7/3/12

Floods in Assam

Floods in Assam

The flood situation in Assam has turned grim.

We remain helpess when faced with natural calamities year after year despite so much of advancement of science and technology. The world, including our own country spends trillions of dollars in buying weapons and making nuclear bombs apparently to protect national boundariies from human enemies! But we can not do enough to build our capacity for disaster preparedness! Disaster after disaster, life goes on like nothing ever happened. Only the sufferers live in eternal trauma and hardship. Really shocking!

6/28/12

Aami Ekhon Kothay? {Where Am I At The Present? - with English translation}

Aami ekhon thik kothay?

janina re Shukla, ekhon thik kothai,
tobe anek ta path egiye elam jeno;
kichudur chena aar jana - besh nishchintey hanta jay.
aabar anektai acchena aar notun,
tai chena aar achenar dhandhate
bujhte parchina jaigata - thik kothai!!!
·         
thik aaschi na hariyechi path,
na bujheo cholechi egiye,
nei kono pathochari digdarshak pashe - je bole debe sathik path.
pichiye jabar kono sujog nei jeneo, thamini kothao,
phera jabe na kokhonoi - phirte parbo na aar;
egiyei jabo hariye jete pari jeneo!!!
                    
·        
jodi pai khunje sei purono path,
jodi pai dekha sei sahacharder aabar,
jara keo egiye gecche bahudur ba,
jader cchariye chole esecchi aami bahudur.
janina - e ki se aashay?
na notun khonjar neshay, cholei cholecchi path.
·        
tai, bolechi janina, chinina bhabio na,                                                                                                             ese porechi je kothai;
jedin bosbo korte hiseb,
aar jodi miley jay aamar jiboner sab onko,
sedini janate parbo sathik, mul prosnor uttor,
aami ekhon thik kothai?

______________________________________________________
Translation of Aami Ekhon Kothay

To My Dear Sister Shukla :

Where Am I At The Present?

Don't know dear, where (exactly) I am now
Have come a long way it seems, though
Some known & recognised distance - could travel without woe,
Yet a lot of it unknown and new,
Wrapped inside an enigma of known and unknown, that’s why
Can't recognise this place - where exactly is it!!!

Have I travelled right, or lost my path,
Advancing, even as I 'm unsure,
No co-traveler, no guide by my side - to correct;
Knowing well there is no chance to go back,  I stopped nowhere.
No ways to return – I will never return ever,
Will go on, knowing fully well that I may get lost for ever!!!

If I found the same direction, I had taken then,
If I ever met those co-travelers of mine,
Many of whom have gone so far,
Many  I have overtaken to come this long;
Is it in this hope?
Or, the high of something new kept me traveling ever.  

So said I don’t know; neither I recognize nor I brood,
Where have I reached really!
The day I sit ever with the accounts,
And if all sums of my life would tally;
I will precisely answer the eternal question,
Where exactly I am today at the present.


________________________________________________





Where Am I At The Present?

Translation of Aami Ekhon Kothay

To My Dear Sister Shukla :Where Am I At The Present?
Don't know dear, where (exactly) I am now
Have come a long way it seems, though
Some known & recognised distance - could travel without woe,
Yet a lot of it unknown and new,
Wrapped inside an enigma of known and unknown, that’s why
Can't recognise this place - where exactly is it!!!

Have I travelled right, or lost my path,
Advancing, even as I 'm unsure,
No co-traveler, no guide by my side - to correct;
Knowing well there is no chance to go back,  I stopped nowhere.
No ways to return – I will never return ever,
Will go on, knowing fully well that I may get lost for ever!!!

If I found the same direction, I had taken then,
If I ever met those co-travelers of mine,
Many of whom have gone so far,
Many  I have overtaken to come this long;
Is it in this hope?
Or, the high of something new kept me traveling ever.  

So said I don’t know; neither I recognize nor I brood,
Where have I reached really!
The day I sit ever with the accounts,
And if all sums of my life would tally;
I will precisely answer the eternal question,
Where exactly I am today at the present.

