XLRI: Helping The Non-govt Sector
Posted online: Saturday, August 07, 2004 at 0000 hours IST
Amidst a hectic academic session, students of XLRI, have gathered to provide voluntary consultancy services to non-governmental organisations (NGOs), not-for-profit organisations (NPOs) and small & medium scale enterprises (SMEs).
Working under the umbrella of Students’ Initiative Group for Managerial Assistance (SIGMA), the would-be managers are ready to help those who are helping others. The mission, among other things, according to Prof Biswatosh Saha, faculty coordinator, SIGMA, “is to promote the involvement and commitment of students to contribute to society through effective means of participation and to enhance leadership, managerial and entrepreneurial capabilities of non-profitable organisations (NPOs) and private sector initiatives on the social front by developing management consulting (with a high level of project responsibility) as a powerful tool”.
SIGMA, which takes up short-duration projects as it suits the B-School students who come for a two-year learning session, recently completed one for an NGO imparting informal vocational training to school dropouts at Liluah near Kolkata. Known as the Don Bosco Self Employment Research Institute (DB SERI), a one-man initiative, which though existing for a number of years didn’t have an organised and set procedure of going about its job.
“Though the initiative was there, there was no set-up and no systems in place of going about the job,” said Sujan P Gowda, secretary, SIGMA and a second year business management (BM) student. According to Allen Ebenezer Eric, secretary, External Linkages, XLRI, “Basically, the NGOs have a lot of passion and enthusiasm to do a lot of things; but they don’t have the right structure.”
Talking of the DB SERI experience, Gowda said that the SIGMA team had identified about 16 trades for the institution out of which ’mechanical repair centres’ was short-listed “as Liluah was located on the national highway which had had its share of car/vehicle breakdowns”.
“We prepared a feasibility study and suggested how exactly to go about in setting up a mechanical training centre,” added Gowda. “Basically all the learning we have had in the B-School, was applied on the NGO,” said another SIGMA member.
Asked what attracted them to help NGOs, NPOs, SMEs, etc, this way when there was neither the incentive of remuneration nor marks to be scored, Ms Indira Gopalakrishnan, a senior executive member of SIGMA said, “it is a unique combination of social work where we get the opportunity to apply our management skills to the projects, which may not have been possible otherwise”.
As to the type of response that came from the NGOs, NPOs, etc, Gowda, talking of the DB SERI experience said, “they are amazed that students from XLRI had come all the way”. The projects are an ongoing thing where the juniors are also involved and whatever is learnt is passed on to the junior batch. Last week SIGMA got tied up to an NGO called Socio-economic & Educational Development Society (SEEDS), a self-help group (SHG) for women, based in the XLRI campus itself.
While the self-help groups of women (located around Mosabani near here) form cooperatives, pool in their savings, SEEDS maintains the accounts and comes out with plans showing them how best to utilise the money by using the natural resources around them, like making ’laddoos’, packaging them and selling them under a brand name at weekly “haats” and to supermarkets, etc. “Currently the project deliverables (at SEEDS) are not clearly defined” said Gowda, adding that “they now want an assessment and evaluation of their entire processes so that they get new ideas of how to get about marketing the products, which currently is their weakness”.
SEEDS has also till date been not able to do much in the field of education. “That’s the second project they want to offer us—— as to how they can go about in providing education for tribal women,” “Most people running NGOs, being activists, have enthusiasm and initiative, and are very concerned about issues they take up; but they lack management expertise or professional approach to situations”, said Gowda, adding, “therefore, there is a lot of demand-supply imbalance in favour of professional consultation”.
XLRI has also had this year, like in the other B-Schools, a students’ chapter of the National Innovation Foundation (NIF), called the Students’ Committee for Augmentation of Innovation (SCAI), which works at grassroots level and scouts for innovation from among farmers and other ordinary people, who come up with new innovative ideas to make their work easier on a day to day basis.