Sunday, May 26, 2013

A fortnight gone working with Sammaan

Working with the 10-man-strong staff, mainly at the Sammaan head office, in the heart of scorching Patna has made the past two weeks fly by extremely fast. A lot of time has been spent getting acquainted with the unique model that Sammaan and its beneficiaries operate on. Sammaan’s main beneficiaries and focus are the rickshaw pullers of the state of Bihar. Having taken a tour around the traffic-congested streets of growing Patna, it is clear to see that rickshaw pullers contribute significantly to the economy and transportation sector, interacting with the town's civilians on an unceasing basis . Little is noticed of the hardships that these rickshaw pullers go through. Many are migrants from rural areas who flock to the city after sowing their crop, looking finding work as they wait for the harvest season. They struggle with finances, having no form of saving accounts, keeping all their cash with the fleet owners who rent our their rickshaws at exorbitant prices. This and several factors leave them in a poverty trap.
 The streets of Patna

Sammaan Foundation, a social business, acts as intermediary between the rickshaw pullers (bottom of the pyramid, underrepresented) and the rest of society (banks, government, corporations higher classes of society,etc). using a unique business model to offer them services that will eventually uplift themselves socio-economically with the help of society and also integrate at the same time. Doing all this is requires work and I'm a witness to how busy the Sammaan office can get. But the real offices are out in the field, where many more grassroots workers labor in the sun to facilitate rickshaw pullers and their families to the services that the non-profit business has to offer. It is these services that I will be further investigating as I begin field visits starting tomorrow and get a chance to interact with the Sammaan rickshaw pullers and their families.
The Sammaan Head Office

Apart from that, I have been offered to help with research into innovative funding models that Sammaan is planning on implementing for future rickshaw pullers to purchase their own rickshaws as a means of  gaining assets as part of their economic uplifting. I am loving the social-impact  driven atmosphere and the attitude of the business aimed at social benefits over profit (which is all re-invested in the business anyway). The staff has also been intent on not keeping me from delicious Indian cuisine, countless cups of chai and one taste of what they call "Masala Cola" (Coke and masala).

 Masala Cola
I think I’ll stick to the chai!

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