________________________________________________

6/5/12

Rural Dealership and Service Providers' Network

Association of Rural Dealers and Service Providers -
Reflections and Experiences of the First Six Months
As I get involved in the field of social enterprise, some stray thoughts cross my mind. These are thoughts of self-doubts and concerns both unfounded and real, coupled with practical day to day problems that we are facing in operations. I ask myself, is it natural for someone at the steering role to have doubts and anxieties about self and others, while he is grappling with more relevant issues of management like operational plan, opportunities and challenges, funding for the start-up phase, profitability, break-even point, scale of operations, existing and potential corporate partners, problems of staffing, resource constraints, audit, legal compliances and so on and so forth.

Sometimes, one has to learn to deal with the tension of playing a 50 over cricket match if not 20-20 game or a formula 1 car racing, while trying to incubate a social enterprise. Yes, I am not exaggerating, as on one moment you thing you are on track and the next moment you have to deal with a bad news or a setback. But I guess that is the rule of the game in a new business operations. These anxieties and worries will stay till such time we have fully laid down efficient systems and more trusted people handling responsibilities of the operations. I often tell myself, there is no going back or using the popular Hindi saying "jab okhli mein sar rakh diya to musli se kya darna" that in English would mean - when one has placed his head in the mortar then what is the point in fearing the pestle. Surprisingly, I find myself filled with new energy and courage that help me overcome any self-doubt and get me going for many days all together. I have learnt through my long career in development sector that hard work has no substitute.

Yet there is another category of issues, that causes deepest of anxieties for us in the Reach Support team. These are mostly related to our mandatory dealings with regulatory authorities and their way of functioning. I often think why should these questions and concerns, arise at the first place. After all we have been working for the development of our society and the country. When we look at these concerns closely, they point at the deep rot of our social and political systems and their functioning. In this domain, our professional, logical and ethical approaches all fall flat. yet, we are from the beginning, with the help of our Chartered Accountants, are investing in professional systems. In the the current financial year, being also the first year of operations, our transaction is likely to touch 
` 10 m level including the rural dealership project with Tata Tea, if we are able to meet our slightly ambitious projections. This entails having a system fully geared to meet all the compliance requirements including payments of all taxes on time.

I am sometimes taken in by own abilities to do really hard back-breaking work and in going through spells of hardships. Be it times when one has to work late in the night to finish a presentation, a proposal or a report; or travelling in harsh conditions, sometimes, using public transport, or spending the night in a room full of mosquitoes with frequent load shedding, in the hot summer. But then I think, how people who are at the centre of our organisation’s vision, live their everyday lives even without basic amenities. I think of the pain a mother or a father undergoes in not being able to fulfil a very mundane demand of school stationery or a simple ride to the city, for want of money. Compare their situation with us and the privileges that we have learnt to take for granted.

Certain practical problems and questions therein are far too complex to finding an easy or quick solution, specially for us inexperienced in trade. Even with a firm resolve, one finds himself on sticky wicket when faced with the so called teething trouble of a new organisation, These relate to staffing issues of getting good talented people interested to join you and retaining them. Recruiting the first few staff of the organisation, gets really tricky as people despite accepting the appointment may drops out apparently for silly reasons despite the best that is offered to them.

 One also has to always be ready to be available on phone to solve the problems of the giys in the field. Some of them sometimes come to you for small things like should one send a scan copy of the PAN card or a photo copy by post or courier, which though irritating actually don't take much effort or time to solve. On other occasions they come up with some serious problems like fight with the some urban distributor/ agent over territory, or improper packing or low quality of the economic brand (that too of a pioneering company!), reporting problems with online banking, or someone wanting to drop out or wanting areas to be reallocated and scores of other problems, that Reach Services alone cannot solve. Communication with the corporate partner on solving some of the ground level issues, is sometime slow and frustrating as is the lack of responsiveness of the corporate system.

 Issue of finding an angel investor like in micro-credit often comes to my mind. Starting off an enterprise from the scratch is not easy, unless there is some genuine funding towards he promotional expenses. Even if you are working on a business model from the day one, you have to plan for a gestation period. So the directors end up being the underwriters using hard earned funds of their own, spouse, close relatives and friends.

