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Jyoti Singh was India’s daughter. But is that all? She was also India’s student, India’s citizen, India’s future… a young girl with a sharp mind, fierce will, working hard towards a better tomorrow. India has many such daughters, and not everyone’s gruesome story makes headline news. Jyoti, her parents, you who are reading this piece, and I – we are most likely exceptions to the rule, the minority. We hope for a safer, progressive and equal country. But while we champion India Shining – how do we shape a society that remains shrouded in gender inequality and a culture of patriarchy?

India claims that its well on its way to being a global super power by 2025, but does our everyday reality reflect this narrative? The real India is a country where 93 women are raped every day, 3.8 every hour; where 500,000 girls are lost every year to female foeticide; where 1 in 3 girls are sold in child marriage before the age of 15. A country where a young girl is raped and brutally killed by 6 men on a bus in our capital city. Where we think twice about wearing shorts and a tank top when we leave home. Where each of us can share several stories of being groped, harassed or molested by uncouth men in public places. The next super power? I don’t think so.

I’ve been a victim several times
, and I’m sure you have too – from having a filthy man feel me up in a dark room while getting my photograph clicked as an 11 year old, to being hit out at and groped by passing motorcyclists on the road while waiting to be picked up from my tennis lesson. The memory still makes me cringe, I feel ANGRY that I was emotionally and physically VIOLATED, and I let them get away. That’s why I feel the need to speak out. Not because of a filmy documentary, and not to tell people what they already know about the many violations against women in our country.

Some say that the horrific trauma that Jyoti and her family went through was worth it, and are enraged that the documentary telling her story was banned – seriously? Will 1 documentary, and 1 horrific story open our eyes and drive change? We have seen million such stories go by with silence. I disagree – it was NOT worth it. And India will NOT change because of the rape and death of one girl. I hear you SCREAM, and I feel the anguish. Believe me. I would have each and every rapist tortured and killed. But that won’t change the dangerous course our country is on, either.

Maybe then, we need to find Who is to blame…Blame it on the girls – why must they wear provocative clothes and roam the streets? Maybe its the fault of the parents – they should know better than letting their daughters go out after sunset. Blame it on the police or the corrupt Government for taking a feeble stance on women’s safety. Blame it on the monstrous men who believe it is their right to violate women.

The blame game begins, and we realize that while one finger is pointing at someone else, 4 are pointing inwards. The blame is ours to take. We, generations of men and women, parents, siblings, grandparents, uncles and aunts have shaped a society that creates India’s Sons – smart, ambitious, intelligent, lovable, protective, respectful, dutiful. And the sociopaths, perverts, monsters, villains. Men are not born rapists – not anywhere in the world, and definitely not in India. So many Indian men have grown up hearing that sons are more valuable than daughters, watching their fathers beat their mothers, seeing the girls in the family go hungry while the men eat… until they BEHAVE in similar ways, because its NORMAL. And so many of India’s Daughters experience and propagate this inferiority their whole life, that they start ACCEPTING it as normal. It seems like India’s Children are to blame.

The path to a more equal society is long and complicated. After giving it much thought, I believe that the way forward for India is Change by Generations. The most effective method of changing the way an organization thinks and performs, is to infuse it with a new generation of people who are molded with the right attitude and skills to shape the future. Replace the old with the new, and keep going until the new becomes normal. I’ve seen it work before. While India is way more complicated than an organization; its younger generation has the numbers, vision and attitude to make this possible. Men and women, together, shape a new generation of Indians who believe in equality, freedom and respect. Poverty alleviation, globalization, vocational training, education and employment are all part of this movement; but so is a mother treating her son and daughter as equal; so is the documentary, India’s Daughter; so is a manager who promotes a woman over a man based purely on merit; so is Javed Akhtar screaming in the Rajya Sabha; so is a wife when she reports her husband for physical abuse; and so is this article.

India’s Children, shaping a future in which our sons and daughters enjoy mutual respect, freedom and equality. 

Part II with more thoughts on executing Change by Generation coming soon. 

‘I’m convinced that Pinterest can teach me to build my dream house with nothing but foam wreaths, ladders, wine bottles and a glue gun.’

