Sunday, October 15, 2017

Business Model Canvas

New sources of funding, new actors and new technologies are quickly changing the landscape of the sector. Currently, not for profit sector is transitioning their operating and/or business models. For transitions to happen successfully, they must look at the historic perspective of why their enterprise is developed in the way that it did and at the same time look at the anticipated future trends. To go through the evolutionary change, there is need of a design thinking for analysis. Business Model Canvas is the ultimate framework for this purpose.

Business Model Canvas represents a business model or business case with nine simple building blocks, including customer segments, channels, and relationships; value proposition, key activities, resources and partners; cost structure and revenue streams. The canvas therefore combines the financial viability of a solution with its usability and feasibility. This tool helps the manager to focus on what’s driving the business and value deliverance.

Professor D V Ramana will explain the whole concept in a simple video under seven minutes for the readers.


It is developed for analyzing and developing models in the for-profit sector. Judith Sanderse did analyze the potential usage of the Business Canvas for the case of NGOs in an academic paper. We can view the changes made in the tool for non profit sector.

To sum it up, the Business Model Canvas can be utilized in various ways during the Design Thinking modes. This tool can be used from Grassroots interventionists to portfolio managers of impact investment funds on focusing on the business management, development strategies and local economy analysis. Readers may read more on the topic through the book called Business Model Generation written by from Alex Osterwalder.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Fellowship or MBA in Development Sector

Today, development sector has emerged out as an unconventional yet full fledged career option amongst the youth worldwide. People seeking career in Development Sector face a dilemma on the choice between MBA in Rural/Health/Forest management and fellowship opportunities pan India. There are pros and cons in each choices:

1. Academia: Most candidates become largely irrelevant in running social enterprises by putting effort to keep themselves academically pure and continuous. B school always provide broad base knowledge base than gathered in classroom training of Fellowship.

2. Seeking Experience - The grassroots experience is must before jumping into solving an issue as one has to acknowledge the gap between ideology and lived experience. Fellowship experience will be much diverse and fruitful than 2 years in MBA school.

3. Network Effect - The number of students enrolling and attending the MBA is much more than fellowship program. There is an inherent advantage due to networking in the majority. Majority and minority are about positions in career ladder, not numbers alone. Yet old institutions have good alumni networks required to establish oneself in employment markets.

4. Future Study Abroad: A full time MBA program gives base through academic rigor. MBA school in development sector refine skills by having options like IRP/Mini Thesis on chosen topics. This forms a launch pad for students looking for opportunity to study abroad in courses like Public Policy and Public Administration.

5. Peer Quality - Applicants for both go through assessment like Reasoning, Aptitude Tests, Group Discussions or presentations about a subject related to the development sector and a face-to-face interview. The focus is more on the quantity rather than fit in MBA. Hence, a much dedicated and like minded peers will be more likely to be found in fellowship program.

6. Content of the Program - The content of both are nearly same with different weightages to the mix of NGO Visits, Classroom Experience, Village Studies, & Leadership Activities. The exposure to different ideas is much limited in fellowship but the depth of the program helps those people who had already made choices for the career goal.

7. Social Entrepreneurship - SE is a combination of both thorough knowledge and action driven attitude. The fellowship is much preferred way to effectively diagnose risk aptitude and aspirations. Fellowship gives lot of independent thinking and support entrepreneurship in through business skills training, etc.

8. Leadership Development - The leader-centric functioning of non profit has always doomed the development sector but this is less talked phenomenon in the classrooms. But even various theory of Leadership (Analyst, Architect, & Strategist) doesn't come much good in the real life. Fellowship provides direct opportunity to interact with Non Profit leaders who are taking tactical and strategic decisions in handling the resources.

Prestigious Fellowship in India

1. Transforming India Initiative
2. Teach for India Fellowship
3. Legislative Assistants to Members of Parliament (LAMP) Fellowship
4. William J Clinton Fellowship
5. Gandhi Fellowship
6. Azim Premji Foundation Fellowship Program
7. Ashoka Fellowship
8. India Fellow Social Leadership Program
9. Indian School of Development Management (ISDM)
10. Deshpande Fellowship Program
11. Pradan

MBA Option: Private MBA-School has pure market orientation since with higher infrastructure and faculty cost can't be covered with lower admission fees and lower batch sizes of students. Subsidized education at public institutions like IIFM and IRMA gives much better option to start fresh and new as development professional. Let us cross examine the private & public institution in rural management.

