Friday, November 30, 2012

Intrepreting the term "Social Entrepreneurship"

Social entrepreneurship - a term that has been driving me nuts. So, I decide to put things on notepad and attempt to get some clarity.

We had a chat here @IRMA with Mrs. Rohini Nilekani a few days back. She brought one very eye opening perspective of some entrepreneurs to the table - every entrepreneur creates jobs, gives an opportunity for livelihoods to at least a few people and because the enterprise is actually benefiting people, it is social. Very logical too. Then, how do we classify something as a social enterprise and something as just an enterprise. I guess the answer lies in the needs the enterprise is trying to address. Basic needs like food, water, good air, clothing and housing are not meant for any specific sector, they are the needs of every human around. And there are needs of niche segments,and when I say niche segments - it is not about an elitist class. Its niche because most of the people actually do not fall in that category.

     In this context, social for me means - something relating to the majority of the population, not the niche. Something done in the niche segments is also social, but it is relatively less social. When we talk about enterprises or organizations working to address problems of education,water,sanitation,basic health, minimal housing - we are talking about organizations trying to meet the needs of a large section of our society. Its more apt that they are labelled social than those firms which are adding value to those people who
already have met their basic needs.

        The above two paragraphs might be suggesting that something like mafia is also a social enterprise. This is where the motivation behind the organizations and the impact of the organizations come into picture. When we talk about being social, it is about respecting certain values in the society - honesty, integrity, ethics, it is about being able to maintain law and order, it is about doing something that doesn't have a negative effect on the very basic fabric, the very basic needs that the organization is trying to address. Of what use is a biological form without air, water and food. What use of electricity if there is no house to live in? And such values, such regulations one could say, are applicable to all organizations - because they are all a part of the society.

          Most importantly, how stable is the argument? Do basic needs change? People might want to live on trees and wear nothing, but the need for clean air, water, edible food and health will still be intact. These needs are not relative. Do basic values change? Integrity,love,honesty. I think they are absolute too. Some years down the line, we might be successful in meeting the current set of basic needs only to make us take steps in addressing the next basic set of needs of a larger part of the population. That larger part
could be a niche segment today!

And finally, does this organization need to be self sustaining? For all I know, if one is skillful enough to run the firm through profits, let him do. If one has such great PR skills and well-off well wishers that he doesn't need to think about profits, that's great too. Different people bring different strengths to the table and whatever works, works.

I won't say I rest my case here, this is the best I could muster so far. Looking forward to your views now.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Proper village stay.

I am doing a Post Graduate Programme in Rural Management at IRMA, Anand. As part of the 1st year curriculum, the participants of this programme are required to spend about 2 months in a remote village, understanding the village life, livelihoods, problems and a lot more. It is undoubtedly a unique experience. An experience that lets you work, lets you holiday and most importantly, lets you learn.

Personally, I would describe this trip as the longest holiday that I have ever had(coming to the course after 54 months of work ex makes me feel so). I would have loved to see how it would have been if I didn't have phone and internet connectivity too. There were days when we weren't able to access these facilities, but those were very few. Holiday doesn't mean I didn't do any work at all, but this post is more about the lighter side of things. So, I present my top 10 field work experiences here(in no particular order).

I have to prepare a couple of formal reports related to my work in the village and those are not going to be put up here. Wish I had the opportunity though, as that would have showcased a different kind of world and free me of the responsibility of posting any blogs for the next 4-5 months(8000 word reports those).

1) directing sheep towards proper pastures,i.e pastures away from the place where we stay. They were shitting big time right in front of our door. They were impossible to scare away too, they had to be 'respectfully' redirected. One of the sheep was rubbing its back against our door, when the door suddenly went loose, bringing the sheep into our room.

2) Returning from an early morning excursion to 'you know what' with footwear weighing 3 kilos on each foot. Muddy experience that.Guess the villagers are pretty clever to avoid such mess or they are expert space-walkers. We were actually on a less muddy route when a kid suggested that we take another one that was less muddy! Less muddy = 3 kilos.

3) A small kid, 18 months old, who always says, shouts rather, bye as soon as she sees us.She learned to say the one handed namaste and give hi-fives.

4) A kid who plays with a useless cycle,his toy presumably, that doesnt have a front wheel and does all kinds of silly tricks on it and also showcases those tricks to every other kid in the village. He ends up getting beat up at least 5 times a day by different sets of elders(its just an assumption that everyone who beat him up are elder to him).

5) Two kids who kept on getting hit for about 5 mins. Neither did I want to see it happening nor could I stop it from happening.The reason for the drubbing - the kids were catching hens and tying them up to trees and bushes.

