Companies Work to Employ India’s Poor: Business Call to Action announces New Initiatives during G20 Inclusive Business Workshop in Mumbai

Apr 16, 2013

New York/Mumbai — Three companies have made new commitments to help thousands of low-income people in rural India improve their livelihoods, health and environment through the Business Call to Action (BCtA), an anti-poverty initiative backed by the UN Development Programme (UNDP).

“By thinking differently about how to meet basic needs, companies are realizing the added value of incorporating in the value chain under-served populations who could ultimately become key stakeholders in alleviating poverty,” BCtA Programme Manager, Sahba Sobhani, said.

“Business Call to Action is pleased to once again highlight unique models of inclusive business, especially as the private sector envisions new market-based approaches.” 

Three innovative companies— Aravind Eye Care Systems, Waste Capital Partners, Shree Kamdhenu Electronics —are working through the BCtA platform to generate new opportunities by providing key supply and distribution channels in their respective regions of India.

Low-cost eye care 

Some 30 percent of India’s population needs eye care while 80 percent of vision loss is believed to be preventable. 

Aravind Eye Care System, the country’s largest provider of ophthalmological services, has committed to train 750 healthcare workers through a new on-line system with the aim of increasing the number of eye surgeries from 350,000 to 500,000 yearly by 2016 and to 1 million by 2020.  In addition to basic eye care and preventative treatment, Aravind, is a leading company in providing cataract, glaucoma and retinal surgeries. 

Aravind trains Mid-Level Ophthalmic Professionals (MLOP’s) to make ophthalmologists more productive. The company expects to recruit and train 650 women from rural communities, after which they can be certified as MLOP’s.  All of the systems are oriented towards enabling the doctors to reach as many patients and ensure support through a well-trained paramedical staff.  In addition, community outreach programs are central to Aravind’s mission, since most of the blind are often living in remote, rural areas. The company’s all-women teams of professionals are a key component of its workforce. 

“The training platform offers a way for our company to efficiently scale up training capacity while standardizing the learning process,” the company’s Administrator, Dr. S. Aravind, said. “By providing training opportunities, we will be able to expand our reach and optimize resources.” 

Waste management 

In India, rural and urban areas produce significant levels of waste and hazardous materials, with only an estimated 50 percent properly collected in accordance with health and safety standards—leading increasingly to vector-borne illnesses and contaminated ground water. 

Waste Capital Partners is piloting a progressive model for waste disposal in emerging-market cities while disseminating the model through its nonprofit social enterprise, Waste Ventures, based in Vizag.

“We are working to empower waste collectors, many of whom are women, and also create a sustainable revenue model for improved waste collection, composting, and recycling,” Waste Capital Partners and Waste Ventures founder, Parag Gupta, said.

As part of its commitment to BCtA, Waste Ventures will employ 10,000 formerly-independent waste pickers as collectors, composters, and recyclers by 2017. The company also plans to offset 200,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide over the next five years. Already, the company has instituted an Employee State Insurance and Provident Fund for its employed waste pickers along with opening up individual bank accounts. 

By using a thermophilic composting technique, Waste Capital Partners also eliminates methane – a gas that according to them is 24 times as harmful to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide – and prevents it from forming in rotting waste. 

Technology for the dairy industry 

India has quadrupled milk production over the past 40 years and now leads the world in dairy output. But yield per cow is relatively low in quantity and quality. Shree Kamdhenu Electronics Pvt. Ltd., based in Vallabh Vidhyanagar in central Gujarat state, has designed a milk collection system to improve productivity at the grassroots level, called Akashganga.  

Meaning “Milky Way” in Hindi, Akashganga comprises an automated, electronic milk collection system geared toward village dairy cooperatives. It efficiently weighs milk output, indicates fat content, calculates prices payable to suppliers, and provides customer numbers and date-time labeling. 

The company aims to raise smallholder income for 600,000 farmers mainly in northwestern Gujarat, parts of Maharashtra and a few other selected states by 2014. It is also working to increase efficiency in the milk collection process and improve the payment system for dairy farmers. 

“We believe the new system will increase trust between farmers and cooperatives by generating pay slips in regional languages and devising technology to eliminate bottlenecks in collection, replacing therefore outdated weighing methods,” Akashganga programme director, Ujval Parghi, said. 

The company plans to replicate the Akashganga business model in other key farming states in India. 

G20 Inclusive Business Workshop in Mumbai

The Governments of Germany and Saudi Arabia as co-facilitators of the G20 Pillar “Private Investment and Job Creation” have extended a special invitation for BCtA members to attend the G20 Inclusive Business Workshop in Mumbai on 16-18 April.

With its theme “Scaling Impact through Innovation”, the G20 Inclusive Business Workshop is a highly exclusive business forum that will bring together the G20 Challenge winners with business leaders and experts to discuss best practices and solutions for accelerating inclusive business models. 

The results of the workshop will be fed into the G20 Development Working Group and serve as a basis for future policy recommendations on fostering inclusive business models.

To learn more, contact

BCtA: Karen Newman, karen.newman@undp.org +1(212) 906-5194 

Aravind Eye Care System, Vinoth Palanichamy vinoth@aravind.org +914524356500

Shree Kamdhenu Electronic: Ujval Parghi, ujval@akashganga.in, +919427610355

Waste Capital Partners: Parag Gupta, parag@wastecapitalpartners.com +14156445129