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.

Ride on the Internet Bus

Using a mobile bus (such as the Nandini Mobile Van, which focuses on sanitation) is a popular method to do outreach to rural or underexposed areas.  Google India is launching their Internet Bus Project, an initiative that is essentially a mobile exhibition of the Internet.   The bus will provide an introductory look at the Internet and its services.   The project focuses on Tamil Nadu and aims to reach people that are not currently using the Internet.

The Internet Bus Project is an attempt educate people about what the Internet is, and how it may be beneficial to their lives, by taking the Internet experience to them through a customised Internet-enabled bus, which will travel to several towns and cities across India.

As the Google India blog states, there is potential in equalizing many playing fields through the Internet.  Additionally, this project highlights content in both English and Tamil, allowing larger segments of the population to participate and really understand the value of the web.  The video below is used as an introduction – complete with a song in Tamil.  Also be sure to take a look at the Internet Bus Project site, which has photos of the high-tech vehicle and tracks the route as the bus moves around the southern state.

A (micro)creditable partnership

India Post has inked an agreement with National Bank of Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) to facilitate micro-credit to women-run Self Help Groups (SHG) in eight states and north eastern states.

In this strategic partnership, India Post will lend the unparalleled reach it has gained into India’s remote villages and the credibility as a reliable family insurer through its various life insurance schemes to provide a big boost to NABARD for achieving its purpose of “facilitating credit flow for promotion and development of agriculture and integrated rural development.”

The latest agreement is inked after the resounding success of the pilot project that was implemented in Tamil Nadu as highlighted in Microcapital.org

This project was first implemented in 2006 as a pilot project in a number of post offices in two districts of Tamil Nadu…It was extended to three additional districts and all post offices in these five districts are currently participSo far, 165 SHGs have received these loans, for a total loan disbursement of Rs 1.35 million (USD 29 thousand). Additionally, 2,900 SHGs have been formed to create credit linkages with 2000 post offices in nine divisions of the state.

A presentation in India Rural Business Summit organized by Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) provides finer details on the pilot’s working model, and metrics.

On the whole, India Post’s credibility among the rural and urban poor as one of the least corrupt, and hence the most reliable government organization, extensive reach, and success on a smaller  scale implementation seems to leave only the possible problems due to scaling up to worry about in this initiative.

Paid for Waste

In the town of Musiri, located in Tamil Nadu, the government has decided to compensate residents for using a new public toilet. The novelty of this effort does not stop there, as both the urine and feces of the people will be utilized for fertilizer research. Finally, by having the residents use the toilet, officials are better able to monitor for health of the residents if they appear to be using the bathroom too often.

Aid groups estimate that more than 330 million people in India do not have access to proper sanitation facilities. And in the case of Musiri, many residents relieve themselves on river banks, leading to infectious diseases such as diarrhea.

And while both governmental and non-governmental agencies have taken on projects to build toilets in rural areas, they also have had to undertake campaigns to encourage people to use them.

The Musiri plan seems to be working, [Marathi] Subburaman said. About 150 residents use the eco-sanitation toilet daily. It has special chambers that collect the fecal matter that researchers then use as fertilizer.

You can read the entire article here. [Source: Marginal Revolution]

Guest-Post: The Savior of Madurai’s Mentally-Ill

Editor’s Note: This article is contributed by Sarah Scrafford, who regularly writes on the topic of top accredited universities. She invites your questions and writing job opportunities at her personal email address.

Very rarely do we come across people who are genuinely interested in serving those less fortunate than themselves; and once in a while we stumble upon true social entrepreneurs like Krishnan, the one-man army whose battlefield is the dusty temple town of Madurai in Tamil Nadu, South India. His mission – to see that the mentally-ill people who roam the streets of this bustling town never go hungry! From this quest emerged Akshaya Trust, an organization that has served over 650,000 meals since 2002 to the mentally-ill.

Six years ago, a promising career awaited this young man on the hills of Switzerland. Having completed a degree in catering and a training period at one of Bangalore’s finest restaurants. However, a chance encounter with an elderly destitute who was eating his own excreta in hunger made Krishnan rethink his goals in life. After helping the old man clean up and buying him some food, Krishnan went straight home and used his expertise and his mother’s kitchen to whip up some food which he then distributed to the mentally-ill people roaming the streets of Madurai.