For some years now I have harbored a secret interest for decorating and designing homes in creative ways, without burning a big hole in the pocket. In fact, at one point I was thinking of starting a small business as an amateur interior designer catering to young people looking for spunky ideas within limited budgets. Although I never really got around to starting a business, I did manage to experiment with small projects at home, in Rotterdam, Hyderabad and Bombay. The last few months have completely changed my outlook towards DIY or Do-it-yourself decorating projects – all thanks to Ben Silbermann, who decided to found Pinterest! Pinterest has given me the inspiration and confidence to be ambitious with my experiments and implement cool design ideas. I might even think of using Pinterest as the basis for an off-beat interior design consultancy at some point.

After quitting work last month, I decided to make use of my free time and take up a few DIY projects for the new house we were moving into. Here are some of the results – 

Wine Corks in Glass Jars and Frames

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Upcycled Ladder Bookshelf

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Wine Bottle Lights – Yellow

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Wine Bottle Lights – Pink

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Life Size Wall Decal

Painted Wine Bottles

Crates Upcycled as a Bar

By Deepti Chadda and Dipika Prasad

Home to 3.6 Bn people, almost every country in Asia is undergoing a profound socio-economic transformation. A region rich with people, resources and culture is growing increasingly restless in the face of multiple development shortfalls. While traditional methods of alleviating poverty continue to receive impetus, a fresh movement based on an alternative development approach is emerging. Building viable business models with affordable products and services that cater to underserved populations in sectors such as health, education, energy, is finding its place as an instrument to further sustainable and inclusive growth in Asia.

Several trends across Asian countries underline the growing popularity of this new approach, widely known as ‘social enterprise’. In Malaysia a survey of over 6000 young people showed that 75% considered themselves social entrepreneurs aiming for financial and social outcomes. Driven by Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) and social media, budding social enterprise networks are linking investors, entrepreneurs and policy representatives across countries, such as the Social Enterprise Network Asia (SENA). Schools in Asia now include social enterprise in their curriculum and organize social business plan competitions, like iDiya by the Indian School of Business and the INSEAD Social Entrepreneurship Catalyst.

The growth of these social enterprises is also starting to attract interest from double and triple bottom-line investors (impact investors). According to a report by Avantage Ventures, the potential market size that can be captured through impact investing in Asia is estimated to be between USD52 to USD158 Bnby 2020. The report also concludes that the six key sectors that would benefit most from impact investingin Asia include affordable housing, primary education, rural and elderly healthcare, agri-business, water and sanitation and rural energy.

While social enterprise is still nascent in the region, some countries like India, Thailand, Indonesia and other South East Asian countries have emerged as front-runners in this movement. What’s interesting is that many of these countries face similar challenges of scale and sustainability. Some of the common constraints include access to the right type of funding, attracting and retaining superior talent, weak or non-existent supporting infrastructure, navigating the regulatory environment and building a collaborative approach towards market driven development.

While the policy environments, the financial services structures, the development needs and potential and geographical conditions vary widely across the region, emerging anecdotal evidence shows that some of these challenges have been tackled well in specific geographies.There is both a growing need and an opportunity to build a corridor of communication and learning between social enterprises, investors, policy-makers and other market enablers in India and South East Asia. Sharing best case practices,learnings from failures, finding solutions to common problems, speeding up the flow of funding across countries, and sharing intellectual capital are founding blocks for this Social Enterprise Corridor.

The case for building a social enterprise corridor between India and South East Asia

When it comes to innovation in technology and business models, India is one of the market leaders in the social enterprise space. A robust private sector, and focus on R&D could mean that there is an opportunity for these technologies and models to be replicated across other regions in South East Asia. For e.g. SME Renewables, a social enterprise that promotes renewable energy technologies and market biomass gasification power generation systems in Cambodia, imports its technology for rise husk powered electricity generators from India. It cites cost effectiveness, and time saved on developing indigenous technology as the primary reasons behind its buy-decision.

