[TC-I Call to Action]: Total Immersion Programme in Finance and Development Summer Internships

The Centre for Development Finance (CDF) announces some very exciting internship opportunities for this summer.  If you’re looking for something more long term, word has it that CDF will likely be releasing postings for BoP related full time positions in the coming weeks… check back for more information!

Total Immersion Programme in Finance and Development (TIP/FD) – Summer 2009

CDF invites internship applications for the Summer 2009 IFMR “Total Immersion Program in Finance and Development (TIP/FD).”

Description of the program follows and application requirements follow below and in this CDF TIP document, and to apply please use the following link.

The TIP F/D provides undergraduate and graduate students interested in microfinance, development finance, and economic development an opportunity to gain hands-on experience in working on issues relating to access to financial services for urban and rural poor in a developing country. Interns will participate in a structured, two-week course directed by leading researchers, IFMR Centre Research Associates, and practitioners from the Indian government, microfinance institutions (MFIs), and NGOs. The course will be followed by eight weeks of work on a CDF projects which will consist of either field-based research, policy/sector wide studies or data analysis.  Past interns have completed stand-alone projects or worked to initiate, implement, and scale-up existing projects or pilots at the Centre.

The list of summer internship projects can be found online here and in this CDF Project Descriptions document. Interns may also be placed on another of CDF’s ongoing projects.

Internships are unpaid, although CDF will assist with housing and food or provide a small stipend of up to Rs 10,000/month toward living expenses. All interns are encouraged to obtain funding to cover international travel and personal expenses during the internship period.

This year, the TIP/FD will take place between June 8 and August 14, 2009. Applications will be accepted until April 15, 2009, although we encourage interested applicants to apply as soon as possible to ensure the best matching of interests and skills.

Positions of Particular Interest to the TCI Readership: Continue reading

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.

Round 2 with CGAP’s Gautam Ivatury

The ThinkChange India staff is committed to providing our readers with interviews with people we believe are at the brink of something special but have for the most part been overlooked by the mainstream media. Readers will be able to see other conversations under our TC-I Changemakers tag.

This week, Vinay sat down (over the phone) with Gautam Ivatury of the global microfinance center CGAP, which works to expand poor people’s access to financial services. Such services include but are not limited to microcredit and branchless banking. This interview is a follow up to one conducted on May 4, 2008, which you can read here.

Vinay Ganti: Could you please review yourself on the following topics, which we discussed in our last conversation?

  • Reaching beyond MFIs:

Gautam Ivatury: This still continues to be a major focus of CGAP’s mission. Across all of CGAP’s work we continue to look for ways to partner with a range of institutions and providers, including but not limited to MFIs, to be able to massively expand financial services for poor people.

GI: With regard to branchless banking, we set out to accomplish a number of goals. Overall we have been happy with the results of CGAP’s work in this area over the last six months, despite the fact that it has taken longer than expected for our project partners (in countries like Pakistan, Kenya, Mongolia, South Africa and elsewhere) to roll-out the branchless banking channels we helped design and finance.

Since our last talk, CGAP has expanded its policy and regulatory diagnostic work in branchless banking. New markets analyzed have included Colombia, Argentina and Indonesia, and we’ve continued to maintain close dialogue with the Reserve Bank of India and regulators elsewhere.

Also, the actual awareness of mobile banking in the field, i.e. what is and how it can work, has increased dramatically in the past. Last May we co-organized the first major annual event on “Mobile Money” for the unbanked in Cairo with the GSM Association (the industry body for the world’s 700+ mobile operators), IFC and DFID. That event got more than 500 paid attendees, most from private industry. And this week at the GSM World Congress in Barcelona, GSMA and other private sector players will announce additional activities in the space. DFID announced its new FAST program to encourage branchless banking this week. Initiatives like these are critical to get widespread adoption of the concept and to achieve scale. Moreover, major consulting and research outfits like Aite, Monitor and McKinsey have started research and published reports on the topic.

At the same time, our seven branchless banking projects have been slower to launch than we all expected two years ago. There have been some notable achievements — our Philippines partner has entered three new rural provinces and signed up about 80,000 new mobile banking clients, and Telenor bought 51 percent of Tameer Bank (our partner in Pakistan) to jumpstart its mobile banking initiatives. But in general the implementation of mobile / branchless banking has been slower than anticipated.

