Kubera-Edelweiss Social Innovation Honours awards 3 Indian organizations

Anjali, Azad Foundation and Samata are the winners for their innovative and outstanding work for the Girl Child in the fields of Health, Employability and Education. Here are the descriptions of each social entrepreneurship organization:

Anjali: Focusing on mental health issues of mothers and daughters in Kolkata, Anjali has been awarded top honors in Health.

Azad Foundation: Located in Delhi, Azad nabbed the Employability category by training girls from the slums to become professional taxi drivers.

Samata: Finally, Samata provides an innovative education and research curriculum for tribal girls in Andhra Pradesh.

For more information on the Kubera-Edelweiss Social Innovation Honours, check out their website here.

[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.

[TC-I Call to Action] Business Development Professionals at iDiscoveri Education

iDiscoveri is a social enterprise working towards ushering in change in society by reviving education in India. It is doing this by working at different levels of the education system. It is looking out Business Development Professionals. Read more about it below.

iDiscoveri – a social enterprise with a mission to renew education in India –  iDiscoveri seeks to demonstrate visible evidence of teaching and learning practices that deeply engage learners, nurture their mind, body and sprit, and forge meaningful connections with the world outside. iDiscoveri was founded in 1996 and is backed by a multi-disciplinary team  of 70+ passionate practitioners having expertise in curriculum design, pedagogy, teacher education, leadership development, and curriculum design . Educated in leading institutions such as Harvard, Cambridge, CIE, IIM, and IIT, our team have held teaching and leadership positions at the Shri Ram, Sanskriti, Aurobindo, Krishnamurthy, Montessori & IB schools amongst many others. Our website www.idiscoveri.com has more details about the team and the organization. We are working with over 60 schools across India to implement an innovative curriculum program called XSEED which provides the skills and tools for teachers to make learning more experiential, raise children’s understanding of core concepts and promote inquiry and application. This program has the potential to truly change the quality of learning and teaching in a large number of schools. Further details about the XSEED Program can be found at http://xseed.idiscoveri.com

We are looking for driven professionals to develop our business with schools across Tamil Nadu. iDiscoveri is an exciting place for people who bring a passion for education and have the drive to excel in a startup environment launching new products and services. The role we are recruiting for is:

Education Associate (EA) – (Chennai & Coimbatore) A thinking person, passionate about education, with excellent English and Tamil communication skills, extroverted personality and ability to generate business. MBA with 2-3 years experience in business development or a former teacher with a knack for business would be ideal – we are open to alternate profiles as well. Knowledge of the local geography, willingness to travel and establish contact with a large number of schools is required. He/She would be responsible for creating a database of schools in their territory, organize meetings and make presentations to school correspondents and principals and generate business opportunities.

Discoveri will generously rewards performers with competitive salary and performance-linked incentives. Exposure to cutting-edge learning methodologies, exceptionally competent team members and a high energy working environment are some of the other benefits we offer. This role requires extensive travel to cities and towns in your region. We are looking for associates in Chennai and Coimbatore. Interested candidates may send a resume and cover letter to Anustup Nayak (anustup@idiscoveri.com)

Tech Winners Starting Small, Scaling Up

Remember the Tech Museum Awards? The award “honors innovators from around the world who are applying technology to benefit humanity.” The 25 winners were announced yesterday, with two innovators from India. MercuryNews.com covered the ceremony in San Jose, California and met with the winners, including DESI Power and Digital StudyHall.

First, DESI Power is based in Bangalore and utilizes affordable and reliable electricity:

Hari Sharan employs 19th-century biomass gasification technology to bring electricity to rural Indian villages. His company, DESI Power, converts vegetation — such as rice hulls and corn husks — into energy. Not only does that provide power to poor communities, it also creates opportunities for micro-enterprises that keep residents from migrating to the slums of big cities.

TC-I covered another unique way of converting vegetation to energy via rice husks. There is tremendous potential to scale up with these plants, and DESI Power is already operating four plants and increasing to twenty next year.

