Pizzas are good for these senior citizens

What do the words “new start-up”  and “garage” bring to your mind? The old stories about how all the tech companies started off to make today’s Silicon Valley? If that sounds a little too boring now, here is something as appetizing as a pizza. Started right here in India’s Silicon Valley by by Padma Srinivasan, 73 and Jayalakshmi Sreenivasan, 75 (as against in The Silicon Valley by a bunch of youngsters), Pizza Haven pumps in the revenues that it earns by catering to school kids and software companies (like HP, now that is some coincidence!) to running an old age home – Vishranti.

“Granny’s pizzas are a hit among the software professionals, not just because they are delicious, but also because they are sold for a cause,” said Padma.

The profit from pizzas and generous donations from some well-wishers have helped in completing the home for the eldely, named Vishranthi (Rest), in June 2008 (news from newkerala.com)

What is there to be learnt from this story? Of course, a for-profit model makes this home’s future secure. But there is a more important lesson. Sustaining a social initiative doesn’t always need a complex innovation! All it needs is for one to look around yourself and identify what they are looking for!

With the current model up and running, is the Vishranthi executive team looking for expansion? Absolutely!

“In Vishranthi, I am also planning to start an orphanage and vocational training centre for poor rural women. And again our pizzas will come in handy to finance all our projects.”

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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.

Market-Driven Vocational Training

The concept of vocational training usually brings forth images of ITI classrooms filled with relevant machinery for learning technical skills – with the one catch that those technical skills may not be relevant for the Indian market. A Livemint.com article reports on an encouraging development in government that will create new courses that are actually market-driven.

Sources in the Ministry of Human Resource Development said that the fresh programmes range from ‘refrigeration´ and ‘applied psychology´ to ‘foreign trade exchange´.

Foreign trade exchange? Definitely relevant in today’s globalized world. The new programs will be rolled out under the Eleventh Plan, and may be worth looking into if an organization works on employment or education initiatives.

If you are interested in learning more about the government’s plan, take a look at the report from the Working Group on Skill Development and Vocational Training, published in 2006.

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:

  • Health: The pharmaceutical industry in India fears that one in five drugs sold in the country are fake. A study undertaken by the by the drug controller general will focus on this.
  • Transportation: India and France on Wednesday signed a Memorandum of Understanding for cooperation in railways, including constructing world class stations, signaling and telecom technologies.
  • Agriculture: The Government of India is planning to set up 30 mega food parks in all the states so that cold chain facilities are available in catchment areas comprising not more than three to four districts. [Source: iGovernment]
  • Employment: There is a mismatch between skills and available jobs, with 80 percent of jobs needing vocational training, and 90 percent of incoming job seekers lacking these skills. While the country needs 250 million skilled workers, only 700,000 have the proper skill sets.