VG: Why do you think this is? Continue reading

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!

Pedal Your Way to Clean Water

Stories on water are either on the rise or are more likely to catch my eye – either way, another interesting design innovation to contribute to water issues is critiqued by NextBillion.net. A YouTube video on the site also explains the Aquaduct, a tricycle that aims to provide a means of transportation and simultaneously filter water.

Developed by Ideo (an extremely successful design company), the cycle uses energy from pedaling to filter two gallons of water from a 20 gallon tank- supposedly enough for a day’s worth of water for one family. Derek Newberry points out:

As with any shiny new BoP innovation, it’s important to remember that just because the product is inarguably cool doesn’t mean it will actually be applicable in the specific context of local consumers. Has research been done to confirm that the Aquaduct would be cost effective and functional for the BoP in different regions as compared to other available means of water filtration and transport? And I didn’t understand the idea of storing 20 gallons of water but having only two gallons filtered – is this really enough for a family? Does the user have to pedal around every time they want an additional two gallons of filtered water?

All insightful questions. I personally also take issue with the design itself. When I used to bicycle to my project every day in India, I realized that cycling was no simple joy ride – I needed to utilize the basket installed in front and the small clip in back to carry my daily necessities with me or throw in some fruits and vegetables I might purchase from the street vendor on the way home. With that removable tank put in the front, the Aquaduct might have to be a separate purchase for a family, in addition to their other bicycles.

At the same time, the creation of designs aimed for the developing world can be really useful social innovations, once they have been properly priced and adapted. The Aquaduct is another one to watch and see if it moves past the prototype phase.

TC-I Tidbits

Your daily dose of headlines:

  • Science & Tech: The Indian government has successfully launched 10 satellites simultaneously to significantly expand its presence in space.
  • Women’s Rights: PM Singh asked local officials to fight the killing of female children by parents, and also turned to the health ministry to develop a grassroots effort to combat this trend.
  • Education & Basic Rights: In Coimbatore, prisoners have access to classes to help them learn how to read and write.
  • Employment and Local Control: Haryana’s CPS argues that the Panchayats should have control over funds allocated by the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act. Similarly, Finance Minister P Chidambaram has called for more local banks to reach out to the BoP.
  • HIV and Health: A new study has shown that people in India do not have natural or genetic protection against the deadly virus. Along the same lines, researchers have found that diligent observation of the virus’ symptoms could prove an equally effective diagnostic tool as laboratory testing.

India’s Manpower Paradox

An article by Meera Shenoy (Executive Director of Employment Generation and Marketing Mission, Government of Andhra Pradesh) focuses on a paradox faced by India – a booming population of youth, but a shortage of skilled manpower.  Shenoy discusses the downfalls of the approaches of a variety of stakeholders – government, companies, and the rural poor, and emphasizes a need for collaboration.

The government created ITIs, which are vocational training institutes, but they are now out of step with current market needs. Simultaneously, companies are often wary of low quality government programs, and the rural poor are faced with a mismatch of degrees and expectations. Shenoy describes the success of her department, EGMM, and their practice of linking public and private spheres:

EGMM has been incorporated as a society to create an enabling eco-sphere for public-private partnerships. The institutional framework of having senior government officers and private sector on the Executive Committee allows the best of the private sector linkages to be wedded to the powerful muscle and machinery of the government.

Work in Public Private Partnerships in this sector of imparting market linked skills to youth is still in its infancy. By not forging these linkages, business may lose opportunity; government may loose credibility; but society loses most of all by not creating millions of skilled youths.

Examples like this may be useful as the 11th Planning Commission, as Shenoy states, quadruples its budget for training BOP youth.

Midday Newsfeed

  • BoP Energy and beyond: BP has built a new stove for the BoP market that produces much fewer emissions than the typical wood burning stoves. Scaling up, the government predicts that by 2017, 10% of total transport fuel will come from biofuels. In order to improve public transportation in Hyderbad and the surrounding area, the World Bank has decided to fund a new bus rapid transit system.
  • Microfinance: Growth of microfinance has been shown to be fastest in the Eastern part of the country while it has the strongest presence in the South. We wrote about it already here, but ACCESS’ partnership with Hindustan Unilever to provide potable water has been picked up by Microcapital.org.
  • Education 2.0: Shital spoke before on the use of technology to democratize education. Now the CEO of Digital Media Convergence Ltd has said that education will be the driving force behind the adoption of IPTV.
  • Healthcare: Despite efforts by government to help communities defray the cost of healthcare, most people still find themselves fronting the costs of such procedures and tests. The central government has amended the law regarding organs transplanted from cadavers.
  • Culture: A small, indigenous group in Maharashtra continues to fight to preserve their mother tongue and heritage. In another story, one of the poorest communities in Assam has taken to international standards to help them emerge from poverty.

