Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Disruptive Innovation

Apologies for including a jargon here; but Disruptive Innovation(DI) has always interested me. What is DI and why is it on this blog.

DI is the act of innovating which disrupts/stops the current of way of doing things and introduces a radically new way of doing the same things - for the better. It differs from Incremental Innovation (II)as II aims to bring about continuous and small changes to the existing setup without requiring drastic changes. An example could be. Designing faster trains is Incremental Innovation whereas going from trains to airplanes is Disruptive Innovation.

Why is this discussion here? Most of the problems, that we talk about, facing our society are part of a vicious circle and are intertwined with other equally trying problems. Incremental Innovation may fail to make much headway in this case. Disruptive Innovation would seek to break the vicious circle and proceed.

E.g. Incremental Innovation would seek to increase the size of classrooms every year to accommodate more children. Disruptive Innovation to change the way children learn. Maybe, it will come up with something like internet/satellite based learning which will not require the children to be in classroom to learn. They can learn while they are working or when they are at home. Thus drastically reducing the costs in terms of energy, time and of course, money.

Main reason why this discussion is here.
This initiative seeks to make lenders out of ordinary people and that too at a starting amount of Rs 1000 and their multiples. This money is then channeled to the the borrower. Among other things, it achieves a lower operating cost by using the internet as a medium (it does not do away with the traditional person-to-person interaction), it allows ordinary people to lend any amount that they are capable of lending(of course with a minimum amount which is not prohibitive), it provides reliable avenues for the borrower to borrow. A win-win situation I would say.

I remember reading about such an initiative in one of the Stanford KnowledgeBase mails and fished this link out. Find the site of Kiva here and read the article on Stanford KnowledgeBase.

During the course of my search for related information, I also came across dhanaX. It seems to be on the same lines as RangDe and Kiva. I do not want to speculate more on which is older, RangDe or dhanaX as I do not find it important.

The above discussion was mainly about micro finance lending institutions. I am sure disruptive innovations already happening or waiting to happen in other fields.

One size fits all will not work

Henry Ford created history and employment when he pioneered the assembly plant. When all cars of a particular marquee were the same, they can be made using an assembly plant. Path-breaking without doubt, this concept of production has entered into many realms which are better off without it.

Education is one such area. Umpteen articles have been written about how each child is different and needs to be dealt with differently. What set me to write this post was this article "
Unwilling learners pose special problems". (Read the articles listed under the "Related Articles" section too)

Education in itself poses a lot of questions. A few of them, dealing with the purpose of education in general:

1. What is the purpose of education?
2. How do you define education in light of the answer to the above question?

Coming to the point of the less privileged "street" children.

1. How will education change their lives?
2. Based on the answer to the above question - Is education really required for street children who are already earning or do not want to study?

Most, if not all, children brought up in a normal family environment - By normal I mean where kids start schooling at the right age, they mix with kids of their own ilk, are constantly reminded about the need for better marks - do not develop a hatred-to-the-extent-of-dropping towards studies. Peer pressure and constant indoctrination play a big role. They are sedated so heavily with the rote of "Studies are important" that they seldom think about "Why are studies important".

The other children - street children, as has been said in the article - become independent at an early age. Independent thinking, though, does not necessarily result in correct or insightful decisions. It is in their cases that one has to rub in the importance, more importantly - the necessity of education.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Here is "one" for Standard of Living

Hyderabad a very "liberal" attitude when it comes to answering natures calls. Almost everyone seems to think "As long as it is out of your body, it doesn't matter where it goes" :).

Aishwarya and I stay in an apartment adjoining a stream of sewage. Right on the main road, is a long compound wall and a relatively well constructed pavement. These are very attractive places for the "Filled-up and the Restless" :) to relieve themselves. There is also a constructed and decently maintained Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation's (GHMC) public toilet. They have strategically constructed such toilets at various locations in Hyderabad close to such places that are used as public toilet. However, the GHMC toilets are clearly not used properly. I think it is because of the one-rupee that is charged for use. Now this is a problem statement. The solution to conceive a way by which the use of this (or any public) toilet can be enforced.
  1. Aish and Shabnam (or anyone who visited hyderabad), do you think the cause the one-rupee charge?
  2. If, so, is that the only cause?
The questions that remain to be answered is
1. Should we take this up as a task?
2. Whether we do or do not, it is probably still worth investing some time for suggestions. Do you have any suggestions?

On my part, since I feel the money is the problem here, we (or the org. concerned) can create a public fund (whatever that means!) of one rupee coins and allow (meaning persuade) "the Filled-up and the Restless" to use money from the fund for the toilet instead. That is the theory. I do understand practical considerations.
  • How to collect the money?
  • How to safe-guard and disburse the money (vending machine?)
  • How to advertise the fund and advertise against the use of compound wall or sewage.
But before all that
  1. Do you have any alternative/better/easier/more sensible ideas?
  2. If not at least do you think that this idea can be modified/improved?
Please try to answer the numbered questions (and not the bulleted ones!). While trying to answer the question, please keep in mind that the idea may have to be implemented at different places in Hyderabad and elsewhere. This may be a farsighted consideration, but I think it is important nevertheless!

I think this is directly related to Standard of Living, though the benefits can not be easily with the naked eye (intangible!)

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Conversation with Mr. Raghuraman

Met Mr. Raghuraman K. (Head – L&D, OD & Corporate Communications of DRF) on 1st April 2008. Few of my inferences listed below, after our conversation:

1. The last batch of LAB school was at Abids, which got completed. Also got a clarity that they target the BPL group who are incapable of earning a livelihood.

2. There are currently no LAB schools in the city. Mostly because they are not getting enough aspirants.

3. Also, we were discussing on how do you trust people if they are below poverty line since; it’s easy for anyone to trick and prove that they are BPL and avail the benefits. Ironically these days, whether they can afford a square meal or not, they must possess a cell phone. Priorities in life have changed for them in the urban area. He cleared that they have to believe them through the word of mouth unlike the government which checks on the credentials through income certificates etc.

4. The focus of DRF is shifted from LABS to rural livelihood programmes to decrease migration and inculcate more opportunities in the rural area. This would help in a way to provide ample opportunities in rural area and help the families there; not get separated from their children especially boys who move out to cities in search of lucrative offers leaving them deserted and distressed. (*Quite a thoughtful point I must say).

5. There’s an Integrated Livelihood Programme called ILP run by DRF which is of a similar objective to Anand Bharati that he brought to my notice.

6. He also said he would introduce me to Ms. Mridula someone who is heading the ILP department so that we can pay a visit to one of the schools sometime and get an experience.

7. Apart from this he said we can visit their primary English medium schools called Pudami too which are built in the slum areas for again the weaker sections.

8. Last week of April with DRF, as head of the committee there’s an NGO meet and Conference for the abilities Mela, which is being conducted at the IAS Officers’. ( I remember last year I had visited one of this and that’s where I met Subba Rao, from Satyam Foundation). We can be a part of this Mela too, some kind of volunteering activity that we may expect out of this. The nature can be discussed later.