Another creative use of technology aims to strengthen education. MercuryNews reports on Digital StudyHall, which is actually a research project out of a US university. Continue reading

[TC-I Call to Action]: Teach for India

A spin-off of the popular Teach for America, Teach for India is now in place and accepting applications. For the inaugural year of TFI, 100 fellows will be placed in schools in Mumbai and Pune. Fellows will receive support from staff and mentors, training before and during service, formal reviews, and will be exposed to a variety of career options after their two-year fellowship.

Applications will be available to submit online soon, or alternatively, you can email a copy. More information on applying can be found here. They will be reviewed on a rolling basis and are due December 1, 2008 or February 1, 2009.

Teach For India (TFI) is a national program that aims to narrow the education gap in India by placing India’s most outstanding college graduates and young professionals, of all academic majors and career interests, in low-income schools to teach for two years. In the short run, TFI will provide a source of dedicated teachers who will work tirelessly to expand, in a measurable way, the educational opportunities available to hundreds of thousands of India’s most underprivileged children. In the long run, TFI will aim to build a powerful and ever-growing leadership force of alumni who, informed by their experiences and insights, will work from inside and outside of education to effect fundamental, long-term changes necessary to ultimately realize educational opportunity for all.

This is an extraordinary opportunity to “teach, lead, and transform.” Apply now!

Blog Action Day and American Express Winner Akshaya Patra Foundation

Today, October 15th, is Blog Action Day, and as Aishwarya mentioned before, the theme this year happens to be “poverty” – a topic that TC-I touches on in all of its posts and through the belief that social innovation and social enterprises can contribute to alleviating poverty.

TC-I is rife with examples of how social enterprises work in action, and this week’s announcement from the Members Project American Express competition includes yet another success story from India. The Akshaya Patra Foundation was a finalist in the competition, receiving $100,000 towards its goal of feeding 1 million children daily.

The impact of the foundation is described:

For less than $30 a year, a child in India can receive a school lunch for the 220-day whole year. These programs have resulted in greater attendance, reduced drop out and truancy rates, and better cognitive development for children – often by 10-20%. It will also shield many children from the impact of these tough economic times and the rising cost of food around the world.

WIth organizations like this, large-scale solutions to lessen poverty are becoming more and more successful. TC-I encourages its readers to get involved with the issues surrounding poverty, both through Blog Action Day and in countless other ways.

Films, Popcorn, and a Girl Child’s Education

Next time you go to a cinema in India owned by Adlabs, you can contribute to a girl child’s education, thanks to a CSR partnership between Adlabs Cinema and Nanhi Kali, an NGO that focuses on this issue. As Indiantelevision.com reports:

The company has joined hands with Nanhi Kali, an NGO which supports and spreads awareness on the issue of education of the disadvantaged girl child in India. As part of the initiative, Adlabs will introduce a special food combo called the “Classroom Combo” – a certain percentage of the sales of which will be contributed to this cause of nurturing a girl child’s education.

The initiative highlights the role that corporations of any type can play in contributing toward social issues, given a little creativity and the willingness to see a bottom line beyond mere profits. And at the same time, they may even rope in customers that otherwise may not be interested in the product. As someone who rarely buys concessions at the cinema, I might make an exception and consider indulging Rs 120 for a “classroom combo” the next time I find myself in front of a Bollywood film in India. A sucker for well-crafted corporate marketing? The lazy man’s answer to giving back to society? Perhaps. But the point is, I would become a cinema-going customer that now thinks about the girl child’s education. And that twist may lead to other contributions to the issue. Continue reading

“We impart knowledge, but we are a roti-driven model”

One finds heroes in the most unlikely of places and amongst the most unlikely of persons.

The unlikely place – “a little-noticed corner of India, in the Bulandshahr district of western Uttar Pradesh”

The unlikely person – “Virendra (Sam) Singh”, belonging to a male dominated family of zamindars and who was at a point of time, DuPont’s South Asia chief.

