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Mahindra Finance using CSR money to fund social startups Sustain Earth and Sickle Innovations
Economic Times, 2 April 2015
PUNE: Non-banking financial company Mahindra Finance is funding two social enterprises through its corporate social responsibility fund, after the new Companies Act amendment allowed investments into startups through incubators to fall under the CSR purview. The company has partnered with social venture fund Villgro to fund SustainEarth, and with the Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad's Centre for Innovation Incubation and Entrepreneurship (CIIE) to fund Sickle Innovations. Mahindra is investing Rs 20 lakh to Rs 23 lakh in these companies. SustainEarth supplies biogas systems and Sickle works on improving conventional farming through innovative appliances. "We have been actively focused on the rural sector through CSR initiatives. After the Company Law amendment, we were looking to engage with a social enterprise focused on rural areas, and we found Villgro and CIIE to be the right partners for this," said Vishal Bhanushali, manager-CSR, Mahindra Finance. Mahindra also plans to help these startups find customers and scale up through their network. "Their network and access to rural population will be of immense benefit to us," said Koushik Yanamandram, cofounder of SustainEarth. Yanamandram started SustainEarth along with Piyush Sohani in 2013, as a masters student in The Energy & Resources Institute (TERI). They have designed a biogas system, 'Gaugas', which includes a plant, pipeline and stove. SustainEarth received initial funding ofRs 10 lakh from Villgro as an incubatee. "We have concluded with our prototypes in Andhra Pradesh, and in Karnataka, we are partnering with Sri Kestra Dharmasthala Rural Development Project to supply biogas systems to villages. We plan to cross more than 100 biogas systems soon, and by 2015-16 we aim to sell 2,000 biogas systems every year," said Yanamandram. Sickle Innovations is looking to use its funding to scale up operations and invest in research. Nitin Gupta, who started the company in 2014 with Vinay Reddy after quitting from the Indian Space Research Organization, is focusing on two products - cotton plucker and fruit picker— aimed at small farmers. "We are working in the rural belt in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Punjab and Andhra Pradesh. We are aiming to supply 1,000 cotton pluckers this season, which will help cotton farmers to pluck cotton and deposit them in a non-contaminant manner, while ensuring faster plucking," said Gupta. Sickle has totally raised Rs 50 lakh through another institutional investor and an angel, besides Mahindra Finance.

TERI University signs MoU with Centre for Air Power Studies
New Kerala, 1 April 2015
The TERI University, which offers Masters and Doctoral programmes related to sustainable development, and the Centre for Air Power Studies (CAPS).which focuses on research and analysis in areas related to national security, defence and aerospace, have entered into a collaborative arrangement. Through this MoU, signed on Wednesday, serving officers of the Indian Air Force (IAF) would be admitted to the doctoral programme at the TERI University in research areas related to politics & governance, energy security, resource management, economics, statistics and social science analysis. They would be jointly supervised by faculty members of the TERI University and of the Centre for Air Power Studies. Rajiv Seth, Acting Vice Chancellor, TERI University, said: "Through this arrangement, we will be able to build capacity in the country in the nexus between issues of national security and sustainable development. Serving Air Force officers will do doctoral level research under the guidance of experts in both these strategic areas." Air Marshal Vinod Patney (Retd), Director General, CAPS, said: "Towards widening its areas of research, CAPS has taken the initiative and entered into a joint MoU with TERI University as a collaborative research partner. Through this arrangement, nominated scholars would now be able to carry out research (while pursuing a PhD degree) in areas related to Sustainable Development and National Security Studies.

