On a warm Friday afternoon in the slums of Madhukam, in the heart of Ranchi, India, a middle-aged man arrived at a public water station with two 20-liter containers to fill. The water station - directly adjacent to an open sewage drain - was really just a concerete wall with four pink spigots protruding from its barren surface. On top perched two large, seemingly empty holding tanks of water. The man placed one of his containers under the first spigot and turned the handle. A small flow of water came out. Within a minute, the flow turned into a trickle, and the trickle quickly became nothing. The man moved to the next spigot, and then the next, only to have all four repeat the same pattern. In the end, the man left carrying only six ounces of water in his two 20-liter containers.
Healthcare has become one of India’s largest sectors – both in terms of revenue and employment. Although the country’s healthcare industry is projected to continue its rapid expansion, with an estimated market value of US $280 billion by 2020, increased population growth in India’s low-income communities has resulted in a lack of affordable and easily accessible quality healthcare for millions of people.
As a comparison China has 30 hospital beds every 10,000 people, whereas India has only 12. The figures are even more alarming for nurses. In the United States there are 98 nurses per 10,000 people and in India there are only 13.
Despite government efforts to improve widespread access to quality healthcare, India’s existing infrastructure continues to be insufficient resulting in limited treatment options, especially for low-income families.
Recognizing the need for innovation within healthcare, in 2012, Ennovent, a business accelerator, partnered with the University Impact Fund, one of the world’s first student driven impact-investing firms, to research the opportunities available for entrepreneurs, investors, mentors and experts to add value to the Indian healthcare industry.
THE WORLD BANK 2013 INDIA DEVELOPMENT MARKETPLACE COMPETITIVE GRANT
With a grant pledge of USD 1 million, the 2013 India Development Marketplace (India DM) seeks to build on the work it has done in supporting social enterprises in India so far. This World Bank initiative aims to surface high-impact social development solutions that have demonstrated initial outcomes and provide catalytic support in helping to scale their work further.
Applying a multi-layer approach, the DM meets this objective first by providing crucial funding to back these projects (USD 50,000 to USD 100,000 per project funded) and then by enabling necessary technical assistance (through an empaneled group of local and regional firms & experts) to help organizations effectively address challenges of scale.
Launched on January 21st of this year, the 2013 India DM focused on 3 low-income states of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh. The call for proposal invited all social sector organizations (for-profit and non-profit entities) seeking to scale projects in these states, to apply for the grant. Over 190 project proposals have been received from across India in response to the call for proposal, within the stipulated timeline of 30 days, while the call was open.
The Tata Group, in partnership with the Indian Institute of Management Calcutta (IIMC),has launched the ‘Tata Social Enterprise Challenge’, a quest to find India’s most promising social enterprises. The goal of the challenge is to create an ecosystem for social entrepreneurship and encourage sustainable, scalable and measurable social impact. Selected social entrepreneurs will be offered mentorship support, funding opportunities and an opportunity to be incubated at IIM Calcutta’s Incubation Centre
Teams who either have an early stage venture (not older than 3 years) or a promising idea with a plan that can create sustainable social impact can submit their business plans online by logging onto http://www.tatasechallenge.org.
On August 23th, in Santa Clara, California, I attended business plan presentations of 19 competitively selected social entrepreneurs, who delivered their pitches to a panel of experienced professionals plus a general audience. These presentations marked the culmination of the 10th annual Global Social Benefit Incubator (GSBI™) program organized by Santa Clara University. The Development Marketplace has been one of its partners since its beginning. The program includes intensive work by each entrepreneur with two to three designated mentors, and a series of on-campus classes. Its main objective is to strengthen material that each entrepreneur already has available, refine their business models and develop professional organizational documentation that can be presented to attract investors.
In light of its increasing mandate to address undernutrition in South Asia, the World Bank, with its partners, held a South Asia Regional Development Marketplace (SAR DM) on Nutrition under the theme: “Family and Community Approaches to Improve Infant and Young Child Nutrition.”
The SAR DM on Nutrition supported the testing of innovative ideas across South Asia to deliver improved nutrition services to pregnant and lactating women and children under two.
The India DM is focused on identifying Inclusive Business Models that can scale impact in the States of Bihar, Rajasthan and Orissa. Inclusive business models are those offering goods/ services and contributing to income generation of the poor in financially sustainable and scalable ways. They productively integrate those living at the base of the economic pyramid into their value chains as consumers, producers and/or distributors.
Having traveled to both East Africa and India over the past several weeks, I’ve been reflecting on what ‘innovation’ means in different contexts. It’s easy to get caught in a technology-centric worldview in places like Bangalore and even Nairobi these days. But when I get past the superficial stories and dig a bit deeper, I realize that impactful innovation is less about shiny tools and technology and more about ‘listening to users’ and transforming social processes to solve problems that matter to people.
My walk through a Delhi slum comes immediately to mind. While there I visited Operation Asha, a 2011 India Development Marketplace winner that is working to arrest the spread of tuberculosis (TB). India is one of the only countries in the world where the rate of infection is growing despite the falling incidence of the disease globally. The previous day, I sat with colleagues from Microsoft Research in Bangalore who explained the simple but critical advances they had made in writing open-source software to verify the identity of patients visiting clinics, aggregating data on missed doses, and using text messages to increase compliance.
It is estimated that every Indian consumes approximately 8 kgs of plastic a year. If even 20% of the total plastic consumed gets into the waste cycle, that equals over a billion kilograms of plastic waste that will be generated in India just this year alone. The per capita figure usage has gone up from 4 Kgs per Indian in 2006 and is expected to grow to 25 Kgs of plastic used by every Indian per year by 2020. Imagine how much plastic waste we will be dealing with by 2020? Seriously alarming. Remember the film Wall E? *sigh*..
The United Nation’s Environment Program published an excellent study about Converting Waste Plastics into a Resource. Describing the pathways for Waste Plastic, the report traces most routes, which invaribly lead to a dumping site or a land fill.
If India alone is producing over a billion kilograms of plastic waste each year – the global figures are huge. While the world tries to figure out how to use less plastic – an equally important focus for Innovation will need to be: What to do with all the plastic that is already in the dumping grounds?