Techie Anoop Alex Koshy conceptualised and built software for urban slum eradication in Kerala under the Rajiv Awas Yojana, a scheme that hopes to better living conditions in slums
He could have had it easy, cocooned in his swanky office, steadily climbing up the corporate ladder. But Anoop Alex Koshy, a senior manager at Infosys’ development centre in the city, chooses to be different from most of his fellow IT professionals. Since August 2011, Anoop has been on a company-sponsored sabbatical from his job, thanks to Infosys’ Community Empathy Policy, and has been working full-time with the Kudumbashree Misson. He is the Management Information Systems (MIS) specialist, State Technical Cell, for Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY), a slum eradication project under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission. Kudumbashree is the State-level nodal agency for RAY.
Anoop is at present part of a team preparing a detailed slum-free city plan of action for the five Corporations of Kerala (Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Kochi, Thrissur and Kozhikode) and for Kannur municipality too.
Anoop conceptualised and built software for urban slum eradication in Kerala based on various ethno-specific and socio-development indicators, drawing from the expertise of development specialists and urban planners. “The software can be applied on a national basis,” says Anoop.
The techie’s contribution to the project has been so invaluable that Aruna Sundarajan, Executive Director, Kudumbashree, recently wrote to Infosys requesting them to extend Anoop’s involvement in the project – which was approved.
“Hundreds of areas that have slum-like conditions have been identified in Kerala. What is a plausible plan of intervention for a slum near the seashore, predominantly occupied by fishermen, might not necessarily be the solution for, say, a colony in the middle of the city. Each slum requires different intervention and needs an in depth analysis. Therefore we need software that compares, questions, and analyses various parameters and suggest trends too. We started off with the software that was applied in Delhi’s slums. However, it could not be applied in Kerala, which has a significant coastal area. And thus we had to design software for our own specific needs; one that facilitates quality checking and one that helps in designing site-specific solutions,” says Anoop, who chanced upon the ad for the post of MIS in a local newspaper, and sat through a written test and an interview before being selected.
A native of the city, Anoop holds a degree in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from College of Engineering Trivandrum, and a masters degree from the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, in addition to a PMP (project management professional) certification from the Project Management Institute, Texas. The 42-year-old has been working with Infosys since 1995 and worked in the United States for 11 years (till 2007) before settling down in the city.
“I’ve always had a keen interest in philanthropy. I wanted to do so much but there was never enough time to do everything I wanted to do. Thanks to Infosys’ flexible work schedules, I was able to devote a fair amount of time to community development activities. Since 2007, I’ve been taking an active part in Sanjeevani, the company’s corporate social responsibility wing. I’m proud to say that Sanjeevani has been able to do charity projects in various fields that have actually made a difference,” says Anoop.
“At Infosys I work in testing processes and quality assurance – so the actual designing and building the software was something different. It has been a great opportunity for me to learn. I enjoy it,” adds Anoop.
At Kudumbashree, Anoop is also the MIS specialist for the mission’s IT network. “I lead a team that manages the data and economic activities of the 36 lakh economically-disadvantaged women who are part of the mission. Also there are 62 IT units within Kudumbashree, which brings in significant revenue. They primarily work in the data entry field and these days compete with the best in the business. I also help them out in the IT application processes,” says Anoop.
“It’s an integrated software that comprises a detailed socio-economic survey, a sort of a general measure of poverty that helps analyse and design solutions to better the standard of living in a slum. The software also allows everyone from the concerned minister to the common people to track its progress.”
RAY’s pilot rehabilitation project for Thiruvananthapuram has been identified as Mathipuram colony, near Vizhinjam. “It is a cluster of 1,000-plus huts inhabited mainly by fisher folk. Apart from basic needs such as electricity and drinking water connection and toilet/bath facilities, various community specific infrastructure such as an auditorium, library, Anganwadi, street vending kiosks, biogas and sewerage treatment plants, have also been factored into the design. We have also thought about employment opportunities for the dwellers such as a dry fish processing plant, a textile unit and so on,” says Anoop. The project is to be implemented by the Corporation.
Infosys’ ‘Community Empathy Policy,’ allows its employees to take a sabbatical (usually six months to a year) to involve themselves in community development projects. At present, 42 employees of the company across India have availed themselves of this scheme. Says Nandita Gurjar, Senior Vice-President, Group Head, Human Resources: “On a timely basis (every three months), we were reviewing Anoop’s work and feedback from his project mentors. They were appreciative of his contribution and the strong technical knowledge he brought to the table. When we received a request from the Executive Director of Kudumbashree requesting Anoop’s involvement for an additional year to bring the project to a logical conclusion, it was deliberated and approved.”