Tuesday, January 16, 2018

4 NGOs in a day. Jan 11th, 2018. Bengaluru, India

Siyu Zhang, Jan 11th, 2018. Bengaluru, India
Today we had a packed but very meaningful day, where we visited four different NGOs. They are all working on developing a better world in different ways.
The first NGO we visited was called Saahas Zero Waste, where they work on collecting trash and recyclable products to generate fuels and reusable packages. The organization works on three different models. The first model is called service fee model, which they collect food waste and transfer those trash to fuel and runs on biogas, so it can generate power. The second model is EPR, which stands for extended producers responsibility. Under this model, Saahas works on converting waste, including manufacturing waste and energy waste to resources. The third model is to recycle products. Recycling might seem like a day-to-day and common thing in the U.S., while in India, barely anyone has any idea about recycling paper and plastic. In addition, the government pays small attention to recycling. It’s really nice to see there are companies out there seeking to help this problem and bring awareness to the public and also the government.  

The second NGO we visited is a non-profit organization called EnAble India. The organization was started in 1999, with a mission of helping disabilities on economic independence and dignity through job training. They now have almost 200 staffs, and some are previous candidates. They first work with people who have vision impairment, but now cover 17 different disabilities, and have successfully trained 11,000 people and placed 5,000 people in the workforce directly and indirectly. EnAble India does job training, job matching and workplace solutions for people with disability. EnAble India also work with other NGOs at the state level (DNA-Disability NGOs Alliance), national level (SCPwD-Skill council for persons with disability), international level (United Nations’ economic and social department, Workability Asia and International). One of the remarkable thing about this NGO is they don’t charge for any job training, but only ask for 25 hours of social works, which helps those disabled people build confidence and give back to the community. Some of the social impacts include successfully integrated persons with severe multiple disabilities into the workforce, salaries on par with non-disabled: highest starting salaries for freshers is 18 lakhs annum. Economic impact includes every 1 lakhs of fund inflow creates an average of 6.55 on India’s GDP. Job placement now covers 27 different sectors, and some of the companies include Shell, IBM, Goldman Sachs, CISCO, Dell. EnAble India is doing really amazing work and I was truly touched by their results. They chose to help the disabled people become economic independence, which is not only a short-term support but also helps them become self-sustained. They are helping the disabled people doing something they’ve never thought of doing in their lives, and bring hopes into their lives.
The third NGO we visited in the afternoon is named LetsEndorse, a TATA trusts initiative which was2 founded in 2015 by Monika Shukla and Varun Kashyap. LetsEndoerse is a website builder and platform for other social enterprises, which to deploy innovative and befitting models for nuanced social challenges using technology and collaboration. To implementing their mission, they use a digital collaborative ecosystem of change-makers and enablers approach. LetsEndorse also uses a Hyper-Local Social approach, which to review the social project at a social and local level. They also created technology solutions called SWAYAM, which is a one-click, mobile responsive, multilingual website builder, SAHAJ, which a donor-base relationship management and nurturing suite, SWAYANTRA, which is a field force/Volunteer management software. Some other products LetsEndorse worked with include Life Straw filtered water bottlesNeo Natalie Suction for newborn. After visiting LetsEndorse, I was really amazed by their work and mission. They not only focus on their own development, but also help other NGOs develop and implement different projects. It’s a very good platform for NGOs to raise fund and collaborate with others nationally and internationally, but also a good way to keep donors up-to-date. 

            The last NGO is also a TATA Trusts initiative called Social Alpha, which is founded in 2016. Social Alpha is a non-profit organization which provides a foundation for innovation and social entrepreneurship. They help social enterprises access the resources they need to create a deep and irreversible social impact and improve the quality of life especially for the underprivileged and deprived. Their strategic focus is affordability, accessibility and user experience/interface. There have been a lot of startups in India recently and a lot of them have failed due to lack of resource. Enterprises can use Social Alpha as an approach to help them build the foundation and therefore increase the rate of success. Social Alpha particularly care about innovation and social enterprises. They are not here to make profit, but to help create social impact.

            It was kind of surprising to see so many NGOs working on building a better society than solely making money, because India is developing and there’s still poverty in a lot of places. I was touched by all these people, and seeing these NGOs and speaking to these passionate workers really bring me inspiration and hope.