InternetSpeech – The New Digital Genie?

In a recent interview with Fortune Magazine, Muhammad Yunus beautifully articulated his dream of a “Digital Aladdin’s Lamp”, which would provide poor women around the world with access to global markets and trends for local benefit:

“A genie comes out of it and asks, ‘What can I do for you, ma’am?’ And she says ‘I make these baskets but nobody buys them.’ And the lamp says ‘I will find somebody to buy it.’ And the lamp comes back with buyers. She doesn’t know about a keyboard or a computer. She just asks questions of the genie.”

Sound like a fantasy?  Well, it seems we aren’t so far from realizing Yunus’ dream.  How?

Previously, we wrote about the “Question Box,” which aims to “bring some of the benefits of the information on the Internet to places that are too remote or poor to sustain a live Internet link.”  Now, there is another access point for the BoP – audible internet accessible over the phone (developed by InternetSpeech).  Let me say that again – internet access over the phone, no literacy, keyboards, or screens necessary.

It seems that new trends in mobile phone technology are ushering in a new era of connectivity, access, knowledge, and power for the rural and urban poor.  Can you imagine what the future holds?

Imagine a farmer in a remote village using her voice and her $20 People’s Phone (which only works as a phone and doesn’t even have a screen to send or receive text messages) to check market information via Reuters, and then log onto an eBay-like market to offer her crafts.

A few hours later, she could log listen to the bids received and settle a transaction through e-mail.

Sound too good to be true?  Click here to listen to a demo.

Source:  NextBillion

Quarter billion internet capable phones by 2010

Previously we wrote about how India is positioned to have the 2nd most mobile phone users behind China. Well now, ThinkChange India has discovered some better statistics underpinning this trend. According to WATBlog.com, 250 million Indians will have internet capable cell phones by 2010. The article continues to breakdown the user base even further. The post estimates that:

  • 60 million people will be able to watch video on their phones
  • 100 million will be able to listen to music
  • 200 million will have radio capability
  • 250 million will have built-in cameras

The article also was cautious to note that simply having such capabilities will not mean much unless the actual data usage plans to utilize such features are affordable to this consumer base. Nevertheless, we have seen the push to utilize mobile phones as the primary platform to reach the BoP market, and so such stats are promising.

World Bank Executive Development Program – Inclusive and Sustainable Business: Creating Markets with the Poor

What are the “linkages between corporate strategy and development”?  How can public and corporate sector leaders implement strategies that provide opportunities for the world’s 4 billion people to lift themselves out of poverty?  The World Bank Institute has recently launched an “Executive Development Program” to help company managers and public sector leaders develop sustainable, yet profitable business models in emerging markets:

This unique program offers you insights to build corporate strategies that fight poverty while delivering profits. An innovative learning model will encourage you to learn how your organization can not only meet the bottom line, but develop working business models that include the world’s poor as investors, producers, sellers and buyers. Specifically, you will:

  • Gain a unique interdisciplinary perspective on how to align social and environmental issues with corporate strategy and develop successful business models in low income markets.
  • Explore how global trends, global imbalances, and global opportunities affect corporate strategy as well as the broader development objective of reaching the “4 Billion” at the base of the pyramid.
  • Identify the gaps in existing market institutions which may be acting as barriers to growth and understand how to overcome them.
  • Learn interdisciplinary approaches to complex issues including the elements of good governance and accountability, cross-sectoral partnerships, and measuring impact.
  • Capture lessons from relevant project experience and corporate initiatives that could be applied within your organization.

The curriculum/program includes topics such as: 1) Global Trends, Imbalances, and Opportunities: Reaching the “4 Billion”; 2) Aligning Corporate Strategy with the Development Agenda; 3) Promoting Good Governance; 4) The Role of Multi-Stakeholder Partnerships; and 5) Measuring Impact.   The “face-to-face” component of the program will be held in Washington, DC from June 9-13, and the “distance learning component” will be held from June 16-30, 2008. 

