A number of immersion programs exist that attempt to make the youth aware about development challenges in India. Some examples include Grassroutes, Teach for India and Engineers for Social Impact (E4SI). As the application deadline for this year’s E4SI fellowship approaches (7 March, 2010), we asked some former fellows about their experience working for various social enterprises. The goal is to give our readers an understanding of the impact of such programs, both on the fellows and the participating organization.
Ankur Saxena (IIT Kanpur) and Rishikesh (BITS) spent the last summer working with Ethos Philanthropy on bringing together nonprofits, social entrepreneurs, donors, and individuals on a single web based platform. The team conceptualized a fellowship program (isupportfellowships) to engage professionals to volunteer for short-term consultancy projects for nonprofits. The program has been implemented and has seen participation from professionals working in MNCs in Bangalore and Mumbai as well as MBA students from the Indian School of Business (ISB), Hyderabad. Sarabjeet Singh (IIT-Kharagpur), another E4SI fellow went on to work for Ethos full-time after graduating and is determined to help to turn their project into a “one-stop portal for change in India”
Some of the other fellows worked on designing cool and interesting products. Chitta Ranjan (IIT Kharagpur), worked with D.Light to develop a lighting device for hawkers. While designing the prototype, Chitta traveled and sought input from end users in rural areas of U.P. One of the final designs was selected by D.Light for full production. Srinath Ramakkrushnan (IIT Madras) spent his summer designing a paddy dehusker/dry-grinder/oil-expeller machine for SELCO. Srinath was so inspired by his experience that he went on to found the Rural Consultancy Group for delivering technical solutions to rural challenges. Anurag Priyam (IIT Kharagpur) and Neha Kumari (BITS) took on the task of developing a management information system for MFIs while working at Intellecap. Both of them raved about the mentorship they received and the charged and insightful debates with their colleagues. Neha summed up her experience as, “Engineers for Social Impact fellowship doesn’t finish with the immersion experience. It begins there”
Navesh Priyankar (IIT-K) worked on a project at A Little World for a fingerprint recognition and duplication tool for banks in rural areas – an interesting and impactful idea that can help bring safe banking to the masses. When asked about the impact of this experience on him, Navesh said, “The 2 months with ALW provided a whole new perspective on the economic and social conditions prevailing in the villages of our country. It made me aware of the enormous amount of work being put into this sector by the government, NGO’s and other social enterprises for the social and economic welfare of the masses.” Pankaj Agarwal (BITS), while also working for AWL, had a completely different experience working on analyzing feasibility of bio-gas plants in villages – a project that took him from working with scientists to the manufacturing floor to negotiating with village Panchayats.
Every single E4SI fellow I have interacted with left the program highly inspired – and this includes some fellows who knew nothing about social enterprises before the program. While building experience and skills like any other internship, such programs provide an unmatched leadership experience. If you have been part of a similar program in any part of the world, we would love to hear about your experience.