Breaking the Barrier

While staying away from the homeland, I witnessed an untrue stereotype that Indians are smarter when it comes to research, IT and other professional skills which the  modern world demands. But the irony and dilemma of poor engineering, lack of quality research that affects the routine back home is an unsettling issue. Although business schools like IIMs and ISB raise the Grand masters of management, many of them with an exceptional  prior-training in engineering, the benefit sparsely reaches the  section of the society that solely look up to the  government. James Trevelyan, Winthrop Professor in the school of Mechanical and Chemical Engineering at the University of Western Australia, penned a sensible article in the Lead column of ‘The Hindu’ on 20th June, 2012 titled “The enigma of Indian engineering” that was well accepted for most of the facts and opinions. The article highlights some of the unnoticed causes of unnecessary expenditures that we Indians do due to lack of connectivity between the social life and engineering marvel. For example, he goes on to estimate the cost of clean, potable water as Rs. 1200 per tonne while the same costs only Rs. 80 in Perth. Nevertheless, he gives credits to the telecom sector that revolutionized India. Therefore it is nice if you can read the above article 🙂

 “The mobile phone revolution has transformed expensive, corrupt, inefficient government monopolies with appalling service into thriving, profitable enterprises providing high quality service at minimal cost, around the world. India is no exception“.  His focus on the mobile phone revolution is crucial for what I want to say below.

While reading the above research excerpt, I instantaneously remembered forwarding an impressive  column to my sister almost half past a year ago. It was an adept example of  breaking the  barrier between people with technical expertise and their coordinated social interactions.  Journalist Thomas Friedman, NY Times  covered the success story of Eko India Financial Service Pvt. Ltd. that reached out the low-wage urban mass for safe banking using mobile phones.

What started as a small startup in one of the Uttamnagar’s remote garage 5 years ago,  attracted billionaire Bill Gates and many more. Eko’s founders Abhishek (graduate of BIT Mesra) and Abhinav Sinha with two others  aimed at providing cash deposits, withdrawals, micro-insurance and micro-credit services via kiosks and small neighborhood shops which acted as banking agents.  Their target was >100 million migrant workers in India who cannot have official bank accounts because they lack official residency. Eko developed cellphone software systems that help the workers to do all the transactions in nationalized banks like SBI and deposit or withdraw the money  through kiosk banking agents. Turning point came when  a 1.78 million dollar fund was poured in from a World Bank agency.  Today NASSCOM has listed Eko among “50 Emerging companies which are redefining the benchmark of excellence for the next generation of SMEs (Small and medium enterprise).

Eko’s story would have gone unnoticed unless the international media shed light on it. Home grown talents and achievements deserve much more attention, or atleast in par with Indian corruption scandals.