4 visits, 1 day

When we left the airport on our first day in India, we were immediately bombarded with chaos. Cars, people, rickshaws, bikes, motorbikes, all over the place. Yet this level of stimulation was minute compared to the mental stimulation experienced today, January 11. In one of our longest and jam-packed days, we visited four different locations, all under the same NGO: Social Alpha. A 7:30 am bus ride took us to Sahaa’s Zero waste and we met Vishal. he explained to us this program’s purpose. it is a trash collection and sorting facility that promotes the transition of the market from informal to the more regulated formal market and to put some dent, however small, in India’s growing trash disposal problem. India produces 200,000 tons of municipal waste a day, so this is no small feat. The business model is based on signing on companies and apartment complexes to use their trash sorting service and getting paid a subscription fee for handling their trash. The struggles of convincing companies to spend more than the bare minimum for the greater good was discussed. 
                Our next stop brought us to EnAble India, an NGO that is dedicated to training and job placement of disabled people. We discussed how different disabilities require different accommodations and training, but it is possible to find employment for any one. We discussed how innovations that allow disabled workers to perform work related tasks can also be used by non-disabled people and can increase overall efficiency. This seemed to be one of the most effective NGOs from a donor perspective, generating 15 rupees for every 1 rupee donated.

                After a traditional South Indian Lunch, we arrived at Social Alpha’s office for a presentation on Lets Endorse, a company created to help other NGOs. They provide an intuitive web site builder, donation tracker and network for NGO’s to utilize for a low cost. They also provide a data base for ongoing problems and allow solutions to be added. Helping the overall community by individually helping those attempting to help others.
                The last presentation was an overview of Social Alpha’s mission and business analysis. Led by Srikanth, he discussed the concept of a “not-for-loss” company, social enterprises and their main mission statement. They invest in NGOs that they believe are doing socially good work. “Not for loss” blends elements of for profit and non-profit enterprises.
                I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that I was blown away by the actions, results and positive missions of these NGOs.  One blog post for all four does not do them justice and they all truly deserve their own post as they are inspiring, empowering and important.

Monday, January 15, 2018

First Day in Bangalore

                                               First day in Bangalore or Bengaluru?
On our first day in Bangalore, we were to visit the Bull Temple, the Bangalore fort, and the Krishna Rajendra Market.
    The Bull Temple is one of the largest temples in the world. The entrance was stacked with numerous idols of all different sorts. Shoes had to be removed before entering the temple to show your respects. The bull was built from one single granite rock and was ornamented with what seemed three golden horns and yellow flowers. It is recognized as one of the oldest temples in Bangalore being built in 1537 in Karnataka. The temple is formerly known as the Nandi Temple which is for the worship of the sacred bull of Lord Shiva who was the god of skies and destruction. The bull Nandi represents strength, load-bearing capacity, and virility.
     From the temple, we traveled by bus to reach the fort. The fort was different in design as it was done by Islamic architects. No idols were present within the designs of the fort and instead simplistic flowers and shapes were present. The fort lies within Bengaluru Pete an area of Bengaluru city purposely designed by Kempegowda where the end of each road led to entrance gates of the fort. The doors of the fort were covered in spikes from the bottom half up. This was used as a defense mechanism to stop the elephants of intruders from pushing the doors in.
     As we walked to and from the fort many vendors were alongside the streets selling fruits, clothing, and even home goods such a plates and cups. The streets were congested and packed with people coming and going. As we got closer to the Krishna Rajendra Market the traffic flowed into it. To focus your eyes on simply one thing seemed nearly impossible. Bright colors emerging from the fruit stands, a walking cow snacking on a cucumber from a local vendor were some of the attention grasping occasions. As we walked throughout the market hundreds of vendors of all fruits and vegetables of all sorts. As we snacked on some “finger bananas” we stepped down and entered the flower market. Walking through narrow walkways before entering the main plaza we saw colorful towers of powders and hanging flower ornaments. The floors filled with remaining flowers created the most beautiful mess one could imagine. As we reached the main plaza hundreds of flowers stacked throughout the floor of all different assortments and colors. Vendors would come to these wholesale markets to purchase flowers for temples, homes or even weddings.  These flowers were all handpicked and hand assorted to these strings to create such perfect assortments.

