Sunday, 13 March 2011

Floating down the Bay of Bengal - Tamil Nadu, India

Auroville is a mystical wonderland. A township, a commune...paradise.

A design firm gone social.

Tsunamika - After the 2004 Tsunami wiped out villages along the coast of Pondicherry, Upasana decided to engage local fisher women in doll making. Tsunamika dolls are not sold - anyone can pick some up and donate whatever they like. All dolls are made from scrap materials.

While at Upasana, we met an intern who is collaborating with the company to design fashionable cloth sanitary napkins!

Earthen Architecture company. Focused on 'e-blocks' - compressed earthen 'bricks' for sustainable architecture.
GULF OF MANNAR - directly across from Sri Lanka. Georgeous, blue sea, lined with fishing villages.

Dedicated to improving the lives of communities along the Gulf of Mannar - fisher folk and palm tappers - through participatory strategies.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

A Small Dose of Orissa

Sunrise on the Chilka - Largest lagoon in Asia

Rural Development Institute(RDI), based in Seattle, is changing access to and ownership over land all over the world. Their work is remarkable. These women now have joint titles with their husbands to homestead plots.

Vermicompost and mushroom cultivation
These women rent a man-made lake in their village for fishing.

A large contingent of the people in Orissa are tribal.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

India Institute of Management, Ahmedabad

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

My Latest Online Publications

Interview with Rural Development Institute (Seattle, USA) CEO, Tim Hanstad
(also on the front page of RDI's website:

Best Practices in Public Service Delivery

MGNREGA - Rajasthan, India (our own innovation pilot - I will be presenting my strategic management version of this paper at the IIMA conference in December)

PROOF - Bangalore, Karnataka India

Jaankari - Patna, Bihar, India

Sulekha - Trivandrum, Kerala, India

Naandi (I edited this paper) - Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India

Friday, 19 November 2010

OneWorld Tour Continues...


Sapna is a research associate on our team. Here she is eating cotton candy on Juhu beach. This is probably the best samosa chaat I have ever had!

Watermelon juice:) Yes, that is a a taxi.

Slumdog Millionaire? Yep, this is Dharavi...biggest slum in Asia.

We traveled three and half hours outside Pune to an advasi (tribal) village to observe how geomapping tools were being used to demarcate tribal land and claim it for their rightful owners.

Monday, 15 November 2010

INDIA Favorites List... Thus Far
(in no particular order because that would be too hard)
  1. Malabari parantha - Gunpowder, Hauz Khas Village, Delhi
  2. Dharavi slum & adivasi village in Amhmednagar - Bombay and Pune
  3. Coconut factory and banana plantation - Trivandrum, Kerala
  4. NREGA worksites/kiosks - Suwana Panchayat, Bhilwara Rajasthan
  5. Researching PROOF - campaign to public financial transparency - Bangalore, Karnataka
  6. Mere Jaiji ki muskhurahat
  7. Naandi kitchen and school visit - Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh
  8. Seema mamiji ka khana
  9. Mountaintop, overlooking Pakistan and Himalayas - Gulmarg, Kashmir
  10. Kuki ki shaadi
  11. Horse ride to glacier - Sonamarg, Kashmir
  12. Hari and Sukhmani - Lodhi Garden, Delhi
  13. Paan flavored nargila...bombay beachside
  14. Masala butha
  15. Qutab Minar view from OneWorld terrace
  16. Samosa chaat - Cafe Vihar, Bombay
  17. Gangtok jungle, misted mountainside
  18. Avni ki hassi
  19. Sikkimese beer
  20. Baang filled Holi
  21. Halloween auto rickshaw team
  22. Jantar Mantar
  23. Agrasen Ki Baoli
  24. First diwali dias on Delhi balcony

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Corporate NGO – an oxymoron or genius?

In September, I travelled to Hyderabad, one of the largest cities in South India and home to the delicious dish, Biryani. It was my first time to the city and my first time in charge of the field research trips that I have been continually taking for the purposes of documenting good governance practices. This time, my colleague and I were looking at three initiatives – one was a government-led online scholarship programme for religious minorities; the second, was a two-way virtual communication programme through which health, education, agriculture and livelihood services are delivered to rural areas; the last was the expected and well-deserved favorite – a kitchen system by which midday meals are delivered to children enrolled in government schools.

At 6am we arrived at the Naandi kitchen in Uppal, Andhra Pradesh. Right away I knew we had stepped into something great. Kitchen staff was working away cooking rice, curry, idlis and eggs. We were taken around the premises and fed the food and explained the entire processes of the kitchen. It left a lasting impression on me. In particular, the remarkably good hygiene stunned me – if you have ever visited India, you can understand why.

In between a visit to a school to witness the delivery and intake of the meals by the students and interviews with involved government officials and Naandi operations managers, I skimmed over some secondary documents that our research team had gathered prior to leaving for Hyderabad. I came across something that immediately made my mind go wild – Naandi was setup by a coalition of corporate heads who now sit as advisors on the board for the NGO.

So I sat there thinking, wow…an NGO, not a PPP (public-private partnership), but a board of advisors from prominent corporations across the state. What a brilliant idea! Almost certainly not the first model of its kind, but a revolutionary one in mind…in this context. Why? India has a long history of a corrupt, exploitive private sector. This, in combination with a fear of ‘being American’ and a belief that privatization simply means an overwhelming amount of benefits for the rich, the Indian masses are extremely weary of privatization and the private sector. However, today, across the globe, it a commonly understood that corporate sector involvement in public service delivery can be beneficial in a number of ways. Most relevant in this case are the financial and organizational/intellectual capacities of the private sector.

I have a business and development background. One side turns out corporate sector workers, the other public and third sector (for the most part). As I reflect on the time I have spent working at OneWorld (NGO) in Delhi, I have become increasingly aware of the relevance and significance of business skills; for instance, how to use Microsoft products J But since I am learning for the first time in my career how to be a manager, this is where I can honestly say that the things I have learned from the private sector are invaluable and in my opinion, likely the missing element in many NGOs. So in a place like India, the Naandi model is extremely promising and perhaps, the necessary transitionary structure into the near future.