Well writing this post seemed rebellious at one point, necessary at another and pointless after sometime. Yet I would want to finish this up and make a point for the readers.
Over the last two weeks we have seen a media blitzkrieg of ‘Billionaire ‘Philanthropist’ ‘NRI’ Manoj Bhargava’ going to save the world by many things starting with providing 10,000 electricity generating bicycles telling the poor to bicycle for one hour to power their homes for next 24 hours.
He was everywhere, newspapers, television, sponsored google ads and all of Facebook. It seemed that the media has suddenly become too charitable (or was it?) that he was on the front pages of all the leading newspapers. (See the images in Firstpost report here with interesting comments below the article: http://goo.gl/U83PoJ) I was wrong again to have thought that the floods in Tamil Nadu and AP were going to remain the first thing to remember every morning. But then again, its newspapers.
Dear Mr.Bhargava, I am not inspired.
My first reflection was ‘here’s another engineering solution to a social-political problem’ but I started thinking and reading more about the messiah. On your website I found more of what was being promoted – yourself! But also I have found that it’s an LLC company based on the campus of your private company which sells energy drinks. At first I thought it was about helping a billion people, but then I realized it was about your billions investing in developing several engineering solutions. In a lengthy movie launched in India, you make sure we understand about your fortunes and your business of energy drinks before the plan to change the world. Let me make it clear before writing further that my ‘not getting inspired’ doesn’t stop me from thanking you to have taken the initiative. You could have also just sold the energy products in India to multiply your billions (some comments on the news coverage actually say that this is actually launching strategy), you could have put that money to multiply it but instead are announcing to spend it on these innovations. I wish you all the best and success in your endeavors. Here are three key points I would love to make to complete this note:
On New Investments!
Dear Mr.Bhargava, am sure you know that there are many NRI’s who have succeeded in USA and have been building things or investing into social ventures in India. We generally do not hear them so loud, but working in the development sector I have seen their work and carry a lot of respect to some of them. We talk about collaboration to be keyed into social development, but I don’t see any collaborations in your plans, actually I don’t see a plan but that’s beside the point. It would have been great to understand how these monies could have been used to collaborate with the local governments, social development organisations or individuals who are already working to make a difference. I thought you were naturally going to work with the government until I realised you are hiring someone to work with the government based in USA! At this point if you believe in collaborations, I can assure you that unlike a business strategy to scale by being competitive, try adapting scaling by collaborations.
The younger wealthy generations will look up to inspiration from entrepreneurs like you please set an example of collaboration and humility.
On Engineering solutions!
As mentioned earlier, do we realise how many of us are toiling day and night to make this world a better place? I don’t have the figures but I know for a fact that there are thousands of brilliant young minds trying to make a difference working at the grassrootes, pursuing development studies and bootstrapping their social enterprises. Does it occur to the philanthropists to invest in developing a leadership to make sense of the existing engineering solutions we already have?
If a product could have saved the world we would have been saved by Amazon by now.
By the way, speaking of grassroots innovations there are 775 grassroots innovations in 575 districts across India! Please make an effort to see why necessity is called the mother of innovation. Please consider investing in such ignited minds of India after-all it’s the most abundant resource in India and it gives 100% back to society not 99%!
Not saying it would happen, but please make sure your plan contains checks and balances that the poor children don’t get paid to cycle for hours to generate electricity. Assuming you can cycle for hours, but may be don’t want to make it your livelihood. And am not being paranoid here, see how last time an idea from west to use simple roundabouts to draw drinking water in Africa turned out to be: http://goo.gl/RbCGDe
You see it’s not about who does and what does it, it’s about a deep commitment to social change and it doesn’t matter how many billions are spent on it. The inequality and suffering in our society are not made up few billions it’s the whole system which makes poor a poor. We keep hearing billionaires like Bill Gates, Mark Z, Azim Premji is spending many more billions in change and there is a proportionate impact I guess. Do take some time out from thinking about the value of the money to the strategy of spending it and your accountability to the poor. Don’t worry about the rich that you care about in introduction of water, energy and health issues written literally on same lines on your website. They will be okay or they will contact you, it’s the poor you need to be accountable because they will never have the power to question you. Don’t get carried away with the paid articles, our media doesn’t love anyone for long, spend your billions wisely.
I could go-on writing, but I guess my 1% is done.
All the best!