Saturday, August 18, 2012

Week in Review: Innovations in India

The excitement in the air was palpable this week when Kiva launched in India. As a way to celebrate this new initiative, the Kiva community took to the streets and performed a Bhangra flash mob in San Francisco's Union Square.

Now, the global community of lenders have the opportunity to help the 68% of the population living on less than US$2 a day. 

That is a hard statistic to swallow. How can over half the population live on what many of us spend on our morning coffee?

From the Oscar-winning movie Slumdog Millionaire to the best-selling book, Shantaram, the images of India that are presented to the West are ones of desperation and poverty. 

But in fact, the hardships that many Indians face have led to great achievements. Many of the top medical, educational, and technological advances have come from India. Below are three innovative companies hailing from India.

Headquartered in Bengaluru, Narayana Hrudayalaya is one of India's largest multi-speciality hospital chains, or as Fast Company describes it, "Walmart meets Mother Teresa." With a population of 1.6 billion people, India is in dire need of low-cost, high-quality health services. Narayana Hrudayalya meets this need by opening up their very own health cities. On a daily basis, they cater to 15,000 patients and perform 30 open heart surgeries, at a very reduced cost.

Founder Dr. Devi Shetti explains his business model, "This hospital is for poor people, but we also treat some rich people. So we’re mentally geared for people who are shabbily dressed and have trouble paying. We don’t look at them as outsiders. We look at them as customers."

Founded in 2003, Tree House is a leader in educational services. Currently, they operate 135 pre-schools, which is the largest number of self-operated pre-schools in India. Tree House offers pre-school and K-12 education to children at an affordable price with excellent teachers, curricula, and teaching methods. Treehouse aims to serve a large population of Indian children and advance their educational standards.

Until 2006, bus tickets were sold exclusively via brick-and-mortar agents. That all changed with the launch of RedBus, the online bus ticketing service. Founded by Phanindra Sama, he has computerized the bus industry and was voted as a top-5 most promising entrepreneur in India by Businessworld. Because customers can now view real time availability and purchase tickets online, RedBus sales tripled last year adding 4.25 million riders.

The large-scale innovations featured above came about from finding solutions to problems India was facing. From lack of affordable healthcare to inefficient travel scheduling, these entrepreneurs were able to positively alter India. By lending to borrowers in India, you can help make a large impact in India and change the somber statistics for the better.

Photos courtesy of Andy Wright, Fast Company, and Tree House.