India has traditionally struggled when it comes to making public-private partnerships work. There are opportunities for it to learn from successful examples of these from countries like Cambodia and Indonesia. For instance, although there are millions of fully subsidized household biogas units installed in India, most are dysfunctional due to lack of maintenance and accountability from civic organizations. On the other hand, a biogas program led by Hivos with blessings from the government of Indonesia has achieved 100% functionality rate and 100% loan repayment rate. Initiated in May 2009, it aims to build a minimum of 8,000 domestic biogas plants in at least six Indonesian provinces by the end of 2012. The program is sustainable because the biodigestors are only partly subsidized, and focuses on facilitating credit in partnership with the government, NGOs, cooperatives, and MFIs. The focus on linking players, building a market and ensuring sustainablility after the grant monies run out is a clear learning for India.

There are opportunities for learning and communication to flow along the India-South East Asia corridor when it comes to policy as well. For e.g., the Thai Government has developed the Thailand Social Enterprise Master Plan 2012 – 14 to be delivered by the Thailand Social Enterprise Organization (TSEO), with the aim of furthering sustainable development.TSEO’s vision is to build a learning environment for social enterprises in Thailand, create capacity building interventions, and develop a path to capital and resources for social entrepreneurs. It is in its early days, and there are opportunities for it to learn from both successes and failures in other countries. Perhaps most importantly, there are opportunities for all countries in the region to learn from failures of policy. For instance, in Indonesia, private sector off-grid solar lighting initiatives have failed as the market was distorted by free distribution of similar products by the government, and lack of a supportive environment for the growth of the local industry.

Though the regulatory mechanisms are disparate, uncertain and ambiguous when it comes to flow of financial capital across the region, there is certainly merit in building robust deal flow pipelines across the region. Investors like Unitus Seed Fund, Aureos Capital, LGT Venture Philanthropy have a portfolio of investee companies in the regionHowever, given the nascence of the social enterprise space, the cost of aggregating, and building capacities of these businesses to create a pipeline for investors is almost prohibitively high, and there has been very little pan-region activity to create one. Philo Alto, Founder Asia Value Advisors says, “In my experience as a recent jury for the GSVC-SEA competition, the winners tend to be those who have been coached by business practitioners who are able to provide a real life sanity check on valuation, funding requirements, and expectations of potential investors that enable the social entrepreneurs to reframe or adjust their plans and organizational culture over a period of time as they scale their firm. I would say that the cost of search for viable social ventures remains elusive from the perspective of would be impact investors.”

The exchange of intellectual capital and talent is another building block for the corridor to be successful. There are opportunities for technical assistance and market building facilities/projects to be created, staffed by experts from across the region who can support idea and early stage ventures. For e.g. from a recent field visit to Cambodia, our team at Intellecap found that most social enterprises were founded and managed by expatriates, while the locals tended to focus on NGOs and non-profit models. There was a clear need for local home-grown experts in the field, but no learning environment or platform existed.

Some ways in which the Corridor can be built

Asia’s geographical and cultural diversity creates a need for platforms that can connect investors and entrepreneurs from across countries, playing the role of intermediaries. As aggregators, these platforms reduce transaction costs for investors in identifying and conducting due diligence, and improving the chances of enterprises to access funding by helping them build capacity and scale. Philo of Asia Value Advisors says, “Most social enterprises need mentorship support and advice to help them achieve the scale needed for future funders that are more commercially oriented, in addition to scaling their social impact. By engaging with intermediaries whose role it is to share with the SEs as to how they can be ‘impact investment ready’ in the coming years, social enterpriseswill be able to adapt their business models accordingly, with enough lead time and speak the same language as the more commercially oriented impact investors.” Initiatives like Sankalp Forum and Change Fusion are playing a pioneering role in building such platforms.

Creating capital markets for social good and channelling capital efficiently towards social ventures, is a significant part of building this Corridor. With access to funding identified as one of the top challenges faced by social entrepreneurs in India and South East Asia, organizations that aggregate funding sources and create enterprise-friendly processes to access this funding will be instrumental in scaling social enterprise in the region. Impact Investment Asia (IIX) is home to Asia’s first public and private platforms for social enterprises to raise capital efficiently. The Asian Venture Philanthropy Network (AVPN) aims to develop the venture philanthropy movement to meet specific enterprise requirements in Asia.

Both India and South East Asia need to appreciate each other’s local realities as well. Forging friendships and strong working relationships is critical to building any successful cooperation. Immersion programs, which provide an opportunity for both sides to interact and learn from each other, serve this purpose. AIESEC and Potencia Ventures run an immersion program for young people to learn about social enterprise through international internships and interaction with the impact investment domainacross countries. Student exchange programs through academic institutions like business schools are also a potential opportunity to build immersion programs that will found the basis of an India – SE Asia Social Enterprise Corridor.

