Indian micro-irrigation firm makes it to Fortune's 'Change of the World' list


India-based micro-irrigation firm Jain Irrigation Systems is the sole company from the country named in Fortune magazine’s inaugural ‘Change the World‘ list of companies making significant progress in addressing major social problems as a part of their core business strategy.

Jain Irrigation ranks 7th on the list of 50 companies on Fortune’s new “Change the World list” that has been topped by UK-based Vodafone and Kenyan telecom Safaricom and includes Bangladesh-based Grameen Bank and Afghan telecom company Roshan.

In its profile of Jain Irrigation, Fortune said the company, headed by Anil Bhavarlal Jain, has built its business by improving the livelihoods of five million small farmers in India.

The Maharashtra-based company began selling micro-irrigation systems in 1986, when it recognised that the technology, commonly used in industrial agriculture, could be adapted for local growers, whose tiny landholdings were traditionally watered by rain or blunt flooding techniques.

Yields increased dramatically from 50 per cent to 300 per cent, depending on the plant along with farmers’ incomes. “Jain continues to boost both in other ways as well: It has introduced more-viable crop varieties and trained farmers on more productive growing techniques, such as high-density planting for mangoes,” Fortune said.

The company also branched into solar water pumps, financing and food processing – for the likes of Coca-Cola and Unilever, so that there is a ready market for these farmers’ wares. The company, the world’s second-largest seller of drip-irrigation systems with revenues of USD 990 million, now does business in 116 countries.

The list also includes global giants Google, Facebook, Toyota, Walmart, MasterCard, Novartis, Alibaba, IBM, Starbucks, Ikea and Nike. Fortune said the list is meant to “shine a spotlight on companies that have made significant progress in addressing major social problems as a part of their core business strategy.”

It is based on the belief that “capitalism should be not just tolerated but celebrated for its power to do good. At a time when governments are flailing, its powers are needed more than ever.” The list includes some of the “most thoughtful leaders” in the corporate and nonprofit realms, as well as a number of scholars who bring both perspective and insight to the public discourse on business.

On Grameen Bank founded by Muhammad Yunus, Fortune said the bank has demonstrated that “microcredit” could be self-sustaining and even profitable. Grameen has loaned USD 17.4 billion to 8.7 million borrowers since 1983, most of them impoverished women.

“Globally, micro-finance accounts for at least USD 60 billion in loans annually and has reached 135 million people, according to the World Bank, one reason Yunus’ accolades include the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize,” Fortune said.

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