Coming to realise as days go by, start-up fund or seed money for a social venture is really critical if you want to work on a certain scale. Again at the end of the day, a revenue model on trading and providing services depend on scale or volume. Hence there is no scope of working small here as one will not be able to survive in the trade. We are approaching many agencies, government and private for some start-up support, without success. I had an opportunity to visit some social enterprises in Taiwan few years back. There I noticed that many social enterprises are blooming because of a very supportive government policy in place. Apparently, government does not normally give grants there but there is a climate that encourages social investments by private parties, and even accessing seed capital and soft loans is easy. Looking at the overall scenario here, one feels a bit frustrated.

 There is so much of shallowness and lies that shroud our public discourse. Our governments pretends that it has problem solving capabilities that was never there. Year after year respective governments at the centre and states managed to fool people by way of offering magic bullet solutions packed in so called flagship schemes. Going into the specifics of the schemes and presenting their critique is not my intent here. It should suffice saying that unless one has a big patron or one is willing to invest speed money, getting support from the government is not possible for any new organisation.  While I hear of some non government funding agencies’ interest in social enterprise, it is not easy to get their support as our work looks very basic and no glamorous at its face. Our efforts to get support from one such agency is still continuing.

There are many systemic problems in our country that have grown in complexities over years.  Few states manifests them more than others and we are by choice in some of such states. There are problems with our politics and democracy, with our own people. It is but natural then that we have to equip ourselves to deal with the problems associated with incubating a new organisation and a new initiative even though it means a lot of energy and efforts, we have no choice.

We are struggling to find efficient ways in dealing with the regulatory authorities who are not trained to discern the difference of objectives of a social enterprise and a purely corporate enterprise. That should in fact not make any great difference, provided the system deals with each case legally but sensibly, meaning not finding loopholes for not doing something desirable or rejecting an application. Multiplicity of regulatory authority and ambiguity of legal provisions and laws cause a major problem.

The dealings for a new corporate entity could be about registration under certain acts or provisions both central government and state specific, be it companies act, change of purpose of business, TIN, permission to carry trade from municipal authorities and even if you have a trade licence its purview may restrict you to only and only certain activities. So if you want to expand the purview by adding certain new activities you have to apply for a fresh trade licence, as apparently the existing one can not be amended. But then you can not apply for a fresh licence also from the same address. Similarly, for TIN you have to produce the copy of the house tax bill of premise where you are operating from. Agreement will not suffice. If the house owner does not cooperate then your application gets rejected despite your genuine claim.

And mind you, most of these processes are online. So what happens? You get offers from firms who specialise in providing consultancy services to solve these problems. You have started off your operations, there are already many people dependent on you for their livelihoods, so you buy these services or chose to give it a try once more, on your own. After all your intent is 100 per cent genuine. So, same set, same scene, you go for a retake, another month passes by and you are back at square one. Exactly where we are today, so what next? Why don’t we pay for the consultancy and get things sorted out then? Silly we! Going by the norm of the day, we should just get things done, after all this will not mean we are not bribing someone! Well the list of dilemma gets longer then. But what gets us gong is our strong urge to try the social entrepreneurship route to create self-employment opportunity for a large number of people including myself.

We are creating a network of educated unemployed, rural youth, as dealers and service providers. Through them we plan to introduce various goods and services as per rural demand and in the process as we say we create a win win situation for all concerned. Quality at minimum possible cost is what the people gets sitting at their home, the youth get self-employed and opportunity to excel in their own businesses, corporate are able to expand their market share, banks and financial institutions are able to reach the unreached and we fulfil our mission of linking the poor, disabled, women and youth linked to emerging opportunities for economic and social development.

