[sociate] Of crores, lakh and Dabbawallas (posted March 10, snagged by Indian smtp guardians)

  • From: "Jerry Michalski" <jerry@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "Sociate News" <sociate@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 23 Mar 2005 09:40:10 -0500

3299> I'm on my last day of a week-long visit to India -- my first. From
Bangalore back to Mumbai today, then an early flight tomorrow to SFO via

Two things brought me here: a Wharton/Cisco seminar on how small and medium
enterprises around the world use technology (to be repeated in Philly and
Shanghai over the next couple months), and a
<http://fellows.wharton.upenn.edu/> Wharton Fellows master class about doing
business in India that preceded the seminar. (Tremendous thanks to Jerry,
Douglas and Neil for bringing me into this!)

In one quick week, I've seen and heard too many blogworthy things, so I'll
just touch a few before I board my flight.

A noteworthy landmark in the world of complex emerging business systems is
Mumbai's network of
<http://www.uppercrustindia.com/11crust/eleven/mumbai3.htm> Dabbawallas,
often illiterate couriers who daily fight the amazing traffic there to get
home-cooked meals from individual houses around the city directly to the
people they belong to -- all with  <http://www.quality.nist.gov/> Baldrige
Award-level error rates. For roughly $1 (US) a month, dabbas (tins with the
home-cooked food) get carried from homes to offices and back daily.

Indian social entrepreneurs are doing great work. Several I met with
wonderfully serendipitous timing, given that I'll be at
<http://www.sxsw.com/> SXSW next week for two days of
PHPSESSID=c8292ebb9a4813025ae4ec0ec4d32738> focus on civic engagement and
participatory democracy.

The entrepreneurs I met here include Rohini Nilekani of the
<http://www.aksharafoundation.org/> Akshara Foundation and Ramesh Ramanathan
of  <http://janaagraha.org/> Janaagraha. Ramesh returned to India in 1998
after a successful career with Citibank and others doing international
derivatives work. Here, he has worked on microfinance projects as well as
the one I just cited on participatory democracy.

In case you're wondering what crores and lakhs are, they are counting units
that make good shorthand ways to talk about scale. A crore is 10 million (so
100 crore is a billion). A lakh is 100,000 (so 10 lakh = 1 million). So
conversations and  <http://www.rediff.com/election/2004/mar/26espec.htm>
articles are peppered with how many lakh or crore something cost or might
serve, more often than you might hear them talk about millions or billions.

posted by Jerry Michalski at
2762> 10:40 PM

2762> Thursday, February 10, 2005

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  • » [sociate] Of crores, lakh and Dabbawallas (posted March 10, snagged by Indian smtp guardians)