Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Corporate vs NGO

I had a long argument with one of my friends on whether us fatted calves in the MBA elite segment can make a difference to anyone’s life in India. Or do we have to join NGOs in order to actually help someone.
My point was that corporates in India wield a lot of power today and the right people at the right levels can make a big difference. Infact if there is someone who can make a bigger difference than even corporates then it is the government, since they have not just the funds but also the administrative mechanisms in place to improve living conditions of people. But that apart, corporates today wield enormous power in terms of the funds they have and the say they have.
I have seen two ways in which they can make a difference. One, in terms of business strategy. Granted ITC’s e-choupal gave the company easier access to cheaper grains. But it has benefited entire communities where middlemen no longer rule the roost with exclusive information on demand-supply. Similarly ICICI’s big leap into rural banking would probably be able to help smoothen the finance system, which even today continues to be a nemesis for most people.
The other way in which I see corporates helping are in terms of setting aside money and time for community initiatives. The most obvious examples are of course the Tatas who actually put people in charge of setting up relief centers and schools and usually don’t seem to be giving money to a NGO and sitting quiet.
Of course what a lot of corporates usually do is to give money to NGOs and ask them to manage the show. This is good too but it means NGOs need to have well qualified people working in them to ensure that the money is well used.
Which brings me to the question my friend and me were arguing about – Can MBAs of our generation make a difference to people’s lives by staying in corporate life or are their skills needed more in NGOs.
I would be interested in hearing answers to that.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Eastside Story Films ONLINE

Eastside story films are getting rave reviews and are directly impacting lives of people.

I have attached the links for two of the short films made by our children teams.

1. Kalvettu - 6.11 min

2. Mezhuguvarthee - 2.50 min

The language is Tamil with English subtitles.

These films were researched, scripted and performed by children with the guidance of professionals.

You would need a good broadband connection (min 200kbps) for uninterrupted playback.

Looking forward to your feedback.


Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Toilets vs costume malfunction

I was reading an article by Kalpana Sharma in "The Hindu" recently.

What I was reading really shook me.

Here are the excerpts

"...Studies have documented how women choose to eat less and specific times to avoid having to go to the toilet during daylight hours. In the absence of toilets, they have to use fields and this they can do after dark or early in the morning. As a result, they are forced to control their intake of food resulting in many forms of under-nutrition andanaemia."

"For young girls, the problem is even more acute, particularly after they cross puberty. Women and young girls also limit the amount of water they drink for the same reasons".

The article starts with an observation on Gujarat; hence I assumed that this problem is only in the remote and tribal areas of West India. I brought up this topic for discussion with our Eastside Story Girls' team and to my utter surprise one of the girl remarked...."Sir, we are very familiar with this. Not that we can't afford the food, our fathers do definitely earn that much. But there is no safe and decent toilet in our school. So we don't drink water and eat very little".

I was quite taken aback. I brought up this issue to the head of the district's public health programme and he behaved as if all this was news to him. May be he never knew about this.

Well... our papers are busy having page 3 in all pages and news channels are busy discussing 'costume-malfunction' on prime time. More the justification for "Eastside Story" and the need to hear from children.

Sriram V Ayer