At the end of the day, we are satisfied as we are seeing result of the hard work that we as a team, has put forth in the last six months, is showing remarkable result already. We are also fortunate to have a market leader company, supporting the start-up cost even though indirectly, by paying stipend to the rural dealers and picking up some of their costs at least for the first couple of years. There are issues related to slow progress. There are issues of laziness of some of our rural dealers, quality of product, or urban dealers impinging into rural markets, issues of cost differences even if it is marginal between our rural dealers' and urban distributors of the products of the same company. Some of these get solved immediately, some linger on despite our best efforts to find immediate solutions, some due to fault at our end and some due to the fault of our partner and some with no fault of ours. But we are also learning to do business, learning to say no and take some real hard decisions.

More than two decades of working in the voluntary sector work in India has a lot of influence in the way I think today. I have got used to a certain way of looking at things, going deeper and questioning endlessly, trusting, caring and taking responsibilities. Working in Indian grant making organisations, was very exciting, with scarce resources always challenging us to think beyond the obvious, ask right questions and reach the unreached. Many times we failed in even garnering the minimum resources but at least we went to common people, talked to them and tried to understand what might possibly work if genuinely tried. In many cases, we saw people doing it with or without our resources or grants. Thanks to such learning, one makes efforts to understand by talking and listening to people, and asking questions to explore solutions from a new perspective.

The voluntary sector experience of going deep and probing beyond the obvious, is very useful in my new work. However, the disadvantage of having worked in the social sector if one may say so, is that we tend to listen more to what our heart says than letting our mind rule. In business, even if it is a social enterprise, I am learning fast, how to take orders from the mind without suppressing the heart’s appeal. While interviewing people for recruitment, we came across very genuine and capable people but as they failed to meet a single criteria that they don't own a bike, we could not take them. From my experience of the development sector, I can say one would have been more open in accepting people with certain disadvantages. There is though no clear line of demarcation between the two sectors, as I recall many times, one has taken hard decisions like withdrawing a grant or asking someone to leave, even in my previous organisations. But here the norm is to take decisions based on profit considerations. We as a social enterprise will try to balance profit, people and planet factors not exactly in the same order but we can not forget that our operations is not grants based. Only as we earn profit, we can do justice to our social objective. In that sense, earning profit is just a means, and that knowledge from the beginning will inform our value system, work ethics and standards.

Looking back, to also address my own anxieties, I find my whole experience in the voluntary sector, helped me to work with common people, specially the poor and the marginalised. I learnt in some measures how to communicate, specially with those who do not have a voice or a say in things around them, even about their own lives and their bodies. Look at a woman from the poorest strata of the society. She works the hardest in her family both in the rile of a provider and a care giver. Yet she does not have a say in sending children to school, in joining an SHG, in enrolling herself for a vocational training, joining an evening literacy programme or things as fundamental as when to marry, how many children she will bear. This knowledge is the capital, on the strength of which we have jumped into the deep water of businesses.

In the long run I believe, working with the corporate stream, is going to be very useful. I think we are fortunate that we are learning to deal with corporate agencies in business term, which is different from their CSR dealings. Latter I feel is laced with hypocratic icing. Whereas the business cares about profitability, so there is a recognition of truth, as in what works and what does not. There is deep recognition, in certain quarters of the corporate sector, including our present partner that there is no short cut to success. I can therefore feel very satisfied by my decision to start wortking in  a new mode. This is like my second innings and I want to not just bat and bowl well but field well too, as I have a match to win.
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++














6/4/12

Optimal Use of Technology is Absolutely Critical

Recently our Prime Minister said that India has failed to optimally use technology for its development. "We did not use science and technology in our development processes as much as we should have," Manmohan Singh said at the Indian Science Congress Association meeting in Kolkata on Saturday 2nd June. (source: ibnlive.com).

My question to our honourable PM is that who is responsible for implementing our technology policy and processes down the line. In this crucial crossroads of 21st century, when everyone should be thinking about how to save our planet and universe of the inevitable effect of Global Warming - a sure by product of indiscriminate and selfish use of technology, we are still grappling with the basics? I find such comment totally unacceptable even if this comes from Dr. Manmohan Singh. Let alone the opportunity lost in the last 6 decades, but what about Dr. Singh's own two terms? We did not do it or must be done kind of statements, simply amount to an eyewash. We are now talking about revisiting and modifying our technology policy of 2003? A person of his intellect could have changed the face of the country as the PM. He had shown his abilities as finance minister of the country ushering in and managing economic liberalisation policy in the country. Why not then in so many years as PM?