6) A close shave - No Gilette this. Was getting out of a tempo and opened the door to the left to find a motorbike right behind.Managed not to open the door far enough to hit the bike. Vanished from the scene as fast I could after saying a sorry that is. How dumb of me to think of traffic rules in a remote village!

7) I go to a local kirana/provision store and keep peppering them with more and more questions. End up asking if the shop sells drinks (I was supposed to say cool drinks) and he says "hot - no, cool -yes".

8) Getting hit for a 6 in the first serious ball I bowl in the village,but ending up with 3 wickets in that very over, and ofcourse getting the 6 hitter out. Sweet revenge. Bowling into a stiff wind, not holding back even one bit, as fast as I could! This was before Neelam came and turned the ground into the erstwhile lake it used to be. If you are still wondering, Neelam was a cyclone, not some lady with magical powers.

9) Watching meteorites streak past the skyline at 2 30 in the night. Pin drop silence! This is what we call a silent spectacle.I didn't pay attention to the cows and buffaloes :p.

10) My host making sambar that tasted the same everyday for almost 40 days and asking if it was good every single time! We say its good and her son yells at the top of his voice saying "these guys say everything is good. they are not telling you the truth." And she says "My kids don't like what I cook" !

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Back to school.

         Here I am, back to school. You can imagine a small kid with a heavy bag, walking very haphazardly, kicking all the stones in the path, with the shoulders drooped and lost in thoughts. Just that I am no more a kid and the pathways here are so neatly maintained that you don't find any stones to vent your anger on. Actually, I am putting in a lot of effort not to step on the scores of ants dotting these pathways. Alas, I can't even walk as I like.

            You can also imagine a sprightly kid with a not so big bag, singing songs, cracking jokes, teasing friends, rolling on the grass (alone that is) and having fun.
            All the visuals that have been conjured up by your imagination are, with some standard deviation, what I am  experiencing. I decided long back that the title of my next blog would be 'back to school', but it took almost a month to come up with something presentable. I don't like to talk about academics and exams, for their scope is either too broad or too narrow and more importantly because it will bore you to CTRL+F4.

      I have already had a lot of things to celebrate over here, the first of which is the fact that barring for the first class, I have managed to stay awake in all the classes for the past 15 days. Not sleeping in the class was actually one of my short term goals(after all those sleeping memories as an ELT @ Cognizant) and its nice to have achieved it. Here are some more goals that I thought were relevant to this post:

mission 1 - Get to know the people around :). I am trying my best.

mission 2 - get enough sleep outside the class. It's mission number 1 now. Sorry friends :(.

mission 3 - adjust to the food, potatoes everyday. Are you sure? Yes. Even then, kindly adjust. They tell me that potatoes from your friend's plate are more fun. Have to try that out.

mission 4 - try to play everyday. Good that the rains have started :). Can ignore this.

mission 5 - try to study every now and then. This has actually turned out to be, study all the time and do something else if there is time left. Though I am spending most of my valuable time on this, this still remains mission 5, mainly because I am forced to do it. It's different from sleep in the sense that ''I want to sleep''. There is a lot of demand there and very less supply.

A lot of people told me attendance was very important, but I found something else to be much more important : "the Dhobi days". Else I have to wash a lot of clothes.

Have I settled down? Your answer is as good or as bad as mine. I love my room though, which is cosy, cornered (as in at a corner) with a balcony overlooking the sprawling green lawns and a few creaking branches. What's more, there are loads and loads of birds here. Mornings are musical sometimes and noisy most of the times. Don't want to complain more and get depressed. Back to school? You bet.


Sunday, June 10, 2012

The journey to Anand

        A few years back, 55 months to be precise, I blogged about my feelings on moving to Chennai for work (what was a new place then for me). And from Chennai I move to Anand (in Gujarat, the AMUL place) for a 2 year post graduate course in Rural management. AMUL stands for Anand Milk Union Limited. I always knew that there was AMUL in Anand, but never knew that there was Anand in AMUL, until IRMA happened that is.
   Anand is a small city and IRMA is an even smaller place, so I am probably not going to talk about the architecture as I did when I wrote about Chennai. The journey was pretty uneventful, except for the fact that I pulled every possible string to get a tatkal ticket for travel in 2nd AC. No amount of pulling yielded any positive results. I had to be content with a sleeper class ticket and pacified myself by thinking on the rural lines (rural means no AC) and hence I was doing justice to the career I was embarking upon. And when I told a very close friend about this journey in sleeper class, he talked about Shahrukh khan and Swades. My friend and Swades never fail to cheer me up. I never listened to any of the Swades songs in the journey though.

