed a transformation into a RBI regulated non-banking financial company (NBFC). Then in December 2007, Grameen Koota was ranked 19th in Forbes Magazine’s Top 50 Microfinance Institutions globally.

Suresh Krishna, MD, Grameen Koota said, “We are delighted to have Aavishkaar Goodwell as an investor in Grameen Koota. With their active support and guidance, we are well poised for the next stage in our growth trajectory. We hope that the financial expertise, business experience and on the ground presence of Aavishkaar Goodwell`s team will help us in fulfilling our objective of scaling up our operations and serving [an] increasing number of poor women in a sustainable manner.”

For Aavishkaar Goodwell, this investment represents a significant step towards building a USD 25 million balanced portfolio of smart capital investments in financial services for the poor in India.

[Guest Post]: Networking Consistently & Informally – A Unique Offering for Start-Ups

Editors Note: Guest Blogger Keyzom Ngodup works with Intellecap, a pioneering social venture capital firm focused on making double bottom-line investments in India. In addition to capital and investment support, Intellecap is unique in that they also provide a range of support services that enable social ventures to move from start-up stage into growth mode. You can read Keyzom’s other posts here.

Pune OpenCoffee Club is a new community designed to help technology startup enthusiasts, entrepreneurs, developers, advisor’s, investors and everyone else create a central place for networking. The platform gives a unique opportunity to create communities that transcend beyond their area of work and facilitates cross-linkages as well as fostering creativity through targeted discussions among diverse players. OpenCoffee Club allows anyone to announce and arrange a networking session.

As Sramana Mitra puts it in Too Much Money, Too Few Deals, “there is excess capital chasing Indian start-ups and lack of fundable deals.” Interesting, she explored the issue of seed capital for entrepreneurship in India and has highlighted that “mentor-capital”, critical and imperative at this stage of the game to build a pipeline of startup companies, is largely missing from the scene. Pune OpenCoffee Club is an interesting way of informally bringing mentoring spirit to start-ups.

[Guest Post]: State of Education in India

Editor’s note: The following post is from Siksha.org’s blog (you can read more of their posts here), a peer to peer underwriter of annual, renewable, need-based scholarships and loans. Two of the co-founders Neil Patel and Kushal Chakrabarti have come to ThinkChange India as guest bloggers to lend their expertise in the area of education and socially innovative ways to approach it. The importance of education and its link to fostering a society of social entrepreneurs cannot be understated, and so we at ThinkChange India believe that such unique content will be critical to forming a better informed readership community.

From time to time, I get reminded of the remarkable size and scale at which education operates in India. World-wide, it is unparalleled. Roughly a million schools throughout the country serving nearly half a billion kids! With numbers this astronomical, it’s very easy to get hypnotized by the sheer scale, especially when looking at the problems. I feel that this tends to encourage a macro-level or top-down approach to solutions, which often end up being out of touch or misdirected.

This comes to my mind when I read stories such as this one from the New York Times. The article describes a government school in Lahtora (rural Bihar) where there are myriad barriers to delivering quality education. The result is very poor achievement by students.

Among children in fifth grade, 4 out of 10 could not read text at the second grade level, and 7 out of 10 could not subtract

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[Guest Post]: Business skills for rural women

Editors Note: Guest Blogger Keyzom Ngodup works with Intellecap, a pioneering social venture capital firm focused on making double bottom-line investments in India. In addition to capital and investment support, Intellecap is unque that they also provide a range of support services that enable social ventures to move from start-up stage into growth mode.

The entire operation of the Hajipur railway station in Bihar was handed over to an all-women team, making history and further paving way for demonstrating women’s capability to perform in a largely male dominated profession. This news comes in the wake of Goldman Sachs announcement of its USD 100 million global initiative 10,000 Women. The effort is aimed at providing business acumen to women in emerging economies through partnerships with 16 MBA programs like Wharton, Columbia and Stanford. As Goldman’s 16-page research on women (available for download here) shows, education of women is the key driver of macroeconomic growth. The project is also designed so that Goldman’s people in the United States and overseas can lend their brainpower by serving as mentors to women entrepreneurs. Goldman’s Sandra Lawson writes:

... greater investments in female education could yield a ‘growth premium’ that raises trend GDP growth by about 0.2% per year. Narrowing the gender gap in employment – which is one potential consequence of expanded female education – could push income per capita as much as 14% higher than our baseline projections by 2020, and as much as 20% higher by 2030.

Interestingly, the Mann Deshi group of organizations in Maharashtra runs a business school for rural women alongside business school on-wheels for rural women in Maharashtra and northern Karnataka. The story on Mann Deshi will be covered in detail in the Human Resources Challenges issue by Microfinance Insights, a quarterly flagship publication of Intellecap focused on collecting and disseminating microfinance analysis across countries and sectors.