Even in the face of stiff opposition from his parents, Krishnan’s enthusiasm did not waver and he was up at dawn every day of the week, every week of the month, every month of the year, making sure that no fellow human was forced to subsist off their own waste. Slowly, like soft water eroding a hard rock, Krishnan’s parents came around and accepted their son’s venture whole-heartedly. As word of this good Samaritan spread, volunteers joined in his efforts, and the Akshaya Trust was born.

Continue reading

Midday Newsfeed

  • Agriculture: PM Singh to visit Bihar to begin implementation of statewide agricultural development plan.
  • Hogenakkal and Water: The decision of Tamil Nadu’s CM to delay decision on project has been questioned for having political motivations. The Times of India takes a look back on four decades of controversies surrounding water supply and transport. Looking forward now, the centre has suggested the creation of a radically new approach to regulating all ground water sources on a national level.
  • Health Quality Control: Former vaccine production centers will now operate as testing laboroatories for new medicines. Continuing on this theme of standards, the central government has begun to contemplate regulations for the wellness and spa industry in India.
  • Education: New postgraduate degree for gender, sexuality and human rights has been created.
  • Awful story: Two Dalit women were forced to eat human excrement as villagers blamed them for an outbreak of smallpox.

Evening Edition

  • Water and environment: Cross-state water supply link will not be stopped by political maneuvering, says CM. Moving to Varanasi, the National Water Conference is underway. Finally, in protest to the company’s water usage and other environmental abuses, a UP community shuts down Coca-Cola Plant.
  • Research: First government funded stem cell research center established in Tamil Nadu
  • Government Pay: Armed Services chiefs target the Pay Commission’s recommendations. Railway workers intend to do the same.
  • Foreign Relations and Olympics: India continues to play it safe with regard to Dalai Lama and China, urging the spiritual leader to not ruffle any feathers.
  • Health: Predictions have the HIV-AIDS population to be 15% of total in Asia by 2020 without stepped up action
  • Energy: Biogass power plant to be built in Oddanchatram

Evening Edition

Some headlines to start your evening off right:

  • The government of Himachal Pradesh announced at a three-day international conference this weekend that they are drafting a master plan for the development of backpack tourism in the state through strategic public private partnerships (PPPs).  The government ensured that the plan will “optimise the use of natural resources while ensuring ecological safeguards.”
  • In more off-the-beaten track news, West Bengal currently tops the animal cruelty list in India.  In the past three years alone, reports iGovernment, approximately 40,000 animals have faced cruelty in the state of West Bengal. 
  • Prime Minister Manmohan Singh convened a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Prices today in order to address the issue of soaring prices.  The import duty on soybean oil is expected to be cut in order to encourage imports.  India is also expected to stop the import of wheat for this year.
  • The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), in collaboration with the corporate sector of Tamil Nadu, has launched long-term rehabilitation mechanisms for Tsunami victims in the state.  Services include healthcare centers, medical camps for eyes and dental health, clean water supply. 
  • The Government of India has allocated Rs. 600 crore for green energy research, design, and development (RD&D).   New schemes include awareness campaigns, incentive-based programs, and development of solar cities and renewable energy technologies for the Eleventh Five Year Plan period. 
  • Currently, the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) is operational in 330 districts in the country.  As of April 1st, the scheme will expand to 604 districts of the country.  Rural Development minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh has also requested that zero balance accounts be created for NREGA workers for the purposes of transparency and efficiency in the deposit process.

Midday Newsfeed

Weekend headlines for your leisurely perusal:

Sex Education in India Subpar

There are two aspects of sex education — one straightforward the other complex. On one hand we have the biological nature of sexuality and gender, which for the most part, can be effectively explained within schools objectively and without too much controversy. The other issue, the one dealing with the physical impulses and feelings associated with sex pose much greater problems especially in a still sexually restrictive culture. This conflict leads to a state where students become adequately educated to what hormones are and how they work without getting guidance on how to deal with them in everyday life.

A recent study has shown that less than one-tenth of young men and women in Bihar and Jharkhand have ever received any kind of sex education. The rest of the country isn’t far behind, either: only 12 percent of young men and 25 percent of young women in Maharashtra have any knowledge of family life and/or sex.

My India Report attempts unpackages this disconnect briefly

Despite the fact that the youth wants sex education, and wants it from their teachers, states like Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh have banned it from the curriculum. The problem isn’t that sex is considered dirty, it’s that only married people are allowed to get dirty. The study reveals that even people who are supposed to provide sex education prefer to talk to married couples and are uncomfortable dealing with queries from unmarried people. The socio-cultural taboos run deep.