Ahmedabad: It was around 15 years ago that Rajendra Joshi, Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship winner for this year, woke up to the power of social entrepreneurship.
Joshi’s NGO had been working on an Integrated Slum Development project in Ahmedabad since 1989, and that year, it tied up with the city municipal corporation to provide basic infrastructure — water, drainage, sewerage — to seven slums.
The slum-dwellers would pay Rs 2,000,a one-time fee, and in exchange the municipality would give a guarantee that it would not evict them.
In no time, 5,000 families had come on board.
“For me, that was an indication that the urban poor could be viewed as a market. What NGOs and the government sector needed to do was take the private sector approach. Innovations will come if there is money to be made,” says Joshi who is one of three winners of the Schwab Foundation.
It’s a lesson that Joshi has applied to Umeed-Udaan, the training programme in data-entry, hospitality, retail, spoken English, computers and other technical skills that Saath has been running in the slums of eight cities in Gujarat and Rajasthan.
In just four years, 15,403 youth, one-third of them female, have been placed, with eighty per cent of them in companies such as ICICI Bank, Vodaphone, and Reliance Fresh.
Joshi is now looking for an angel investor who will allow him to scale up Saath’s Urmila project. This is for the women from slums, who are trained to be ‘home managers’ and then be placed in households. Joshi says he hopes to take this to other metro cities.
Also in the works is a hand-held solar light for vegetable vendors, which will save them the Rs 10 they pay everyday to recharge their batteries.