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Changemakers committed to cause

A rickshaw bank, rural skill centres, small education loans and midday meals for schoolchildren — social entrepreneurs discussed ways to bring about change, with focus on eastern India.

The Calcutta Management Summit 2014 & 14th Sir Jehangir Ghandy Memorial Oration presented by Calcutta Management Association (CMA), in association with The Telegraph, at Williamson Magor Hall on Monday saw the participants discuss work ethics, logistics and work culture in eastern India with respect to their work as part of a panel discussion on Providing Access for Sustainable Development-Role of Social Entrepreneurship.

Dipak Basu, the CEO of Anudip Foundation that has a chain of 150 rural and semi-urban skill development centres in four eastern states, admitted work ethic is “very difficult” in eastern Indian but added that he had taken up the challenge “by choice”.

There are two options, explained Basu, “either try to change the system or try to work within the system. We have chosen to work within the system”.

For Akshaya Patra Foundation, which operates midday meal kitchens in Odisha and Guwahati, it is a “difficult terrain” as far as logistics is concerned.

“We serve about 500 schools in Guwahati but we have to travel about 2,000km to reach them. In comparison, we can serve 500 schools across 1,000km in Bangalore,” said Vinay N. Kumar, the general manager (operations) of the foundation.

“What about Bengal and Bihar?” asked moderator C. Shambu Prasad, professor, rural management and development and strategic management, Xavier Institute of Management, Bhubaneswar.

“We go by the invitation of state governments. Unless we have a clear mandate from the state and patrons in the area, it wouldn’t be possible to sustain ourselves,” Kumar said.

Sangeeta Jalan, manager of corporate communications and co-ordinator for the CSR initiative of the Infinity group, which is behind the Anant Education Initiative in Bengal, said social entrepreneurship can be started anywhere. “There are social entrepreneurs even at the village level where they are doing very good work for the community irrespective of financial backing or advertising or publicity or lack of experienced people working for them,” she said.

Pradip Kumar Sarmah, the founder of Rickshaw Bank and executive director of Centre for Rural Development, explained social entrepreneurship is different from a business entrepreneurship.

“Social entrepreneurship is really born out of an idea that is based on looking upon the social need at that time…. When I started he Rickshaw Bank I didn’t know anything about finance. Everything was based on the needs of the people and we designed and developed the project according to their convenience,” he said.

Chandra Shekhar Ghosh, the chairman and managing director of Bandhan, delivered the valedictory address on Business and Society — Building a Sustainable Future.

“In Bengal, the dropout rate of children up to Class V is 45 per cent. Ninety per cent of children depend on private tuition… We have 600 schools and after three years students have been admitted to government schools,” said Ghosh, whose bank has introduced an education loan of Rs 5,000 to help parents of students from economically backward families to pay tuition fee and buy textbooks.

S. Parasuraman, the director of Tata Institute of Social Sciences, delivered the Sir Jehangir Ghandy Memorial Oration.