Mint has profiled Mr Singh for the pioneering work he has done towards the education of the girl child. His work holds special significance considering he has achieved it in a state which suffers from its own share of prejudice against women, where the average female literacy rate is 41%, as against a national average of 54%. The article itself is very well written and reads like a story.

Singh’s pragmatic approach and his untiring resolve which led him through problem after problem is worth emulating – and this exactly is what many of us should try to do. After all everything that we do is actually the result of a choice we make. I was particularly impressed by two of Mr Singh’s observations.

“Why are we not the doers? Why are we passing the buck to an inefficient government? We need to put our damn feet, mouth and everything else there”

“No amount of pity was going to solve the problem. It is a business problem that only business can solve.”

Do ensure that you read the article.

The article in focus here is part of a series, Sixty in Sixty, that Mint came up with to commemorate 60 years of Indian independence. They profiled 60 people who were quietly working to make their country a better place. We, on our part, will try to mention some of these commendable efforts in subsequent posts.

TC-I Tidbits

Your daily dose of headlines:

  • Energy: Four ultra mega (super duper?) power projects have been greenlit by the Indian government across the country.
  • Education: Microsoft is investing $20 million in education initiatives in India over the next five years. Along with their current programs which focus on resources and training, the company will partner with state governments to implement national programs.
  • Employment: For technology graduates, according to a study completed by Accenture, India is the place with the most job opportunities this year (with the US coming in second place).
  • Technology: Airtel and Nokia are working together to develop a regional language fonts keyboard. This will allow greater linkages with rural areas.
  • Environment: Concern India Foundation, a non-profit public charitable trust, plans to introduce cloth shopping bags in Bangalore’s major retail stores and shopping destinations. This is just one of the initiatives from the NGO, along with a “Kachra Kumar” competition for children to capture litterers on camera. [Source: Business Standard]

TC-I Tidbits

  • Health:
    • Soon, every mother that registers at a primary health center will receive a smart card with their photo ID that tracks the medical history of their family.
    • India is among the worst hit by the health worker shortage that is occurring around the world. Moreover, the gap between urban and rural areas is even wider. According to the article, “a Planning Commission document had recently said India was short of six lakh doctors, 10 lakh nurses and two lakh dental surgeons. For every 10,000 Indians, there was one doctor.”
  • Education: The Government of India is planning to set up seven Regional Innovation Science Hubs for Inventors (RISHI) to promote innovation and encourage youngsters to take up a career in science and technology. [Source: iGovernment]
  • Housing: Over the next five years, over 500,000 low-rent homes will be built in the Mumbai metropolitan area under the Slum Prevention Programme.

TC-I Tidbits

  • Technology and Education: IIT and YouTube have tied up to post video lectures for undergraduate engineering courses online.
  • Health:
    • According to a WHO survey, the Indian workforce is on the whole pretty unhealthy. 47% of workers were overweight while 27% suffered from hypertension.
    • Abhijit Banerjee, an economist from MIT, said that the country’s maternal and child health is worse than that of Sub-Saharan Africa. As a result, nearly half of the country’s children aged below five will suffer from stunted growth.
  • Economic Development: A World Bank study revealed that Orissa has made a positive fiscal turnaround in the last six years and lifted 3 million people out of poverty.
  • Education: With a view to harness skill potential across the country 1,500 more Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) and 50,000 Skills Development Centres will be set up under the proposed ‘Skills Development Mission’ of the Government of India. [Source: iGovernment]

TC-I Tidbits

Your daily dose of headlines:

  • Technology: Trak.in reports that a DesiWiki will help Indian start ups to increase their knowledge base on the technical aspects of starting a new venture.
  • Education: In order to encourage students to stay in school, the government approved a merit scholarship that will award deserving students of lower income sections with Rs 6,000 annually.
  • SMEs: Indo American Chamber of Commerce (IACC), in association with the World Trade Centre (WTC), aims to host the fifth Indo-US economic summit in September 2008 to strengthen links between small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in India and USA and create opportunities for them to work with each other in areas of mutual interest, access technologies, form joint ventures and sign trading arrangements. [Source: Business Standard]