Bridging Information Asymmetry is another critical building block and the Ayllu Initiative is a step in this direction – it aggregates processes and shares data so that funders, entrepreneurs and other sector actors in social enterprise can make informed decisions. Access to such information will make it easier to share learning, build areas of cooperation and establish a strong social enterprise corridor between India and South East Asia.

Authors’ Note:This article was written with inputs from Rashi Agarwal, Srikanth Pulavarthy, and Bharat Bongu from the Intellecap Business Consulting team, and from Philo Alto of Asia Value Advisors. The authors would like to express their thanks to all of them for sharing invaluable first-hand accounts of working in the field. The authors work on the Sankalp Forum at Intellecap, and were inspired to write this article based on their observations from extending Sankalp’s platform to 5 countries in the South East Asian region. This is also a subject that will be discussed in a special side-session at Sankalp’s upcoming Annual Summit on April 12 and 13. To find out more about how you can participate, click here.

There are clear differences between the approach of previous generations towards sustainable development and that of today’s youth. The old model of people making money and waiting till the end of their lives to give it away is not acceptable to the new generation. Corporate social responsibility and philanthropy as concepts are less appealing to today’s youth, while profitable business models that inherently address social challenges are gaining popularity.

Although the growing role of youth leadership in sustainable development is a global phenomenon, young Indians still have some way to go. The highly competitive environment, educational system, and social pressure to build a successful (i.e rich) life, are some of the reasons that we see fewer young people engaging in sustainable development in India when compared to the more developed countries. The situation is similar in other emerging markets such as the BRIC countries and South East Asia.

While there are young people in India that choose to pursue a career in social enterprise, the space is primarily dominated by Non-Resident Indians and people from the more developed regions. This trend is clearly reflected in educational programs – while most Business schools in Europe and the North America include social enterprise/sustainable development in their curriculum, this trend hasn’t caught on in India. The Indian School of Business is pioneering certain initiatives in the social enterprise space such as iDiya; however the IIMs and other management institutes are still to follow.

Another point to consider while comparing perspectives on sustainable development across generations is that the field of strategic sustainable development requires a multi-disciplinary approach, since the challenges being addressed are intricately linked together. So while the past generations focused on specializing in particular areas and excelling in those, today’s generation has the opportunity to draw linkages across disciplines and find integrated solutions to challenges, for example in the context of climate change.

Access to information through the internet, the social media revolution, global exposure through technology and travel based learning allow our generation to engage in the complex issues of sustainable development. Today young people are more sensitized to development challenges and risks, and they have the opportunity to collaborate through social media channels, especially Facebook and Twitter.

A small percentage of Indian’s today are able to take greater career risk, instead of following the traditional path. However, when compared to the number of young people in India, this number is still very small. To create this change, we need to focus our efforts on youth attitude and perspective. Education, extra-curricular activities, travel and other diverse experiences shape the world-view of young people. We need to provide experiences that develop responsible young leaders who work towards a sustainable future and in the process create a meaningful and successful life for themselves and their communities.

One such program is the AIESEC Ser Mas Program run in Latin America that offers businesses and young people the opportunity to be more competitive, increasing their knowledge and expertise in the areas of social and business entrepreneurship. Through international exchange programs, team and leadership experiences, and learning activities, the program develops talented and globally minded Ibero-American leaders whose knowledge and skills enable them to support and build social enterprises in the region.

I come from a family of well-educated engineers, doctors and civil officers. I grew up in a sheltered environment, learning about the significance of a credible education, of stability, and of planning as far ahead as possible. Most of my extended family relocated to study in the U.S, and have built comfortable lives there. If I was writing this a decade ago, I might have had a similar story to share.

But I have grown up in the “new” India, and in this land of expanding opportunity, I chose the road less traveled.

