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World Bank picks 20 projects for $1,00,000 grant

Staff Reporter
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Awardees include profit and not-for-profit firms in M.P., Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand

Onno Ruhl, World Bank Country Director in India (right), viewing a cyclerickshaw model at a stall of SMV Wheels Pvt. Ltd. of Varanasi, during the ‘2013 India Development Marketplaces (DM)’ programme funded by the World Bank Group, in Bhopal on Wednesday.— Photo: A.M Faruqui
Onno Ruhl, World Bank Country Director in India (right), viewing a cyclerickshaw model at a stall of SMV Wheels Pvt. Ltd. of Varanasi, during the ‘2013 India Development Marketplaces (DM)’ programme funded by the World Bank Group, in Bhopal on Wednesday.— Photo: A.M Faruqui

The World Bank Institute awarded $2 million (Rs. 10.74 crores) to 20 organisations working in the sectors of financial inclusion, trafficking, health, education and livelihood. The grant of $ 100,000 (Rs. 53.7 lakhs) per project is to help these social enterprises expand in the States of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand.

The awards were given by World Bank’s country director Onno Ruhl and Programme Lead (Development Marketplace) Drew von Glahn, at the 2013 India Development Marketplace held at the Indian Institute of Forest Management, here on Wednesday.

The winners include successful social sector endeavours like Operation ASHA, which uses technology and a network of health workers with minimum education to ensure that tuberculosis patients take the full course of medicines and are healed. Embrace Innovation, which supplies low-cost infant warmers in public hospitals, also won a grant to collect data and educate new mothers in Jharkhand.

Mr. Ruhl explained that after the economies of China and India have grown, the share of the World Bank in funding development per se has decreased in these countries. “Now we help governments in ensuring the services reach people who need them the most. The challenge is the last mile — how to get the medicine for the drug store or the grain from the warehouse to the beneficiary. These entrepreneurs start from the beneficiary, so the potential for synergy between us is huge. Their work helps us and the government to understand what really works.”

Awardees included both profit and not-for-profit firms. SMV Wheels, Varanasi, is an example of a profit-making awardee that sells cyclerickshaws, pushcarts and trolleys. They also use these for advertising and enable the operators to buy the vehicle within a year. Its founder and MD Naveen Krishna explained that most pullers aren’t able to afford their own rickshaw or cart even after working for a decade. Also, they lack identity papers which leave them prey to extortion by corrupt public officials.

“We offer weekly instalments of Rs. 300 for 52 weeks to buy a rickshaw. We also provide pullers photo ID cards and talk to police and district officials to prevent harassment.” SMV gets ads from telecom and health firms. “Rickshaw owners get 60 per cent of the proceeds and those who are paying instalments get 20 per cent. The grant will allow us to expand in all the target States,” says Mr. Krishna.

The key factors that the World Bank looks for in such projects is whether they can be replicated and scaled up, the degree of entrepreneurial ability and the use of technology. All projects have been operating for at least two years. They are mentored for 18 months after the project commences. The selected 20 are among 195 applicants. Those who didn’t make it are also assisted in fund-raising from other sources.

Even established social enterprises like Business Correspondents, who link banks to rural populations, have won grants for new innovations. Chennai’s Alternative for India Development (AID) runs rural banking kiosks in 108 hamlets of the naxal-affected Palamu division in Jharkhand.

“We operate a community radio to spread financial literacy and engage local youth as business correspondents. NREGA and other transfers are made through this system. We want to expand to 600 kiosks but the State Bank of India takes a long time to upload customer data and allot codes. With the grant, we will involve women’s SHGs and make them operate kiosks,” says K.T. Arasu of AID.

AID’s Business Correspondent in Manika block in Latehar district, Ramesh Prasad Gupta, told The Hindu that even though Maoists destroy government buildings, they do not harm business correspondents. The bhaiya log (‘big brothers,’ as Maoists are commonly called in Jharkhand) will punish anyone who tries to rob us.”


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