This is a guest post by Mayank Jaiswal. Mayank is a civil engineer from the Delhi College of Engineering followed by an MBA from the University of Chicago, Booth School of Business. He has prior experience in the sectors of Oil, Agribusiness and Utility (electricity sector). He shares his experience as a Villgro Fellow.
I came across the Villgro fellowship through the “Think Change India” blog post. I was looking for an opportunity to understand sustainable approaches to social development by being involved with social start ups. The Villgro fellowship which is a mixture of field visits, classroom coaching, deep involvement with an incubatee (business incubated / supported by Villgro) and work at Villgro office promised the above.
I have been exposed to some terrific social business models by our trips to Gobichettipalayam, Tamil Nadu and Hyderabad where we saw operations of Villgro Stores, Naandi, Byrraju and HMRI. I realized the importance of implementation. The Villgro Stores visit was fruitful in understanding the ‘last mile’ delivery issue and how Villgro is trying to solve the problem by setting up stores that will help rural India avail of latest innovations. The Naandi, Byrraju and HMRI are examples of the Public Private Partnership (PPP) model. The ‘Ensuring Children Learn(ECL)’ model at Naandi, was a treat to observe.
The remedial integrated curriculum that had been developed for children in the 3rd, 4th and 5th grades was par excellence. The execution of the project which ensures that the above integrated curriculum is taught to the school children was stellar. Naandi and Byrraju water treatment plant projects were examples of sustainable social businesses. Finally, HMRI is providing elementary medical services to rural Andhra Pradesh in a revolutionary way. The seamless integration of technology with medicine is commendable.
The bio metric scanning and data warehousing methods being used by HMRI, will not only benefit rural India in the short run but will be invaluable sources of data for research down the road. Another aspect worth noting was the perseverance and patience required to make social businesses work, since the gestation period of a social business could stretch to a decade! Finally, the importance of a committed and motivated team was brought home in these visits.
The class room sessions helped me appreciate business models that are working in the social space, but the bigger take away was the approach to analyse business models. The lively discussions about the pros and cons of various models and guest speakers who shared their insights was very helpful. The visits to incubatees helped me in appreciating the problems at the ground level for start ups.
The induction also included one on one sessions with the entire team at Villgro. This is a great way to get acquainted with the workings of a social incubator. As a fellow, I was also able to witness the scouting and screening process at Villgro. I attended the scouting (where new ideas worth investing are discussed) and screening (due diligence outcomes of ‘scouted’ ideas are discussed) meetings.
I think this is invaluable, for budding social entrepreneurs as it teaches them to think objectively about their businesses and gives them a mental roadmap of analyzing business models.
eJeevika – the incubatee organization with which I have been associated with for the past two months has been a great experience. eJeevika utilizes Information Communication Technology (ICT) to place rural candidates in rural and urban corporate India. The business can have a huge social impact in terms of providing employment to rural youth. I have been intimately involved in strategic planning, which is an exhilarating exercise on what direction to take and what options to choose. I have helped the CEO with business development strategies and developing financial models to analyze various scenarios and projections of the business.
As I ride the rough and tumble of the social start-up world for which I had signed up. I can say that it is turning out to be a wonderful experience. The learning is by leaps and bounds and it is truly experiential learning. I am positive that by the end of the fellowship, I will have added crucial skills which will help me deliver high social impact.