I know I am deviating but this is not entirely irrelevant as our politics and democracy is totally devoid of political will today. When it comes to modernising our airports, or 2G, 3G we have done it all. But what about modernising the normal express and passenger trains; or improving our whole sale mandis, ordinary schools, mass transport in smaller towns and villages, government hospitals, government offices at district and subdistrict levels, computerisation of land records for all states, using ICT for improving efficiency of our judiciary, police system are  few of possible areas, where we have drawn a total blank; besides failing to make appropriate uses of technology and technical knowledge for reducing drudgery for small farmers, small traders (mostly women) and so on. I can go on presenting an endless list but these are some important areas of technological intervention that will hugely improve the lives of ordinary citizens specially the poorest and the disadvantaged population. And for that matter, we do not need rocket science for introducing such technological interventions. There is no gainsaying  it is not just enough to have a policy but the right kind of policy that will work to address the great divide in our society and the concerns of people and planet.  

Best thing about widespread technology uses is that it creates a level playing field for everyone, provided basic access to technology is assured. Technology becomes very affordable when it is put to mass use. Today, the middle class is using technology to a large extent, which has significant impact on the quality of life. More use of technology itself, will reduce the knowledge, information and digital gaps. If only a nation has the political will to implement a good policy on technology. IT is at the centre stage of all technologies as this alone can cure our governance system of the cancer it is suffering from. This will have a direct impact on the lives of crores and crores of common people living in penury and hardships and in curbing corruption.

Time has shown us, for the now privileged middle class the ease of access of technology itself and technology as a means to access basic and higher level goods and services. There are scores of examples but to cite a few, think about how irctc has eliminated long queues, uncertainties and corruption to a large extent, take example of net banking, college and school admission (few colleges), LPG cylinder booking, IT filing, PAN; registration of a company, application for TIN; paying house tax, electricity, water, telephone, mobile bills; accessing land records in few states. These are some successful exapmples of technology uses that have reduced corruption in a sure way.
  
Whereas to an extent, common people have better access to technology today than they had, a generation ago. Achievements in improving accessibility to technology like mobile phone is a great example. Widespread uses also make the technology affordable as we see in case of handsets starting from a little above Rs. 500/- and sim card from Rs. 50/- with all operators vieing with each other in reducing the rates and luring customers with irresistable offers. Even in an economically poor families are using some products based on very sophisticated technology like TV for entertainment but importantly for information and knowledge building as the evidences suggest. Infotainment, as the electronic media has coined the term by combining information and entertainment and  various media campaigns and overall media revolution have all created a ground for accepting technlogy by the masses. ICT uses for weather forecastig, soil testing, geo-sensing  are happening in rural areas of the country thanks to programmes like I-Chowpal by ICT. There is no denying that overall there has been a positive impact of technology directly or indirectly through our electronic media in improving social indicators like age of marriage, spacing between two births, sending girl child to school and overall literacy, and helped in agriculture and farming field. However, for a country as diverse and populated as India, the overall social impact is moderate.

The crux of technology uses in india is to ensure people's access to technology that eases their hardship and that helps them to improve their lives and livelihoods. Big farmers have been using technology since decades now but those with small holding (which is a majority) still depend on traditional equipment. Although, electricity connection has been provided to most households, there is no electricity. This is also another aspect to deal with. Once we provide access to something that people find useful, we have to ensure that supplies are maintained without fail. Be it water supply, electricity or LPG.  

Our flagship poverty alleviation programmes  are making the officials and the power nexus comprisinng contractors, politicians and local influencial persons, richer and more powerful as siphoning off funds and cuts are common features of any programme that a poor has to live with. Even the RTI act is to a large extent foiled for the want of system to protect the complainants.  Poor do not have bank accounts and banks do not consider them bankable. Only recently banks have got the mandate of financial inclusion under which the account opening process has been simplified with the adaptation of a Banking Correspondent model, which is essentially a high IT uses based model. Direct cash transfer to beneficiaries bank account, will also be effective in curbing corruption involving subsidy money.