The Talent Vacuum

Many of our prior posts have spoken to the urgent need to overhaul, or at the least, significantly revamp the education system in India, as evidenced by the massive rise in demand for both primary and higher education institutions in relation to dwindling supply (not to mention the relatively low quality of instruction/infrastructure at pre-existing schools, particularly those in rural areas). The following except from Ramesh Menon’s, “The Talent Crunch” speaks to the gravity of this problem in explicit (and horrifying) detail:

Sam Pitroda, chairman of the National Knowledge Commission says that of the 90,000 MBAs that come out every year, only around 10,000 are worth employing. Kiran Karnik, former NASSCOM president, puts the blame at the door of India’s education system, saying that only 25 per cent of the country’s engineering graduates deserve jobs. No wonder companies today have to invest heavily in training fresh graduates, helping them to unlearn and pick up skills. As there are dramatic changes in politics and business as well as international scenarios, there is a need to keep updating the syllabus almost every year. Manohar Chellani, Secretary General, Education Promotion Society for India, New Delhi, points out that there is tremendous scope for improving the quality of education in India, and delay in doing it will cost us heavily.

The National Knowledge Commission has said that India will have to bring in education reforms if it has to emerge as the workforce of the world. India today needs at least 1,500 universities, but has only 370. There are more than 550 million young people in need of education but do not have educational institutes to go to. India also needs around 1,500 IITs, 1,500 management institutes, and 1,500 medical schools. A million good schools are also required. All that the present education minister, Arjun Singh, has done in his tenure is to fool around with reservations and suggest that Rahul Gandhi be made prime minister.

Though the IT industry needs 3.5 lakh engineers a year, only 1.5 lakh are available. This could lead to a shortage of over five lakh engineers in the next few years. A recent Nasscom-Crisil report says that the IT industry is expected to create about 11 million jobs by 2010. In another two years, the II sector would need half a million professionals. Presently, it employs over 350,000 but is short of around 90,000 workers. In another year, the shortfall is expected to cross 200,000. In 2007, the job market was vibrant. 2008 promises to be better as India goes on to vitalise its various sectors, which require over 1,000 CEOs across industries.

Are you alarmed yet? If you’re not, well, you should be. Continue reading

TC-I Tidbits

Your daily dose of headlines:

  • Health: Over 53% children in India under five years – that is, 67 million – live without basic healthcare facilities. This means that India alone accounts for about one-third of all children in the world aged below five who don’t have basic healthcare. [Source: Times of India]
  • Education: There is a shortage of teachers at central universities, with 20 per cent of teaching posts being vacant since October. The government will raise the age for pension schemes, and a committee will review the pay scale to address the issue.
  • Energy: With low-interest loans for solar power from Canara Bank and Syndicate Bank, more than 100,000 people in rural Karnataka benefit from affordable and reliable electricity. The program was subsidized by the United Nations Environment Programme.

Start-ups gain from entrepreneurial education

Indian start-ups will gain from the increasing trend in business schools to offer the services of their students in developing business plans and conducting analyses – in return, students have an incredible opportunity to work with some of the most innovative start-ups in the country and gain practical experience before they even graduate. Mint reports:

Such programmes, B-schools believe, are mutually beneficial. Start-ups, smaller in size and often working on shoestring budgets and limited resources, cannot engage consultants typically used by larger corporate houses.
First-time entrepreneurs can find themselves out of depth while dealing with the financial or marketing side of the company. A team of student consultants preparing to take on management roles might be better-equipped in such situations. For start-ups, this gives them an opportunity to tap into the university’s resources and network of contacts including plugging into venture capital firms.

The top business schools in India are all looking to integrate this concept into their curricula. Now they just need to take it one step further and find opportunities for their students to contribute toward social ventures and start-ups, which would allow them to learn from truly innovative and unique models while learning about issues that are not traditionally covered in business schools.