Challenge for Indian Industry

DECCAN CHRONICLE. | NORMAN BODEK
Published Feb 29, 2016, 5:36 am IST
Updated Feb 29, 2016, 5:36 am IST
Ashoke suggests a corporation dedicate just two or three people to learn from SST exactly what and how to work with these villages.
Members of women SHG make Chappatis’ at a unit.
 Members of women SHG make Chappatis’ at a unit.

I believe that if only 100 Indian corporations adopted the SST model, in one decade, poverty could be virtually eliminated from India.  Japan has done it.  China is very close.  And now India, the fastest growing nation in the world, can do the same or even better.  

A year ago, I met Venu Srinivasan, chairman of TVS Motor, at a conference in Japan. He recognized me immediately.  We were associated for over 30 years earlier.  It took him only 10 minutes to invite me to Bengaluru to visit a non-profit village project he started years ago to address India’s poverty. 

Slowly, over the last 19 years, SST, a non-profit organization, has perfected a process to get impoverished people to become partners, not dependents, to uplift themselves out of poverty.  During this period, over 2.1 million people in 3,500 villages have risen to a new standard of life.  

Ashoke Joshi, the head of SST, feels his capacity is to be able to work within 5,000 villages.  To expand to all of India now requires other corporate leaders to adopt their model and make it their own.  SST will teach other corporations how to take their proven model, and quickly transform Indian villages out of poverty.

Ashoke suggests a corporation dedicate just two or three people to learn from SST exactly what and how to work with these villages.  It really requires very little money.  These new people will spend a short period of time with SST’s staff to learn exactly what steps to take to work with a new village.  It took many years to perfect the model but it works very well today and can be easily adapted by others.

India has close to 300 million people living below the poverty line. Over 600 million people do not have toilet facilities.  This has to change and the ability to change quickly is now possible. 

Some of SST’s accomplishments: 28,362 self-help group’s members improved on the average over Rs 3,000 per month and their savings are over Rs 41.76 crore, 90,604 farmers are getting yields above the state average; Maternal Mortality Rate in SST villages are 7.3 per lakh live births compared to the India figure of 178 per lakh live births; Infant Mortality Rate is 0.15 per thousand live births as compared to the India figure of 38; Number of malnourished children in SST villages are 4.16 per cent compared with the Indian figure of 29 per cent; Literacy level of adult women improved to 88 per cent from the Indian average of 66 per cent; Number of trees planted in SST villages is 17.74,000 and perhaps the largest women empowerment and transformation programme in the
country.

The results have been inspiring but to spread further in India, help is needed from other corporations. The question, of course, is, “Why should a corporation want to be involved in such a non-profit venture?  The advantages for Indian Industry from such a programme include more people in the villages with new purchasing power that benefits corporates in the long-term, more people involved in income generation betters overall GDP growth rate, and this is a chance for India to grow and become a vital part of the world community.

SST has developed a working model to share it free with all Indian corporations.
On my last visit to India in December 2015, I visited four villages.  At one village, which was below the poverty level six years ago, SST was invited to work with them. Today every house was made of cement, colorfully painted, all with toilets and running water, TV’s, and refrigerators. 

At one house I visited, I saw two motorcycles, an automobile and even two cows. It was wonderful, but the cows would be a rare phenomenon in America.  Also, interestingly, there were two sparrow nests to encourage the expansion of the bird community.

I was so impressed what people are capable of doing when the spirit of self-reliance is opened within them.  SST sends in a small team into a village, meets with the village leaders and encourages a group of women to join in learning what can be done.

The women are gathered into teams of around 15 people. These new self-help groups, with most living below the poverty level, are encouraged to open a bank account and donate a small amount each week, may be just `15. As the funds grow they become available for helping some of the women to start a new income-generating project. 

They borrow, pay a small interest and everyone seems to have been able to repay the loan from their future earnings, like the one I saw in a village where a women SHG ran a small factory making ‘chappattis’, which sold well in the local community.

I hope that this short article will inspire senior executives of Indian companies to see in this a huge opportunity, and each set up a small test project to replicate SST’s model. I hope as I learn more and see further success in India, I will be able to even share this in America. For more information contact Ashoke Joshi at ashoke.joshi43@gmail. com.

(The writer is past president of Productivity Inc, publisher of over 250 management books, and lifelong student of Indian’s great meditation masters. He can be contacted at bodek@pcspress.com)





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