Category Archives: Milestones

Chalo Bihar!

- Chaitanya Nadkarny, Rang De President

If you are tuned into Rang De’s Facebook page and Twitter feed, you know that we made it to the final list of social innovators in Bihar and Maharashtra State Rural Livelihood Missions programs.  The Bihar Innovation Forum awarded Rang De the third prize in the Financial Services sector – something to be really proud about given the credibility and track record of all finalists in this sector.  So why are we at Rang De so excited about these missions and in particular, working in Bihar?  What does it mean to you – our social investor – to our Field Partners and to the borrowers?

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If Bihar were a separate country, it would have been among the 12 most populous countries in the world.  It has some of the worst HDI figures in this country (and hence also in the world).  A whopping 53.5% of its people live below the poverty line. Nearly 80% of Bihar’s rural population do not have access to modern toilets.  Over 65% of Bihar households have one or more member who has migrated out in search of livelihood.  Where 85% of its people depend upon agriculture, the average land holding is around 1 acre, possibly the lowest in the country.

Yet today, Bihar is also the most exciting place for social innovators like Rang De.  Bihar will likely show the way forward to many states on how poverty and deprivation can be tackled effectively.  There is a reason behind this.  The past 10 years have seen an extensive focus on poverty reduction, livelihood promotion, etc.  The Bihar Rural Livelihoods Promotion Society (BRLPS), called “Jeevika” is the nodal organisation that is driving these efforts, ably supported by the World Bank.

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In its first 5 years, Jeevika focussed on local innovations, helping them scale up and measure impact.  The current round of the Bihar Innovation Forum (BIF-II) sought innovations across the country in 10 sectors – Agriculture, Off Farm, Livestock, Rural Energy, Skill Development, Financial Services, ICT, Access to Services, and Access to Entitlements.  Nearly 70 innovators were selected as finalists after an extensive search and due diligence. Rang De was selected as a finalist along with 6 other innovators in the Financial Services sector.

So what does this opportunity provide?  BIF-II gives Rang De a unique opportunity to design new loan products with built in flexibility and customised for specific purposes.  This overcomes the limitations of other government run schemes that tend to be inflexible and hence not as effective.  We could work with other innovators across the sectors in helping credit reach the most needy and designed to have maximum impact.

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Working with Jeevika itself has been a uniformly enriching experience.  Every member of Jeevika that we met – from the CEO, to the village level workers, to the “Young Professionals” cadre – the commitment, the energy and willingness to learn, collaborate, support and partner has stood out.  The manner in which events were organised and run by their staff is truly world-class – no corners were cut, no stone left unturned to make each event a success.  It is no surprise therefore that the first few years of the Bihar Innovation Forum saw the adoption of SRI (System of Root Intensification) to significantly raise agricultural productivity, an expansion of access to electricity through micro-grids using renewable sources of energy, a massive increase in school enrollment, running the world’s largest school based deworming project etc.

Rang De is super excited to be joining hands with all other finalists of the BIF-II and play an important role in Bihar – a true game-changer of an opportunity!

Ashoka India Future Forum – “The Maha Kumbh of the Social Space”

- Smita Ram, Rang De co-founder and Managing Trustee

Rang De co-founders Ram NK and Smita Ram recently returned from the 3 day Ashoka India Future Forum 2013 where they interacted with over 170 Ashoka Fellows from the across the country. Presenting Smita’s experience at the Ashoka #IndiaFF.
 

In 1980, Bill Drayton founded Ashoka – a global organization that recognises outstanding social entrepreneurs and works with them to help facilitate long term social change. I believe the term “Ashoka” is apt as I am reminded of Emperor Ashoka who after having conquered, gave it all up.

Cut to 2013 June 27th to 29th at the sprawling Infosys campus spread across 115 acres. An incredible experience to see 170 Ashoka Fellows from across the length and breadth of the country participating in the Future Forum along with the founder Bill Drayton. For the 70 years young Bill Drayton, it must have been a milestone moment to see all of them gathered under one roof for the very first time.

From the hard core social activist to the awe inspiring story teller, there was everyone one could ever think was needed to bring about social change.For me it was nothing less than the sacred Maha Kumbh. The opportunity to meet each one of these and get inspired many times over a period of 3 days. No rejuvenation would come close to this 3 day experience at Pune.

The inspiration started right onboard the flight to Pune with a chance meeting of a few of the Fellows. We were all headed to the same destination and I did not lose a moment to get started with my questions.

First up was Vishal Talreja, the founder of Dream a Dream who has been a role model. It was great to see the same spirit in Vishal burning bright as it did more than a decade ago. We discussed challenges of running a non-profit to co-working spaces and like a big brother who has been in the space for much longer than us, he patiently shared his views.

Then there was Dr.Glory D’souza, the founder of Asha Foundation who shared a taxi ride with us. It was amazing to hear the story of this doctor who decided to set up Asha Foundation and has dedicated her life to helping people living with HIVAids.

The amazing experience continued with meeting several other fellows at Pune, including Sriram from Nalandaway who one fine day had decided to give up his lucrative tech career and start  Nalandaway. It literally was a decision that Sriram had taken in a single day.

Then there were the stalwarts – George from Score Foundation, Bablu from Timbaktu Collective, Geetha Ramanujam from Kathalaya who have been quietly working in the space for many decades now. The amazing bit is all of them continued to have a great sense of humour and wit and cherish the many moments of their work.