Rural Management of Xavier University Bhubaneswar will cost around INR 15 Lakh (Program fee - INR 11 Lakhs, Development Fund: INR 1 Lakhs, Boarding and Lodging Expenses: INR 1.76 Lakhs, Course Material, IT, Alumni & Placement Expenses: INR 1.4 Lakhs). The highest domestic salary stood at INR 11.00 Lakhs per annum. The average annual compensation stood at INR 7.32 Lakhs per annum. The Median annual compensation stood at INR 7.00 Lakhs per annum. The high end jobs belongs to Banking and Rural Marketing sector. So even with 20% of the savings from average income, it will take almost 10 years to repay the loan here. This high fees has been dissuading young students studying in the private institution to make a career in development sector. Even public institution like IRMA will cost around INR 12 Lakh (Program fee - INR 9.5 Lakhs, Activity Charge- 0.6 Lakhs, Boarding and Lodging Expenses: INR 1.5 Lakhs). The average annual compensation stood at INR 10.22 Lakhs per annum. So, with the same logic it will take minimum 5-6 years to repay the education loan.

I assume that appropriate candidates for fellowships are fresher with 1-2 years experience and mid-career professionals who have a commitment to public service, leadership traits and the potential for professional advancement. The unexperienced students must prefer public institutions like XISS, TISS or IIFM otherwise choose fellowship over private MBA institutions. The burden of loan restricts a professional in long term decision making and financial freedom. Mostly, aspirants engaged in the job or college hadn't enough time to think without peer pressure, analyze down the career and work out what is vital to get the best out of oneself. But, in the end one has think deep, discover options and take bold yet pragmatic decision before making a career in development sector.

Friday, June 9, 2017

First Time Manager

As a fresher, I always thought experience is just a word, but now I certainly believe in it. I have understood the ebbs and flows of the profession better.  What really do organizations want out of the professional? The simple answer is “get the job done”. Generally speaking, all managers are charged with three responsibilities: making money for the firm while saving time and reducing expenses. In below lines, find few tips for the first-time managers:

Skill development It is always expected to have basic skills to conduct meetings, reviews, analysis, and communication skill. There must be always focused on developing self-capacity to increase productivity. This includes a small task of planning for day work in hours to being updated with the latest know-how in the field. Work on your written and verbal communication skills to become more appreciative and acknowledging of your coworkers.

Ask for Trouble- Effort is important but where to put effort distinguishes achievers from hard workers. It is important to get your hands dirty by taking over troubled account or project. The problem can be varying from small communication gaps to a series of missteps. Learn about the root cause of the original problem. Why previous attempts to turn things around were unsuccessful?The solution approach helps in understanding the nature of business development and service quality of the organization.

Understand Business- It is always beneficial to spend some time with senior management. The process to design strategy, decision making and contribution are widely learned in this process only. Consumer behavior, public policy, and external environment are constantly changing and managers ability to anticipate and respond to these changes is vital to the top leadership.

Networking - The meaningful connections with teammates, clients, and supervisors is relationship building in the simple and effective form. It is always better to have network spread across age, sex, ranks, department, and alumni network. This involves regularly answer to emails and returning phone calls, engaging with employees in the hall and break room. Be Assertive, Admit when wrong and Make promises what you can keep.

Managing Team - Make sure that same rule is applied for everyone. If a manager seems to be close friends with just one or a few members of a team — to the exclusion of others — this could be a case of playing favorites that could easily escalate. Any manager that checks in with individuals on time utilization far more than necessary is likely a micro-manager.

Decision Making - It is always better to be consistent and a bit of flexible on decisions, responding emails, approach towards a problem, in monitoring team progress. The reputation of the person flip-flopping under pressure decays rapidly. Never fall into a meeting trap, in which meetings are routinely and unnecessarily convened, because constantly meetings for “input” or to consult about an issue could signal a problem with indecision.

It is important to never lose sight of the basics. Sportsmen are the best to emulate on the competition and positive attitude. Regardless of their ranking, they train regularly to strengthen and refine their basic techniques. It is important to understand what really matters to someone, whether an entry-level team member straight out of school or a veteran employee. A manager must seek to understand what each people in the network really care about. This may sound obvious, but in the midst of pressure for deliverables, it’s often forgotten.

