Monday, August 28, 2006

TiE's session on The Pivotal Role of Entrepreneurship in Addressing Global Poverty

Part of my job is to leverage every networking opportunity to get the word out on the company. With that intent, and also to learn a bit more about social enterpeneurship, this afternoon I drove down to Santa Clara for TiE (The Indus Enterpreneurs) member networking session titled "The Pivotal Role of Entrepreneurship in Addressing Global Poverty".

If you are an enterpreneur living close to a TiE chapter, and haven't been to their events, it's definitely worth checking out (they always have great Indian food at each gathering). Not surprisingly, the crowd at the Silicon Valley chapter is a good mix of mostly Indian enterpreneurs and seasoned industry execs, so it's pretty decent networking. Today was a bit different, because instead of promoting our individual companies, the crowd was more interested in how enterpreneurs can play an active role in tackling global poverty.

Dr. Bill Musgrave from The Enterpreneurs Network(TEN)-Silicon Valley gave the keynote, with many anecdotes on enterpreneurs finding viable business models serving the "bottom of the pyramid". Particuarly striking was his quote of former president Clinton: "I have never seen uneven distribution of intelligence, but always seen uneven distributions of opportunity". Dr. Musgrave argued that to make the grand changes needed to address global poverty, governments and large corporations haven't proven to be much effective, but it is rather the enterpreneurs who are most effective at empowering the poor. His call of action to the roomfull of enterpreneurs was to seek out such opportunities and make a difference.

The session also gave 2-minute "open mike" pitch slots to any interested attendee to promote their company/cause. I was particualrly impressed with Vipin S (?) from Intel who's starting a program in India to enable local farmers to grow crops for biodiesel fuel. Also interesting was Navaneethan Sundaramoorthy's pitch on Association for India's Development's local chapter , which has a collection of development projects that harness the collective resources of local Indian diaspora.

I couldn't pass this "open mike" opporutnity to talk about my friend Mahabir Pun's work in Nepal. Mahabir and I went to the same college in Nebraska. Upon graduation, while I took the more common path of getting a job and later launching start-ups, Mahabir went back to Nepal, back to the same rural village where he grew up, and started a grade school for the local kids deprived of education, and also started several income-generating micro-projects. I should do a post describing his work in detail, but check out Himanchal Education Foundation's web site in the meanwhile, which is the foundation that tries to get financial help and recruit volunteers for the school. It is a very inspiring story of sheer will that is making a difference without much help from government and NGO's who are now finally warming up to this project.

Afterwards, I got a chance to chat with several other folks who are somehow involved part-time with similar social projects, big and small -- and as I write this, I feel a lot more hopeful about these enterpreneurs making a lasting social impact. I sensed a similar drive to make social changes as we have in launching new companies and seeking successful exits. Key is, how effective will we be in pooling our resources and provide helping hands (I should say, empowering hands) to organizations such as Mahabir's himanchal.org. Just like with any new venture, we don't have the answers when we start, but with the right will, we will find a way.

5 comments:

Hitesh Parashar said...

Sandeep:

It was great meeting you there at TiE.

Clinton's quote caught my attention too. I believe the complete quote that Bill mentioned was - "I have travelled across the world and did not find unequal distribution of intelligence, did not find unequal distribution of the will to make a difference, only found the unequal distribution of opportunities."

I was quite amazed by your pitch (or should I say story) about Mahabir. Amazing guy - I would like to lend a hand. Lets meet sometime and see how we could get together to help folks like Mahabir.

In the complete spectrum where Mahabir sits on the left having given up all to go back to Nepal and Donald Trump sits on the right where he only cares about making more and more money - I believe there are lot of us who sit in between - who want to make a social impact while making money and providing a decent lives to our families.

Take care,

Hitesh.

Pradeep Sethi said...

It was nice meeting you Sandeep. Hey you didn't mention about my open mic session ;-)

Sandeep Giri said...

Thanks for your feedback, Hitesh.

On the complete spectrum from the likes of Mahabir to Trump, I guess the way "we who sit in between" can make a difference is by being connectors between sources of wealth/resources and the social organizations in need.

So, with Mahabir, I was able to help by putting together his website http://www.himanchal.org and promote it with various individual and places like TiE. But now, as I see a whole new set of opportunities, specially with the Web 2.0 community builidng tools, to take this connection-making to much more effective level. Of course, time is always a constraint, but a lot of this is exposing ideas/stories to the widest audience (much like writing a blog to explore conversations with interested audiences)

Sandeep Giri said...

Thanks for your feedback, Pradeep.

Sorry I missed quoting your open mike session. All I remember is that you are very enthusiastic about Web 2.0, are getting down and dirty with Ruby on Rails, work at eBay, and would like to explore new ventures in social networking -- while promoting positive social changes.

Did I get that right? ;-)

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