My Encounters with Interesting People in 2011
(A thought or learning they shared)

Rahul Bose (at a Leadership Lecture)

I have written a post about this lecture. Besides the main point, an insight that Rahul shared from his social (NGO) experience was that unlike the for-profit sector where one tends to be very optimistic in planning, here one needs to exercise caution when making promises – under promise and over deliver. This is crucial as a lot of hopes and emotions are riding on those promises and not meeting them can be morale dampening.

Prahlad Kakkar (as part of a Creativity Workshop)

Typical corporate management is filled with “No-men” and not “Yes-men”.  Saying NO to new and unproven ideas is the easiest thing to do. You can always save your skin and cite some past data to justify your decision. But Saying “Yes” involves undertaking a huge responsibility – to give the the unproven a chance, to persuade others, to stand up and work for its success, and more importantly bounce back if it does not work. Who wants to do all this when you can keep your job by saying NO?

Karthee Madasamy (MD, Qualcomm Ventures Asia)

In the developed world, the split between data and voice on mobile is equal. While in India, less than 10% of the traffic is data and if you remove SMS, it’s less than 1%. Why has data not taken off? The real question we need to ask – where is the compelling application to make data traffic take off in India? The arrival of 3G will not mean much unless we have those compelling use cases.

Vishal Talreja (Ashoka Fellow, at Ashoka Open House)

The social sector is no different from a a new market opportunity. It requires innovation and marketing as much as the corporate sector if not more. Moving to this sector to set up Dream a Dream (an NGO) was fundamentally an entrepreneurial decision for him.

One interesting debate at the Open House was whether social workers and social entrepreneurs should feel special, or be idolized for taking this path. How is their contribution to society different from that of a sweeper or a nurse? We don’t praise nurses and sweepers when they do their jobs. Vishal’s answer was simple – we should. Why not feel proud and good about this path? We need to create that space and build a sensitive community that lets the sweeper feel special too.

Varsha Avadhany, CSR Manager, Fidelity Services (at the NSEF idea meetup)

I was introduced to sustainability reports at this talk. I had never looked into these before and Varsha pointed out that no on pays attention to these either; they get dwarfed by the more important financial reports.

In her view, social entrepreneurship requires a high degree of leadership qualities. You need to understand the systems you work with and manage several conflicts. Moreover those who work in the social sector have a high emotional attachment to their proposals and ideas, and everyone thinks that they know the best way to “educate a slum child”. How do you manage these ideas and egos and still execute coherently? That’s the key responsibility of a social entrepreneur.

Mr. Ashish Kumar Sahu, Chief Operating Officer, SELCO

  • Simple definition of a social enterprise:  N (number of members in the social community targeted) x $D (Amount of the money each makes/saves because of your enterprise) > $P (Profit you make)
  • BoP needs services based companies more than product driven.
  • The trouble with MFIs is that most of them are giving loans to people who already have a loan from another MFI. Just pay off one loan with another. How is this helping the community become financially independent?
  • SELCO made a very bold and brave decision to raise money from non-profit institutions even though they had to wait many years. They did not want to compromise on their mission.
  • A funny story he shared about how the Indian media is eyeballs driven with no real reporting. “Every reporter who calls us wants to visit a poor man’s house with no access to electricity but located within one hour of the Bangalore International Airport”. The irony is that there are such villages.

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