The working culture, beliefs, and attitudes prevailing in the organization dilute individual beliefs in most of the cases. There will be a lot of unknowns when one is naive and young: Do I belong here? Am I good enough? There's a lot of proving to do along the way, to yourself and to those around you. Sometimes you need a bit of success to just say: I actually belong here!

Please read 10 Challenges That Every First-Time Manager Will Face by Jacob Shria for more such gyaan.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Visit to Mulkanoor

I had a chance to spend time in Mulkanoor for professional exposure visit recently. Why? Mulkanoor is guiding light of India's cooperative movement. I was able to visit Mulkanoor Women's Cooperative Dairy (MWDC) and Cooperative Development Federation (CDF) promoted Thrift Cooperatives but unable to go at Mulkanoor Cooperative Rural Bank and Marketing Society. The purpose of the visit was to gain an insight into Community Micro Finance & Livelihood intervention work and gradual evolution of the cooperative model formed by the local women. I tried to learn from personal experiences as well as technical formalities by interacting with staff, members, & board directors of the cooperatives. My visit began with a morning ride from Hyderabad and it was about a four-hour drive. Mulkanoor falls in Bheemdevarapalli mandal of Karimnagar district.


Mulkanoor is a hub of agriculture related activities. This area is known for paddy, maize and cotton cultivation. In addition to it, Mulkanoor is famous for its milk production too. Mulukanoor Women’s Cooperative Dairy (MWCD), a model enterprise was established in 2002, the dairy today is an enterprise powered by 22,000 women producers. Currently, the dairy has 138 societies also known as women dairy co-operatives (WDC) having members from the bottom of the pyramid (BoP) spread-out in Karimnagar and Warangal districts. MWCD’s brand Swakrushi stands for quality for its consumers.

Cooperative Development Foundation, popularly known as Sahavikasa, was formed in 1975 when a group of Individuals came together and started working for the development of cooperatives. The CDF has provided technical assistance to the cooperatives with the strategy revolving on the social construction of an economic institution. The following working paper throws light on CDF and Women’s Thrift Cooperatives in Mulkanoor.

I am sharing few peculiar observations about Mulkanoor here -

1. Access to credit is the primary reason to join thrift cooperatives. Financial inclusion is always an enabler of other development objectives and not as a standalone goal. The financial inclusion goal has been achieved in Mulknaoor but the action to ensure social justice or affirmative action in political space have been shunned. The premise of cooperative movement is the result of the struggle against traditionally dominant business class. They have chosen a strategy to fight on the single front rather than spreading limited resources for democratizing the social, political, and economic life.

2. Many women believe that financial products and services are too complicated for them to understand, and this perception serves as a barrier for adoption of these products and services. It’s unfair to expect women members to be expert investors in various available financial services. But thrift cooperative has done ample of capacity building and localization of the financial services. This is inspiring to see how real banking services is supposed to work for real people leading real lives. Thrift cooperative has ensured service accessible to all and not turning into a complex maze only a few can navigate.

3. Most cooperatives fail in running enterprises due to being insulated from the discipline of the market especially in consumer-facing enterprises. MWCD has again proved that AMUL Model can be replicated and adopted anywhere in India. Also, Thrift cooperatives at Mulkanoor have not been caught the in the trap of imposition of across-the-board waivers in the interest rates and loans repayment. Good governance can be attributed to the Andhra Pradesh Mutually Aided Cooperative Societies Act specially. This helps management in not allowing outside interference of the government as they want to maintain the integrity of this cooperative. The institution has developed because they were not politicalized and kept away from concessions and subsidies of the government.

4. Democracy in the cooperative did not just mean that one has the right to vote, adding that it is necessary that the democratic ethos spread in the community. CDF has served the community with the commitment to deregulation and entrepreneurship. It's difficult in a practical sense because a cooperative can't be run like business corporations. Internal issues have to be resolved in a sensitive and tactical way as the community has to live with those whose status quo are affected by the cooperative. Such deregulation and upholding of power by community representative have helped cooperatives in avoiding governance crisis and not transforming into an ineffective parastatal institution.