In my 26 years I have traveled the world, started a not-for-profit, spent a month in the Antarctic and have chosen a career that attempts at “good” business. Turning down several opportunities to continue working abroad, I chose to return to India. The emergence of a pulsating, dynamic new India has triggered a reverse brain drain. Indians living in different corners of the world, who had gone looking for opportunity, chose to return to a vibrant, exciting land of promise. So did I. I came back to an India ‘whose faith in success was far greater that her fear of failure’. An India that was poised as the fastest growing free-market democracy in the world. Globalization with all its challenges and opportunities had created a country of paradox, success, failure and hope. The development of a young, new India in the face of a globalized world economy has greatly influenced my thinking and life choices.

India opened its doors to the global economy, transforming the lives and aspirations of its people. This evolution came to life with A.R Rehman winning two Grammy Awards, Kalpana Chawla being the first Indian-born woman to fly in space, and Slumdog Millionaire winning an Oscar. The world was looking at India with curiosity, and inter-cultural connections multiplied exponentially. Consequently, my dream of traveling the world became a reality. I worked with an international team in Rotterdam that led a global organization to achieve 45% growth in results. Our mantra was ‘Connecting to Deliver’, and we leveraged technology that supported people across the world to learn, share and achieve. I developed programs that mobilized youth to experience new economies and cultures. Recognizing these successes, I was awarded a scholarship to participate in a sustainability leadership program in the Antarctic. This would have been unheard of for a young woman in the India that was. The world had literally become my playground, and these experiences completely changed the way I viewed my country, my future and myself.

Today, India is riding high on its so-called “demographic dividend”. While India’s youth hold significant promise, the lack of education, inadequate infrastructure and skewed employment prospects present a daunting task. Young India needs empowerment, training and access to livelihood opportunities. Being a young Indian, my work has focused on youth mobilization for social impact. Recognizing the need for ethical and sustainable leadership, my work in AIESEC was directed towards exponentially increasing the quantity of leadership experiences the organization provided young people in India and globally. While leading the Global Entrepreneurs Program, my team trained aspiring Indian entrepreneurs and gave them a platform to develop business skills by interning with growing enterprises. Today my work leverages India’s demographic dividend through social enterprise. The enterprises I support are transforming the lives of unemployed youth through door-step business training, providing technology-based interactive education to disadvantaged communities, and generating employment in rural India through BPOs.

India’s entrepreneurial spirit is being harnessed in whole new ways. The world is attempting to learn from Indian innovation or ‘jugaad’ in Hindi, as a tool to find uncommon solutions to common problems. Earlier this year, a business acquaintance from Accra experienced Dharavi, Asia’s largest ‘five-star’ slum as part of a global initiative on Urban Poverty that I managed. He reflects that ‘Dharavi’s future is different from the slums in Ghana because Dharavi has the ability to grow organically through the entrepreneurial spirit that is being nurtured there.’ This observation isn’t limited to Dharavi, but is the energy that drives India. The deep-rooted ambition, innovation and risk-taking ability of my people set them apart. As an actor in India’s entrepreneurial story, the traits that define the country, define me. I’m an innovator; I practice the art of lateral thinking, of resilient creativity and of improvisation in the face of adversity. I enjoy trial-and-error and making things work with limited resources. I’m excited by opportunities with an element of risk, which I believe is critical to unraveling the complex challenges of today’s world. India’s tryst with ‘jugaad’, as one part of its entrepreneurial success, has deeply influenced my development in recent years.

My connection to India’s complex growth story is best described in these lines – ‘There are 2 India’s in this country. One India is straining at the leash eager to spring forth and live up to all the adjectives that the world has been showering upon us. The other India is the leash. One India says give me a chance and I’ll prove myself. The other India says prove yourself first and maybe then you will have a chance….’ The two India’s are slowly drifting apart – one rich, the other poor; one living in luxury while the other struggles to sustain itself. The future of our country depends on closing this gap. My work in social enterprise aims to increase conversions from one India to the other side. I co-create sustainable solutions with grass-root innovators to transform the less advantaged to assertive customers, thus contributing to build a more sustainable growth curve for the country. I support enterprises that provide low-cost sanitary napkins to rural women, deploy easy-to-use water wheels in villages, and empower rickshaw pullers to be owners. Choosing social enterprise has been a natural career path. With all its challenges, I draw immense satisfaction and learning from my work. The India phenomenon and my choice to return to it, has been a profound influence on my thinking, learning and actions.

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