“There’s a way to combine the very best of the not-for-profit, philanthropic world with the very best of the for-profit, enterprising world. This hybrid is the wave of the future for both profit and nonprofit companies.”
– An interview with Bill Strickland, CEO of the Manchester Craftsmen’s
Guild and the Bidwell Training Center Inc., from “Genius At Work”
I planned on staying a year. It has been nearly three.
My reason for staying is rooted in my Fellowship year and rooted in the concept of bringing the for-profit and not-for-profit world together. I was located in the Naickaneri Hills, in Tamil Nadu’s Vellore District. My original project was to work on nutrition seminars in a small, mountain-top, Adivasi community. But, as often happens in India, things didn’t pan out as planned and I ended up spending most of my time working with a local potter to design and distribute pot-in-pots (PIPs). PIPs are rural refrigerators created by placing one clay pot inside another with sand and water filling the gap in between. With this device powered by the crumbs of the Earth, the villagers were able to keep their fruits and vegetables fresh for longer periods of time, thus improving their health and nutrition. Even better, the PIPs were so affordable that villagers paid for the technology and didn’t need a subsidy.
It was a great example of the private sector having a social impact. Thus, my interest in leveraging companies to do social good was born.
After my Fellowship, I wanted to do more in India. Gagan Rana (January 2007), along with colleagues Shrot Katewa and Alim Haji, founded and incubated Source for Change (SFC) during his time at the Grassroots Development Laboratory (GDL). He asked me to join the SFC team. The all-women, rural business process outsourcing (BPO) company addresses social and business needs. For our clients, we provide a quality product at a competitive price. At the same time, our all-female staff gains technology skills and employment in an industry that might otherwise overlook them. Source for Change has been able to prove that twenty-five women from traditionally conservative Rajasthani communities can learn how to use computers and earn an IT-based livelihood.
The last year and a half have pushed me to consider how I wish to imbibe Indicorps in my daily life as there have always been Fellows around to push me into thinking what it all truly means. Although I learned a great deal from Indicorps, I have perhaps grown more from what has come since. The hardest has been learning (at least a little bit) how to put my ego aside in order to work with others more easily. I still have a long way to go in terms of personal and leadership growth, but my responsibilities at SFC have forced me to realize that things are rarely about me. The more that I realize this, the more effective I become.
Selfless leadership is a life lesson that is often misconstrued. During Indicorps, I narrowly defined it as being willing to volunteer and serve the poorest of the poor. Since then, I have realized its meaning is as simple as working toward an objective and not for one’s own personal gain. This has proven to be immensely difficult to live. My life in India post-Indicorps has been a time for me to more fully realize this.
Karthik Raman, January 2007 Fellow