HaraBara Builds Greener Pastures

In the effort to connect “green” business manufacturers and suppliers, Jagdish Amin and David Wheat launched HaraBara in October 2008.  Businessworld features the duo’s new business-to-business platform:

HaraBara’s primary objective is to unearth ‘golden nuggets’: companies that are doing great sustainable work, and getting them to talk about it.

While there are plans to create a worldwide forum, the focus right now is on India.  The HaraBara Connect India site offers a clear benefit for greening businesses in the country:

Thousands of Indian companies are dealing with environmental and green challenges. Share experience with other Connect members facing green concerns. Find out what works and what doesn’t work.  Access proprietary HaraBara databases, undertake joint projects, and establish new connections. Save time and money dealing with green issues.

The online platform allows a quick and easy way of making connections in the green indsustry, and as a result, could promote faster progress of environmental efforts.

Perhaps more interesting is the founders’ explanation to Businessworld of what prompted them to start HaraBara, when a “client wanted to sell solar lanterns in rural India but wasn’t able to develop a local distribution network.”

“We realised that companies would find it useful to have a website that gave them access to customers and suppliers, and that helped them figure out local laws and regulations,” says Wheat.

I’m sure there are other industries which face a similar challenge when trying to start up operations in a new location.  For that reason, HaraBara is a great example of turning a roadblock into a far-reaching solution.

IIT alumni plan social fund

[News Source: Business Standard]

Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) alumni  plan to create a social fund aimed at supporting various projects that will create job opportunities for rural youth and transform India’s Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs).  PanIIT Alumni, which conducted the PanIIT 2008 Global Conference from 19-21 December, is working on three important projects in India – Indo-US collaboration for Engineering Education (IUCEE)IITians for ITIs, and Reach 4 India.

Quoting from the article about IITians for ITIs:

Ranjan Kumar, coordinator (India), IITians for ITIs project said the project was initiated by IIT alumni in association with Confederation of Indian Industry (CII’s) Southern Region and academia to push for sustainable excellence in technical/vocational training in India by creating institutions similar to the IITs, but focused on vocational education and highly-skilled workers.

As part of the phase I, over the next two years, around 40,000 students will be trained from around 300 government ITI institutes. It has also decided to set up a 24X7 call centre in one of the southern states to connect the workers with the experts and the industry.

This piece of news comes at a time when I have come across two interesting articles. One article published in Businessworld carried the byline “As IITians bring global glory, bright engineers from lesser-known institutes build the country.” Though the article was more about how engineers from “second-rung” colleges were the ones actually contributing to India’s infrastructure, it does bring questions related to contribution of IITians towards their nation’s growth. The second article is about a survey conducted by IIT alumni.

The brain drain has stemmed to a great extent, even leading to claims of reverse brain drain. I feel that the social entrepreneurship sector in India has just started gaining momentum and could benefit a lot by the entry of experienced IIT alumni and also of socially concious new passouts. In this context, I find initiatives like E4SI (Engineers For Social Impact) and MADD (Making A Difference Differently) trying to ensure that social development space gets the top talent it requires.

Sorry Mr. Edison, looks like your time is up!

The global community is focusing a tremendous amount of attention on the potential role of Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) in significantly cutting down household energy use. Given that CFL bulbs use only 20% of the power of an equivalent incandescent lamp, the benefits are crystal clear. The only problem: cost of these bulbs. In the US, Wal-Mart has begun aggressively pushing CFLs on their shelves and are also working hard to make CFLs more affordable. However, the bulbs are still prohibitively expensive for most Indians. Well, that could change soon [Via Businessworld]:

Uttar Pradesh Power Corporation (UPPCL) signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with two companies on a deal that involves the companies funding the entire cost of a compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) above Rs 10. The condition: UPPCL distributes about 22 million CFLs in exchange for existing incandescent lamps and at a cost of Rs 10 per CFL. “This is to mitigate the more than 2,000-MW per day gap between demand and supply of electricity in UP,” says a director in UPPCL.

So, I guess the burning question is how these companies which signed the MOU with UPPCL will actually generate profit. The hope is to monetize the certified reductions derived out of CFL use by selling them in the international market:

The financial model is attractive if the CFLs reach households instead of the grey market. CantorCO2e expects the cost of a CFL to be Rs 70 and an additional Rs 30 in the form of administrative and processing costs. As per the company’s estimates, each CFL that is successfully installed and gets certification from CDM is expected to earn 0.09 CER per annum as it will result in an annual saving of roughly 0.09 metric tonne of carbon dioxide emissions (one CO2 metric tonne is equivalent to one CER).

The business model is cutting-edge – and the companies involved are early pioneers. If it works in the pilot states, the model could be replicated nationwide and could help offset the power shortage in the country.

[Image Credit: Businessworld]

Note: Looks like Bangalore Electricity Supply Company (BESCOM) is also involved in a similar pilot project. TC-I had covered the story here.

India’s CSR Leaders: How much can they really change?

The BW-FICCI-SEDF CSR Awards for 2007 were given out last week. The six finalists and their CSR efforts were featured in this weeks edition of Business World magazine. The finalists include ONGC, NTPC, Tata Tea, Mahindra & Mahindra, Appollo Tyres and MSPL, out of which Mahindra& Mahindra was adjudged the winner this year.

However reading through the featured organizations, its quite clear that these organizations mostly stick to the standard protocol of writing checks to NGOs (otherwise known as random acts of kindness and PR). The foreword in BW magazine seems to acknowledge this fear:

Some companies pursuing CSR are doing it in isolated, localised islands
within their businesses. The efforts of CSR departments or foundations
of these companies are no less worthy, but do not amount to enlightened

That being said – CSR is not just an afterthought anymore among Indian companies. M&M for instance spends 1% of is PAT on CSR initiatives. Various factors have influenced this shift, including a influential speech by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last year to Indian business leaders – asking their companies to adopt a ten-point social charter.

Hopefully this increased interest could eventually lead to a more mainstream role for CSR – where social responsibility is factored into every business decision made within the organization. There is wide acknowledgment that the world does not operate anymore in independent buckets of making money and giving back.

[Graphic: BW Online]