     Still the line "Mitthi ki hai jo khushbhoo tu kaise bhulayega" was a pleasant companion through a part of the journey - courtesy the monsoon showers in the western ghats which made my second morning of the journey such a wonderful experience. Damn the AC I thought because of which I would have surely missed the rejuvenating scent of the first monsoon showers. Add to that the excitement of looking at new places through the grilled windows and trying to recollect any references from the geography learnt in school, it only makes the journey that much more interesting. I was hoping it would rain in Anand too, but its a hope I am still nursing.

    And even before all this, on the first morning of the journey, the train which was suppossed to turn up at 4 o clock , made a drowsy arrival at 5 o clock. We always like the trains to be on time, but there are times when you want the train to be late so that you can spend those extra few precious minutes with your loved
ones who have come with you to the station. My parents, an aunt and a nephew were there to give me a send off. By the way, hope you were not thinking that I had a girl friend when I said 'loved ones'.

 The train was pretty much empty when it started from Kakinada and the open spaces on other side of the window launched me into contemplation. And I ended up with this (which already appeared on my facebook status)

"Anand is a place. more importantly its also a feeling. the place is too far away from home and the feeling, am mostly home to. how much more will i have loved it if the A in IRMA was Anakapalle. both near and far, the single door to anand is now ajar. koooooooo. chuk chuk chuk." For starters, Anakapalle is a place near Vizag, my hometown.

I tried to sleep through the rest of the journey as much as possible. Not the easiest thing to do when being baked in a 45 degree C metal cage for most of the day.

Finally, the point is , I am back to school. New place, new people, new events and quite a departure from a lot of things that I have been doing until now. I have enjoyed my couple of days of stay here and really looking forward to posting a lot of interesting stuff about my tenure here for the next 2 years. The classes haven't started yet and I can't really talk about how I feel about being back to school. Just enjoying the new acquaintances and the gorgeous greenery around here. "Taking in the sights" they say.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

The price of a chappathi.

Had a chat with the waiter at a restaurant near my place. My roommate and me are a regular to this restaurant and so this particular waiter is pretty friendly with us. We placed an order for 2 butter naans, 2 chappathis, aloo mutter and a panneer butter masala. After a little while, the order was served and the waiter said he brought me chappathi with side dish instead of just two chappathis. I was confused(so are you).
       He understood why I was confused and told me that 2 chappathis cost 50 bucks and 2 chappathis with side dish(if we order separately) also cost 50 bucks. He said something more, he said 25 bucks for a chappathi is a lot. It felt like a slap on the cheek to me. May be it was not his intention, but may be he was also saying that we don't know the value of money.
       The conversation didn't end there. He was back to take another order and we prodded him about his work at the restaurant. This is what he had to say " Its been 9 months since I have been to home(which is in Jharkhand, about 36 hours of train journey from Chennai) and when I hear my kids on the phone I feel helpless. I get 4000 bucks a month here and its not enough to have my family stay with me in Chennai. On top of that, if someone orders a dish and refuses to take it, the cost of that dish is recovered from our salary. This way, I keep losing 300-400 bucks every month. We are given free food, but that's only at 11 in the morning and 12 in the night. I have my leave from April 10th and then will be off for three months, but I won't get paid during that time. "
      We were left wondering as to why do we think our lives are not that well off? Yes, we know we are leading a good life. We can go home when we want to, we can eat a chappathi at 25 bucks if not more, we have friends who can lend us some money in times of need or we have banks which can give loans even if there is no real need. We do all this and we still complain. Then what should this man do? My biggest problem the day I wrote this article was that the modem was faulty. That's the gulf.

     For most of us, it is a hard feeling to stomach that there are people who dont have the means to fill their stomach. A few give shape to this feeling through charity and donations and a lot of other means. Most of us probably don't. An article like this won't change the world. What we do after knowing that there are people who can't make ends meet; does. At least, think twice before placing an order. You don't want to reject it and eat into someone else's priceless pie.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

old wine new bottle

           Forget the protests, candle light vigils and fasts after a party is elected to rule us. They wouldn't probably hunt you down as they did in Rang De Basanti, but they will surely try to scuttle your movement out. Who are they? We all know.
             The elections are coming and it is the right time for action.  Why don't we a do a detailed analysis of all the candidates in fray in a constituency and come up  with a list of the most cleanest and most capable of people? Then why don't we go ahead and campaign to let everyone know that so and so guy is the best one to be elected. Who said candle light vigils and fasts should not be done to bring these correct candidates to the fore? Why not convince your friends and families to take a closer look at the profiles of all the people participating in the elections and ask them to vote for the most apt candidate? If various parties can run campaigns just for the sake of greed, why can't we run campaigns for the sake of honesty, dignity and a better tomorrow.

         Campaigning against someone is not the way to put the right people in power. We need to vouch for someone to make proper use of power. We have the power to vouch for someone. Are we ready to take up the responsibility?

         Finally, vote to make it count.