Our greatest challenge essentially lie in addressing the mindset issue. Experience has also shown that there is unthinkable resistance within our political, legal and social systems, that foils the bid to ease  access to relevant technology and efforts in linking technology to different end objectives. People in the system, spread myths and unauthentic information about the use of Technology. One of my colleagues had to travel at a short notice. She had a wait listed Tatkal e-ticket with a fat chance of getting confirmed. She reached New Delhi station earlier than the scheduled departure around the time when the chart was expected to be ready as her mobile as unfortunately, her mobile phone was not working. She tried in vain trying to get information about the chart status. The counter clerk, instead of asking her PNR asked her to show the ticket, which when she showed the print, the man told was not a valid ticket this is just an acknowledgement. Later I explained to her, now we do not even need to take a print-out and only the PNR message from irctc is good enough proof of travel document along with a i-card recognised by railways. incidentally a good samaritan, using his mobile phone  found out for her that her ticket has got confirmed as she travelled safely.

In another incidence when a friend went to the IT department to enquire the process of filing corrected IT return, he was told it was not possible as he had submitted his return electronically and in e-filing there is no scope for making any mistake. Well, these may be overlooked as aberrations, but visit any small town, you are bound to come across many such cases. Incidentally both incidences happened in Delhi. Also, it takes agonisingly long time to get your debit or credit card, or sim card blocked in emergencies, and also same hassle for getting a new password in case you forgot yours for ATM or net banking service. In case of net banking, you are likely to come across a all wisdom branch manger, who would lecture you how you should be more careful in not forgetting your sensitive password as if it could be stolen from your mind! But these are all insecurity syndromes, once the technology use is widespread, it is capable of correcting the errors in no time.

I will even say, for the rich and the middle class, there are many ways and means available for dealing with the system of governance. They are also capable of identifying technologies of their need and relevance and use them. However, for a policy it is absolutely critical to create a platform for the poor to have ready access to IT and other technologies. I will not like to repeat what is already so well known, in terms of areas of ICT and technology usage from a common man and woman's perspective. The fact that India is really lagging behind in technology uses, compared to countries like USA should be also seen as an opportunity as learning from the nightmarish experience of indiscriminate exploitation of our natural uses through technology. We can come up with a policy that tackles ways to reduce the impact Global Warming, and optimise green technology usage. Gimmicks like distributing free colour TV or tablet is not critical as these are done at the cost of State exchequer. A well thought through, social marketing approach is what is required to accelerate the process.

When people understand the uses of something is going to help them, they will invest in it. Take the example of spread of mobile phone in this decade. Sensing the demand, the manufacturers of any product would lose no time in introducing affordable models and sets. Earlier, in the decades of 90s STD booths had spread to nooks and corners, including the most remote areas, thanks to Rajiv Gandhi and Sam Pitroda's Technology Mission. Common people since ages are buying bicycle and now a sizeable population, is also buying bikes in rural areas. examples of e-chowpal of ICT shows how people are using information. These are examples that no doles are required to spread uses of technology. The need of the hour is to actually open the door for e-governance through entirely a demand driven model. NGOs and companies working in a social enterprise mode (not every NGO) can be involved as partners as they understand how to work with people. For a country like India, with reasonably rich resource base that includes intellect, technology, human resources and right agencies, it should not be a difficult task.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


9/10/11

Breaking Passivity and Inaction - There are Ways and Possibilities beyond challenges and fear

My dear friend and batch mate Pranavanand, as a facilitator of our alumni e-group keeps us thinking, active and fresh all the time. The article he uploaded yesterday, “Four Reasons Why Any Action is Better Than None” by Roasabeth Moss Kanter, Prof at Harvard Business School and author of Confidence and SuperCorp is truly an insightful and motivational piece (blogs.hbr.org/kanter/2011/03/four-reasons-any-action-is-bet.html).  After a long time this set my thoughts free in the alumni forum through this article. It also reminded me of the old saying "action speaks louder than word."