     After the market, we headed for lunch before our meeting with TATA to regain energy as we had spent the entire morning on foot and adjusting to Bangalore’s higher temperatures.
The geographical and economic difference of the market to TATA metaphorically represented Bangalore’s shift to a technologically advanced city from an informal one. TATA’s all glass building was something similar to those that we constantly in NYC. The two representatives of the company both with engineering backgrounds, of course, told us about TATAs history, and success but also their emphasis on corporate social responsibility.  The company has a history of over 140 years with 48 years in business regarding engineering. Some stats about the company were
•    ½ of earnings go forward to charitable donations in sectors such as education, medicine, science, scholarships, social welfare
•    FUN FACT: Former president K. R. Narayanan went to university on a TATA scholarship
•    34% of the workforce is women, 100,000 of them engineers, the first country in India to have such stats
•    Operations in over 100 countries, export to over 150
•    Known for their consultancy services but their revenue earner is banking and financial
•    Implement a customer-centric engagement model
•    Globally connected workforce seamlessly through an Integrated quality management system.

Bangalore: Bulls, Flowers and TATA. Jade Fern, January 10th 2018

Bangalore: Bulls, Flowers and TATA.

Our first day in Bangalore started with a trip to Bull Temple which is home to one of the worlds largest Nandi idols and is made entirely of granite. There was a clear difference from the grandiose temples we had visited in North India. The temple was small and consisted only of the Nandi shrine. The tower over the shrine was constructed in the early 20th century and adorned with Saivite figures and motifs. Our stop, which was only going to take twenty minutes due to the modest nature of the temple was extended by almost half an hour when we stopped at a local vendor who had set up shop outside the temple. Needless to say, he made a killing.

Our next stop was Bangalore Fort, which was considerably smaller than the ones we had visited in Delhi and Agra. This was due to much of it being destroyed by the British. From there we took a short walk to a produce and flower market where we were met with vibrant colours and the strong aromas of fresh fruits, vegetables, and spices. It got even more interesting when we went inside the large building at the center of it all. Down the aisles hung elaborate flower arrangements made to decorate the statues of deities or to be worn by brides and grooms during weddings. At the end of all the aisles, there was a large room that housed giant piles of beautiful, bright flowers, all of which had been individually threaded onto string. I don't think I’ve ever seen so many flowers in one place, and I couldn’t even begin to fathom how long each pile had taken to make. As we were leaving the market we happened upon a massive Jersey cow just hanging out in the middle of everything. As we made our way around her she turned and much to the vendor's surprise, gobbled up three cucumbers from a stall. As a man tried to shoo the cow away we all started laughing and so did all the vendors and locals. Even though it was something so silly it was such a nice moment because we could all just laugh at the same thing together. In most other cases when a joke was told or something happened around us it would have to be translated to us so we would get this second-hand joke which feels a lot like when it takes you a little too long to get a punchline. 

We hopped back on the bus and headed to TCS (TATA Consulting Services). We had already been somewhat exposed to the TATA brand as it seemed to be everywhere we looked. This made a lot of sense later when we found out they work in ten different industries. From finance to manufacturing to hospitality, you name it TATA does it. What interested me most about the organisation was their commitment to the community, they shared a quote from the founder of TATA; “In a free enterprise, the community is not just another stakeholder in the business, but in fact the very purpose of its existence. What comes from the community should go back to it many times over”. TATA gives back in many ways, they fund many NGO’s and give half of every dollar made to charity. However, what resonated most with me is a program they have at thirty-three rural schools around India. Over the past four years, five hundred and eighty TATA employees have volunteered their time during weekends to teach courses and peak the interest in kids living in rural areas to join the corporate world. This year they had employed 92 people from the program while many others joined companies like Intel, Cisco, and IBM. It was extremely humbling to see such a large corporation focus so much time and energy on working with their community.

Our last stop of the day was MG Road (known for its shopping and nightlife) where we spent some time unwinding after another busy day. Can’t wait to see what else Bangalore has in store for us.

Jade Fern