Beyond GDP – Capturing welfare and sustainability
Governance Today, 23 March 2015
“The problem with following the herd is stepping in the crap it leaves behind” The GDP or the Gross Domestic Product has been all in news with its new methodology (GDP calculation at market price and reckoned on a new base year)—resulting in substantial jump in growth figures but in the process, creating a roadway to debate its authenticity. The Economic Survey (2014-15) predicts that India has now reached a “sweet spot” in history, with 7.4 per cent growth rate in the current fiscal which could go up to 8-10 per cent in following years. The Union Indian Budget 2015-16 projected that the economic growth will be 8.5 per cent in the next financial year. Growth will be perhaps in double digit figures in subsequent years, as put by the Union Finance Minister of India. But the question is where is this growth coming from? Our natural resources dependability and vast environmental degradation is highly pervasive by all records. The “natural capital” base is declining steadily. Even as pantheons are being sung for the high economic growth, not many are thinking in terms of who will take the blame of the crap of a ‘corroded environment’ in the future? Sometimes the herd mentality grips us totally that we forget what is right and what is not. GDP measures the macroeconomic size and health of an economy by aggregating the total value of final goods and services produced within a given country’s borders. It rightly represents economic growth and the production record of a country. However, treating it as the ‘best’ and exclusive parameter for economic growth and development seems flawed when India’s diverse population and rich democratic dividend is taken into percept. The roots of doubt are embedded in the fact that higher growth rate is of no value if the economy’s growth is uneven and distribution among rich and poor is being ignored. Even the claim that India’s growth will outpace China’s in coming years seems more of braggadocio rather than economically explainable. While Chinese economy is slowing to a new normal, its productivity and industrial base is much stronger to sustain the growth level and ratchet up with lesser effort than is the case with India. Secondly, the growth rates being presented are Rupee denominated. But the IMF looks at growth rate in US dollar (USD) terms, so the ‘impact’ of currency movement while comparing Indian and Chinese growth rate should not be ignored. According to Pronob Sen, Chairman, National Statistical Commission, it’s a “time to sense pride” for high GDP figure and the new methodology which captures GDP at market prices and reckons new base year altogether. The Economic Survey (2014-15) claims that the projection of India’s GDP growth for next year at 8.1-8.5 percent looks fairly reasonable considering that in majority perhaps, all sectors in the economy have tended to perform better in 2014-15 (FY15) compared with 2013-14 (FY14). CSO, which brings out these numbers, has clarified that GDP is based on value added at market prices which broadly refers to the returns to factors of production. GDP at factor costs is not capable of showcasing the economic activity precisely. Other units as Gross value Added (GVA) at basic prices is an international standard and mostly employed for sectoral level. Even the UN’s System of National Accounts (SNA) had said in 1993 that for a country, only GVA and not GDP at factor cost should be used. Admittedly, India has undergone a dynamic economic growth trajectory of highs and lows since liberalization. Over last few years, though, the clamor has been rising about growth cannot just be captured in terms of monetary worth of goods and services produced or in terms of monetary value added. Today, the alarm of sustainable development ringing globally has refused to merely exist as background music and it deserves support, voice and urgent attention. It needs to be adopted at both micro and macro levels of economic analyses. Particularly, in case of India, given its population’s huge natural resources dependability and existence still as ‘developing stage’, a sustainable development pattern is utmost essential for equitable and just prosperity, in terms of both growth and well-being in the long run. A plausible solution which could account for economic activity of common people and elite statisticians and economists alike can be “Green Accounting.” If one thing we are definitely ignoring, it is the nature; call it ecology, environment or by any other term. The natural capital is abundant yet inevitably depleting today and it is precisely, what GDP is failing to capture – the ‘costs’ of economic growth. However, we cannot simply jump into a “Green GDP” concept which the UNEP has proposed because hazards in these accounting need to be kept in mind. The example of China is worth noting here. It heralded its green accounting exercise first in 2006 estimating for the year 2004, and gave a figure 3.5 per cent as environmental pollution of its GDP but international experts claimed it was as high as 8-12 per cent. China also saw very low growth in that phase and abruptly halted the green accounting exercise in 2007. Needless to say, political pressure was more than the environmental concerns. In fact, we need to look beyond Green GDP as many economists and ecologists in India and abroad point out rightly and that must start at the conceptual level. For instance- “Green Economy V/s Brown Economy” a la Gopal Kadekodi that points how Brown Economy strategy is one about intensification of fossil-oil based energy, development, and how that means just development, but not “sustainable development”. Thus the result is increased land, water, atmospheric exploitation and pollution. In contrast, “Green Economy” concept was included in Rio +20 Summit in 2012. It is portrayed as an opportunity to enhance ecosystem services, enable sustainable development and livelihoods for the poor. Undoubtedly, we (the common man) all love growth. But experts have started to realize that over long run, a seven per cent growth rate which takes a minimum to no account of environmental costs and damages works much better than a five per cent sustainable growth rate which hopefully adjusts for such costs and takes care of environment, eliminating huge ecological costs in future. In this direction, there have been various upcoming initiatives globally such as the concept of “Net Adjusted Savings” introduced by World Bank in 2010 and “Inclusive Wealth” Reports 2012 and 2014 by UNESCO and MGIEP jointly worked upon by eminent economists, scholars and academicians from diverse fields. In conclusion, we may reiterate what Jairam Ramesh (Former Minister of State, Environment & Forests, Government of India) has conveyed through “The Hedgehog and the Fox”— that the fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing. The way to a green economy is to ensure that it is not hijacked by any one type of hedgehog– the ‘environment – hedgehogs’ who know nothing but maintaining the environment in its pristine form or the ‘growth hedgehogs’- who can’t see beyond their GDP noses. All of us will have to become foxes, knowing many things. Unless we are foxes we cannot move beyond GDP. Thus, the Government of India really has to decide which measure to use for economic growth accounting for India. Most importantly, the costs need to be accounted too as the environmental/ecological limits can’t be ignored. The need of the hour is to opt for a sustainable and inclusive growth path, which would ensure economic well being for people and preserve what mother nature has endowed us with. Written by Shobhna Jha The author is pursuing Masters in Economics from TERI University, New Delhi


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India trade mission a success
Concordia Journal, 11 February 2010

Under the agreement with TERI [The Energy and Resources Institute] University, to take just one example, researchers will be working on climate change, biofuels and sustainable business, all recognized areas of strength at Concordia.


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