These days I am seriously engaged with the idea of social enterprise and exploring the actual feasibility of integrating social enterprise in the work with the poorest communities. I am coming face to face with all the principles discussed by Kanter. I am realizing how even small dose of initiatives and action in new direction break inaction and passivity of months. Over a period of time, such practice helps us overcome worst of our fears and anxiety and suddenly we see ourselves taking risks and bold steps, which we never thought we were capable of taking.

While lack of work culture, enterprise and innovation have made our bureaucracy and government almost crippled and ineffective, moving in the same direction are our not for profit and to an extent corporate world - as passivity, ivory tower thinking and idle talking tends to dominate our social and professional space. Many second and third generation enterprises in our country and abroad are seeing the culture of passivity pervading the work spaces all over. In the US and many European countries, the top leadership is faced with the problem that even the senior management has grown sufficiently complacent – one of the reasons why USA in recent times has gone so liberal with
its H1 b regime.

Our country is faced with another set of problems mainly inflicted through the Maculay doctrine, that privileges ‘chaplusi’ (sycophancy+), ‘divide and rule niti’, passing on the buck (so that it stops nowhere) and ‘bhrastachaar’ (corruption not restricted to unethical economic dealings); over sincerity, talent and hard work. This is why we see such terrible lack of motivation, passion and initiative in most workspaces, where even the leadership and top management seem to deliberately discourage feeling of ownership on the part of workers.

Talking about the middle class, parents still feel happiest when their children, howsoever talented, manage to get secured jobs even if that be less paying and would have less prospects compared to something which brings new challenges and with them opportunities to touch the sky. Even in today’s time one has prevalence of a mindset which seems to believe that secured job is what counts everything else can wait for tomorrow, day after or some time in future. No surprise then that there is such terrible lack of social enterprises, innovation and so few of Indian companies in the Fortune 500.

Yet, what really keep the hope alive is that our population has lakhs and lakhs who break the barriers around them, refuse to let their mind be captive of the situation they are in, among them are the best of thinking people who are also hardworking, all set to achieve the desirable situation - solutions to the most complex of problems. They are not willing to let the situational compulsion hold the entrepreneurs in them, captive.

These people are not just the less celebrated or in the making, 'Narayan Murthy's, 'Nandan Nilekane's or 'Indira Nuyi's of the country who redefine and rewrite success and excellence achieved through a combination of their exceptional minds, ethical tactics and hard work. Actually they are also those many non MBAs, non professionals and without formal education out there, whom we see and meet while commuting in public transport or traveling by trains, who through their indomitable spirit, entrepreneurship and exceptional sense of duty do make us all proud.

As examples of the above kind, I can think of two sets of people. In the first category are employees in different sectors and the second are entrepreneurs who follow the principles discussed by Kanter in his article. These are highly motivated and responsive employees even found in many small town sarkari or municipal offices, court, banks and all kinds of offices who put that extra bit so that they do not go home with unfinished work. We see them in district hospitals or economic nursing homes, as doctors and nurses who would not leave a single stone unturned for the well being of the patients, in school as dedicated teacher whose only goal in life is to nurture his/her every student so that they excel.

I remember many of my school teachers in middle school and high school, whom even as a child and adolescent boy I knew well that they were not very well paid. But till date I can feel their total ‘samarpan’ (unparalleled dedication) for their profession, I can remember Michael sir and Mundu sir of my middle school so vividly and sirs - Narayan Roy (Physics) , Kongari (Hindi), R. Prasad (Chem) who was also the NCC sir and gave up his life for saving a cadet for drowning, Ram Mahato and UK Roy (Maths), G. D Mishra (Chemistry in undergrad) and scores others, so many from XISS too. So are many of my daughters’ teachers. I remember so many sincere and committed clerks and bank mangers and senior ranked officers including from SIDBI, IDBI and NABARD who all made great contribution to SHG movement and later micro finance in our country. So are many state and central government officials at all levels, ministers, MPs and MLAs.