Want to learn more?  Go here.  Or apply here

Source:  World Business Council for Sustainable Development

Over the weight limit …

Anyone who has flown recently can relate to the frantic attempt to remove clothing, shoes and other packed items from your suitcase in order to meet the weight requirement that is draconiously enforced upon unsuspecting passengers. In a similar fashion, here are some additional articles that may be of interest that I could not fit into my op-ed below.

  • Nextbillion.net’s Francisco Noguerra wrote about how existing corporate knowhow can strategically benefit BoP buisnesses scale up to the next level.
  • From Nextbillion as well, a discussion over how to form one’s social venture and the decision of becoming a for-profit, non-profit or both
  • Not content with simple indexes, one visionary is trying to build a social stock exchange. Source: Xigi.net

Fair & Lovely, and may be a little bit of Dignity

Derek Newberry, a blogger at Nextbillion has a very interesting post on Ethics in the BOP Market. He uses the case of Fair & Lovely, the skin whitening cream marketed in India by Hindustan Lever, the Indian subsidiary of Unilever. The company has constantly used a advertising strategy that depicts women of darker complexion as being inferior (the most controversial being such women being unable to find a suitable groom). Derek posted this Fair and Lovely ad, which uses a similar strategy as mentioned above.

BoP critics like Aneel Karnani (University of Michigan, Ross School of Business Professor) have used the Fair & Lovely example to show how companies make ethical sacrifices in marketing products and services to the poor. His paper “Doing Well By Doing Good – Case Study: ‘Fair & Lovely’ Whitening Cream” can be found here.

Derek proposes a simple two-point framework to deal with such ethical challenges in working with BoP markets (He calls it the BoP Litmus test):

  1. Dignity: Does this activity tap into BoP markets in a dignified manner? The BoP hypothesis, after all, is all about treating the BoP with dignity by including them in the global marketplace, so does the business model treat the BoP with dignity or exploit insecurities and race/class divisions?
  2. Sustainability: Does this activity align with a vision for a future economic system that is environmentally sound? Or is it at least not clearly a major detriment to the Earth’s resources?

I think for many traditionally profit-minded organizations, its a tough test to pass, especially with regard to the products and services that they are pushing into the BoP markets. Fair & Lovely has played in well to exploit the race/color insecurities that has plagued Indian society for centuries, to sell skin ‘whitening’ creams. I guess one of the comments by a youtube viewer after viewing the video sums it all up – “this is just wrong on so many levels”

If you build it (a map), they will come (and build solar panels)

There are few things hotter than BoP. One of them may be renewable energy, particularly solar (no pun intended) and wind. Well one would imagine that anything that combines these two fields of unusually high interest that there would be a flourish of activity on the ground. Not so fast argues Kenneth Westrick, CEO of energy consulting group 3Tier, who says the real thing the field of BoP renewable energy needs is more information.

To respond to this need, 3Tier has created an interactive map that visualizes the best areas to build renewable energy plants all over the world. Nextbillion writes:

Ken contended that what the renewable energy sector really needs right now to successfully tap BoP markets is a map. In particular, the online map that 3Tier launched on Monday – this technology will utilize the most recent available research to show in any given 5 km space anywhere in the world the viability of wind and solar energy based on how much sun or wind that area is exposed to on a regular basis.

This effort by 3Tier intends to map the entire world in only the less than two year to prove to potential investors that numerous opportunities for scalable investments exist throughout the world’s emerging economies. Such efforts that are global in scope provide some hope that the developing world could actually achieve the same leapfrogging with energy that they did with mobile phones (key word some).

Reliance Capital Starts Microfinance Fund

Looks like the biggest of the big see profits in reaching out to the smallest of the small. Anil Ambani’s Reliance Capital announced the formation of a microfinance fund that will target the rural poor. Microcapital.org writes that

Reliance Capital is joining hands with two Gujarat-based microfinance institutions – MAS Financial Services and Vardan Trust – as part of its initiative to enhance penetration of microfinance in the country.

The initiative will be run by Ambani’s wife, Tina.

“Our vision is to provide access to finance at the grassroots level by partnering with MFIs, serving the rural and semi-urban areas. This initiative is in line with the group’s commitment to play a serious role in bringing value to the lives of the underprivileged and the aged in India,” Ms. Tina Ambani told reporters.