5. CDF and community leaders have dared to challenge conventional wisdom and social assumptions. Community leaders at Mulaknoor have brought next generation with skills into decision-making positions. That has built a cadre of professional and leaders at the community level. The chance to get skills and to practice and learn leadership has expanded the leadership base and increased the age of the institution.

Mulkanoor cooperative is an exception rather than a rule in Indian cooperative ecosystem. Cooperative Movement has been burdened with a variety of problems, mainly from the outdated cooperative law and practice, conflicting with the basic tenets of cooperation and sound business principles. The cooperatives who are most successful work in an enterprise way without being at odds with transparency as well as accountability. Trust and perception matter more than financial benefits in the cooperative movement. Roots must go deeper in the creation of the power to the people, which is opposed to the coercive power of the state and differs from the traditional business.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Street Entrepreneurs - 2

The informal economy in India is run by entrepreneurs providing products and services to the customers. These low-skilled occupations require low financial investments and thus have a relatively low threshold for entering. The street vendors have created a carefully constructed beehive of economic activity in the public space. They have created a functional system for themselves without waiting for government to provide them the legal permission, space and subsidy. In the series of street entrepreneurs (first part), I am presenting here a blog post by Anishok Mishra from the 2016-18 batch of XIMB:

The Cost behind the Taste - The Chaiwalas of Bhubaneswar.

Tea, or as we fondly call it "Chai" is one of India's most preferred hot beverages. Almost every person in our country has had a sip of this drink once in their lifetimes. Some prefer it black, some with milk, some with a splash of lemon and those looking to get healthier by drinking it prefer it "Green". No matter the variety or the recipe used to brew, this drink has only grown from generation to generation.

A big contribution in the same can be attributed to the numerous vendors who are situated on the streets in shops and "thelas", sporting aluminium kettles and gas stoves, serving tea to all who pass by their shops in glasses, earthen "matkas" or sometimes in plastic cups too. They all have their ways of working and their ways to making ends meet. This article attempts to take a closer look into the lives of these "Chaiwalas" and attempts to analyse how they recreate the same taste every day and the rewards they earn for their efforts.

At the outset, during the course of our short study we observed the following average trend in the expenses that surround a tea vendor:

Monthly sales (Rs) 24600
Montly Cost (RS.) 15193
number of cups per month 4920
Quantity of tea sold (liters) 388
quantity of Tea used (as input IN KG) 12
Cost of Tea Purchased per month 2898
Milk used (litres) 318
Cost of milk 9432
Electricity /Gas 587
Other Expenses 2276
Profit per month 9407

Let above figures not lead you astray. The same are simply an average of the shops that were surveyed at random and follow no patterns as such. Not every tea vendor makes more than Rs. 9000 as profit in a month. Besides this does not consider the expenses such as the cost of his equipment (Stove/Fridge/Utensils etc.) or the support staff. This means that the profit gets trimmed down even further and comes within a range of 4 to 7 thousand a month. This figure gives an insight into the hard lives that these vendors have to endure.

During our survey we approached each of these vendors with a set of questions. Although our intent was strictly academic at the start of the project, we could not help but indulge ourselves into the brimming cups of tea as they shared the information with us in a forthright manner. Be it their sales or their expenses, the "Chaiwalas"seemed as relaxed sharing this information as Toyota inviting people to study its Just In Time systems. Though the comparison may seem far fetched, the same is precisely what transpired.

During the time spent at the stalls asking for information, we observed the plethora of customers that these stalls catered to. Ranging from students who were headed back from tuition to tired office staff blowing off steam after a hard days work; or even the rickshaw drivers when they take a break. Somehow, these "Chaiwalas" have established their presence in all our lives as focal points where people meet and socialize irrespective of their occupation or status. The experience reinforces the importance of these vendors in the social landscape in maintaining a delicate balance between the lives of individuals.

Selling averagely 5000 cups a month and making only a rupee of profit per cup is a grim situation for any business. But the "Chaiwalas" have endured for the better part of a century and continue to do so serving us with a smile across their faces and the amazing fragrance of brimming tea filling our nostrils.

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This Blog is meant purely as a personal diary of a rural manager in making. It exists to record information, experiences and opinions about various issues encountered in the line of duty. Any person, institution and organization mentioned here doesn't assume any liability for its contents. This is not a deliberate attempt to defame anyone. And if you have actually read all that is written in the blog and aren't mad at me, then thanks for your time and patience !

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