In the other category I can think of my St. Aloysius classmate from Ranchi, Om Prakash or OP as we cal him, set out to study MBA in Delhi but ended up forming a reasonably huge service network for supply and fire sensor devises used in most centrally AC buildings. Amongst his clients today are big public and private sector companies, inistries and government offices in entire NCR. I can think of another classmate Prakash who after completing his engineering degree, built a cloth wholesale empire in Ranchi alone, rising much above his father’s 8’ by 8-9’ readymade shop and also helped his brothers to grow sizeable business. He is prominently involved in charity and various social activities.

Last year while traveling back from Ranchi I met someone in his late 30s from Samastipur in Bihar, who came to Delhi to look for a job some 8-10 years back and now runs a readymade garments factory somewhere in Shahadara employing over 250 women and other staff and exporting to EU. So is the story of Israfil who has the maintenance contract of the intercom system in our office, who came from a village in Burdwan and worked in they have in common with Bill Gates, Barack Obama, Narayan Murthy, is their absolute conviction that the only thing constant in our live is in fact change and they are the agents who would see the situation improve significantly during their own lives. I recommend you all to read Rashmi Banasal’s books – I have a Dream and ‘Connect the Dot’. Although her first book ‘Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish’ is no less inspiring.

We have so much of talented, hardworking and goal oriented people amongst us. Then, I sometimes wonder what exactly is ailing us! As the saying goes in Bihar – ‘Pados Mein Bhagat Singh Paida Ho, Hamare Ghar Mein Nahin’. This captures everything. We all know what should be the real nature and goal of education but as parents, students and policy makers and implementers just go by its instrumentality. But change is inevitable. If we don’t change this mindset ourselves, we will be changed by circumstances and for worse. If we change ourselves, we still could actually be the masters of our own destiny.

As in recent times, concerns of inequity and injustice in social and economic spheres have created new challenges and implications for the non profit sector in the country. Traditional not for profit funding sources are dying fast. Government funds are schematically tied up. Apart from these bursting of the micro-credit bubble and lack of well grounded mechanisms that can balance social, economic and political agenda in development action domain, which off late is getting too polito-centric have intensified the challenges for the non profit sector.

Till such time even there is a single family left who don't have sufficient means to eat, remain healthy, get best education for its children and others, live without any fear or discrimination and make informed choices for every member - there is so much to do for everyone. Till the time we make the world free of war, till the time we are able to reverse the global warming, till the time we are able to secure our planet, we have no time to while away. And till such time we can't just be ideating. With this resolve, I will soon be setting out on a new path of exploring social enterprise as my career focus next.
_________________________________________________

4/3/11

Let sports be just sports (Old blog)

Sports today has become very competitive. At the end, what matters is winning and winning at any cost. So much hype has destroed the very nature and purpose of sports.

If we look at the jingoism that cricket has trigered, one really feels sad. We Ranchites were ashamed that a group of young hooligan threw beer and whisky bottles at Shahid Albert Ekka's statue and damaging it. Came to know that at the final, people were saying after beating muslim sena, our Ran sena is going to beat Ravana sena! I found it utterly disgraceful.

The nature of the sports has changed totally. Is sports not supposed to bring countries, culture and people together? It's another matter that history repeated itslelf in winning the cup after 28 yrs! Its truly a joyous moment for the entire nation that has so little for the larger samaj to come together for a common cause! One understands, great divides and fractures in our society, accentuated by poverty, misery, injustice - such moments of fanatic exhilerations in this context, can be equated with the high that one derives from opium. Sports has therefore become like religion. If not appreciated and followed in its true spirit, it can make people as fanatic as religion!!!

It is important that we keep sports as sports and cricket as cricket, and not a weapon of spreading hatred and violence. It will be truly a great day when we learn to celebrate a win, howsoever great it might be and accept defeat even if its by the worst margin, equally gracefully. After all only one side can win, evn when there is kante ka takkar and there is no formula that someone's winning streak will continue for ever. There is joy in both winning and playing well but not winning.