Posts Tagged ‘people’

John Wood – A real inspiration

January 13, 2009

Karthik, one of my fellow fellows just forwarded me an interview with John Wood, the founder & CEO of Room to Read, an award winning international education  organization. John has the inspiring vision of providing educational access to 10 million children in the developing world.

In the interview John talks about  encouraging young social entrepreneurs he meets and ensuring that he does not point out flaws in their business models. John mentions how in the beginning of starting Room to Read, most people told him that his ideas would not work.  Though I have never met John personally, I was reminded of how he inspired me to continue in the social sector through his book.

I very clearly remember buying John‘s book, “Leaving Microsoft to Change the World” in 2006 from a bookshop in Kochi, India. I had never heard of John Wood before but a title that suggested that there was another person who had left the IT sector for the social sector was reassuring. At that point in time most people would easily present counter arguments to my ideas on the social sector and try and convince me that I couldn’t have sounded more dumb! The book was an inspiring read and apart from other lessons, what I clung to most was that if such a super smart guy can believe that he has done the right thing, there must be something right about my decision to be in the social sector too.

I urge you all to read the interview and his book, “Leaving Microsoft to Change the World

The people behind scenes

January 10, 2009

When I first read this article published yesterday on the DNA Bangalore newspaper I felt moved by Daniel’s story of resilience. Then my thoughts drifted to another character in the story, Dr. Belaku Chandu[1] from AyurVAID: Hospitals. The reason why I found myself thinking of Dr. Belaku is because the article reminded me of her reaction one of those days that Daniel heard the sound of the fire crackers.

I was sitting in the hospital’s kitchen having dinner with the staff and doctors when the noise of the firecrackers filtered the hospital building. Dr. Belaku immediately stopped eating her food, she rose from the table and went in to the hallway. She stopped for a few minutes as if waiting for something to happen and then disappeared into the first floor. Then I heard laughter.

When Dr. Belaku came back to the kitchen and I asked her what was that all about she told me Daniel’s story and how the noise of the firecrackers had affected her in the past few days. With a smile in her face she said, “The first day Daniel was very scared by the noise. She thought it was the noise of shotguns and her nerves started to jerk again. The second day she was just startled and dropped her food tray. Today, she recognized the noise and she just laughed!” She was paying attention to Daniel’s progress day and night.

Dr. Belaku’s story exemplifies the type of personal and organizational commitment that makes a social enterprise thrive. Everyday I spend at AyurVAID: Hospitals I am in awe of how devoted the caregivers and doctors are to the patients and to the organizational mission. Every single one of them believes in the healing powers of Ayurveda for treating chronic illnesses and is committed to AyurVAID: Hospitals’ mission of taking classical Kerala Ayurveda to as many people as possible in India and around the world by offering affordable, high quality services.

This article also highlighted for me the positive ripple effect of investing in a social enterprise. Acumen Fund’s investment in AyurVAID: Hospitals operation’s in India is helping reach people in Africa! Although Daniel may not belong to the low income class at the BOP that Acumen is trying to reach, there is no doubt that she was a person in need of physical and spiritual help, and that her courage in sharing her story of improvement through Ayurveda provided in the AyurVAID: way, will help this team of committed doctors and entrepreneurs communicate to all its promise to solving society’s health needs.

[1] Her name was misspelled in the article.

Say the secret code

March 3, 2008

I’m in a convenience store in a small town south of Chennai and I meet this guy, Kannan, who runs it.  Never seen this guy in my life.  He’s a congenial kind of fellow: Big smile, straight-talking, laid-back.  I had bought a bottle of water from him a few hours back and he mentioned he could help me rent a moped if I wanted one.  So I had thought about it and came back to ask about it… can you help me find a moped?  “Everything is possible,” he says.  Little did he know, these are the code words into my secret society.  On hearing this, I extend my hand to shake his and ask if I can sit a spell.  Forget about the moped ride – this is the kind of person I want to spend more time with.  Turns out, he’s 25.  He makes 2000 rupees a month ($50) working 30 days out of 31.  He grew up living on the streets of Madurai in Tamil Nadu.  He has apparently mastered the English language with no formal training.  His father is dead and was only good for drinking and making babies anyway.  His mother doesn’t work and needs to go to the hospital for a nerve problem every few days.  They have no assets, no way to save and no insurance.  His sister who lives in a big house in Kerala won’t help out.  His uncle who gave a damn is now in the sky.  And yet, after all this, Kannan still has the optimism to smile and say “everything is possible”.

He previously had his own shop (a sculpture gallery) but some Kashmiris came and offered his landlord an irresistible sum of money for the space.  I guess that’s what’s happening all around – The price of real estate is skyrocketing and forcing people out of prime areas. 

The boss man comes into the store, needing drinks for his upcoming card game.  He points out a few things with the inventory, gives his daughters some candy and leaves.  Meanwhile, Kannan is stuck in the store everyday, treading water, waiting for the day when he can re-open his own store.  He’s clearly a highly capable person.  But can he make the leap with only one day a month to think about it and a mother to care for at home?