When working in the social space itself is considered a tall task, there were the heroes like Binalakshmi Nepram, Haseena and Sharad Sharma all of them working in conflict zones and with the vulnerable, doing their best to give hope to humanity.

It is almost impossible to put down all the experiences of the 3 days in one blog post. I am just grateful that each one of these and many of whom I met let me into their lives and shared their “Ashoka” moment with me.

A big round of applause to the Ashoka India team for taking up this humongous task of bringing all of them together and for totally succeeding in doing an awesome job with it.For now, I just cherish the moments of the forum and sincerely hope that the Ashoka Tribe grows from strength to strength.

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Rang De co-founders Ram and Smita and Rang De President Chaitanya with Ashoka Founder Bill Drayton at the Ashoka India Future Forum

As we turn 5…

Rang De was started with a desire to make a difference. 5 years on, we believe we are on our way to doing just that. This 26th January, Rang De turned 5 and through the highs and lows of our journey, we’ve impacted more than 19,000 households. We’d like to thank everyone in the Rang De family for the love and support they have continually shown us! This year, we pledge to work with renewed focus to reach our goals and make our platform and initiative as transparent as possible.

We take this opportunity to share exciting news with you.

The last five years have seen social investors from 27 different countries join us and now, we’d like to welcome the entire world to join us! We’re thrilled to announce that we now accept social investments from Foreign Nationals too. Look forward to welcoming all at Rang De!

Another project that we have spent the last many months working on is redesigning our website to enhance your user experience and making it more engaging. And the wait is finally over. We’d like you to experience Rang De’s new web presence. Hope you like it and do share your feedback with us!

Thank you once again for the belief, love and support you’ve shown us. We’re grateful and from this moment onwards, let’s aim to aspire for an India that’s beyond Poverty!

Team Rang De

Rang De 2012 Moments!

2012 has been an eventful year for Rang De. Presenting our Top 10 moments of the year!

  • Rang De presented Leadership Expert and globally-acclaimed author Robin Sharma in Bangalore in February 2012. Robin Sharma presented ‘Winning Leadership Lessons’ to build a great organization in his seminar, ‘Lead Without a Title’
  • The Rang De team met Prof. Muhammad Yunus at the Bombay Gymkhana in February at an event organized by Grameen Creative Labs, India to brainstorm and come up with a strategy to build a “Social Business” ecosystem in India.
  • Rang De Co-founder and CEO Ramakrishna Nk was formally inducted into the Ashoka Fellowship in September 2012! 9 other change makers were inducted and recognized for their outstanding social entrepreneurship.
  • Rang De was the 1st runner up in the ‘Best use of Internet for Social & Economic Development’ at the 2nd India Digital Awards! Rang De also won the SAFRG (South Asian International Fund Raising Group) Fund raising Campaign of the year Award – New Media for its ‘World Cup Fever’ Campaign.
  • Raghu Dixit became Rang De’s Brand Ambassador and Social Investor this year! He was a part of the Rang De Freedom Bus concert where he interacted with Rang De borrowers and performed for more than 400 people in Pusad, Maharashtra
  • Rang De was featured in the Microfinance India: State of the Sector Report 2012 for being a Web-based Microfinance initiative. Microfinance India: State of the Sector Report is an annual publication on the microfinance sector quantifying its growth and performance.
  • Rang De was featured on CNN IBN’s series India Positive as their Diwali SpecialIndia Positive is a series that showcases stories of courage, hope, inventions, discoveries, harmony and peace!
  • Rang De crossed Rs.100 Million worth of social investments this October! We’d like to thank everyone that has been a part of our journey for helping us get here.
  • Trafigura Foundation and Deshpande Foundation joined hands with Rang De in 2012 starting new relationships.
  • Rang De joined hands with many new Field Partners in 2012. Among them is Ramon Magsaysay Award winner Ms. Neelima Mishra’s Bhagini Nivedita Gramin Vigyan Niketan.

A big thank you to everyone that has been a part of our journey so far. We’d also take this opportunity to invite new people to join our exciting journey and be a part of the Rang De family!

Rang De turns 3!

We are excited to announce that we have just completed three years of Rang De Microcredit! We are as paranoid as ever before about our mission to make low cost microcredit a reality. As an eco-system of team members, field partners, borrowers, social investors and volunteer chapters, we believe that microcredit needs to be:

  • affordable, if it has to be life changing
  • sustainable, not necessarily profitable
  • more socially rewarding than financially lucrative

We are all set to give it our all in the next few years. Our aim for the next three years is to reach out to more than 100,000 underserved households in some of the most remote areas of India. Through our field partners, we will provide entrepreneurs with access to low cost capital, financial literacy and business mentoring. As a team we aspire to make social investing a norm by inspiring individuals across India to connect meaningfully with rural entrepreneurs. We dream of lowering interest rates  to a point  where credit is accessible and affordable to all.

We are grateful to you for being part of this eventful journey and sincerely hope that you will continue with us as we begin to tread on paths less travelled!

For feedback and queries,  do drop us an email at info@rangde.org. If you wish to start a Rang De Chapter in your college or city to spread a little bit of colour, do write to smita@rangde.org.

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