More to life than work & wife! - The New Indian Express

More to life than work & wife!

Published: 05th December 2012 09:16 AM

Last Updated: 05th December 2012 09:16 AM

Change comes by in a small way at first. And sometimes it starts as an unlikely idea among a group of friends. But once an idea, how does it progress to that next level? That is the concept behind iDiya, a platform to convert real-time ideas into real-time action. Organised by the Indian School of Business, iDiya invites working professionals with innovative concepts and non-working professionals with a start up idea to compete with each other for the prize: funding and infrastructure to execute their ideas.

Being held for the fourth year in a row, iDiya commenced Tuesday. And opening the event was none other than one of India’s most successful social entrepreneur, Padma Bhushan awardee Dr D R Mehta, founder-patron of the Bhagwan Mahaveer Viklang Sahayata Samiti (BMVSS) which gave the world the Jaipur foot.

Adressing students, budding entrepreneurs themselves, the former chairman for the Securities and Exchange Board of India described the module on which BMVSS, the organisation responsible for the most number of free prosthetic limb fittings in the world, has managed to survive since its inception in 1975.

“When I was in the US, this discussion had come up where it was asked what were the three innovations that India is known globally for? Only two answers came up: the Jaipur foot and the Nano car,” chuckled the 74-year-old. Despite his age, the doctor stood to his full height, almost a good foot taller than the rest who were scuttling around to speak to him, amused and ever ready to promote the BMVSS.

“Someone once told me, ‘Mr Mehta, the BMVSS is not sustainable’ I replied, ‘That is true. But we have been that way for the past 32 years!’ Let me present a parody to the infamous Einstein equation. E which is effort is equal to M which is money multiplied by C square which is compassion. That is how we have survived. When people come in, they limp and crawl, yet when they leave, they walk. The joy on their faces is all we care about.”

Providing free prosthetic legs, foot, knee and limbs to anyone and everyone who come asking, the BMVSS has spread not only through India but has also serviced as many as 26 countries across the world including countries like Pakistan and Iran, and through the continents of Africa, Asia and Latin America. And all for free.

“There are four ways to conduct a social enterprise: first, that you charge. Second, through a not-for-profit organisation. In this case, often, the economics dominate social responsibility. Third, an urban approach. Leave it up to the patient to choose to pay. They could pay little, half, full or not at all. And finally, for free, which is what we have opted for,” he explained.

Explaining why it was the path they chose, he further went on, “Any social enterprise is created for the needy. But the moment you make it chargeable, you eliminate the needy benefiting from it, which defeats the purpose.”

Among other milestones, the Jaipur knee was listed as one of the 50 top inventions of 2009 by TIME magazine. Reaching out to as many countries as they can, the BMVSS fits at least 75000 people in a year.

“As a social enterprise, the scaling of an initiative is important. For instance, we have fitted as many 64,011 people with a prosthetic. Yet the All India Institute of Medical Sciences fitted only 86 in a year. They have become socially unaccounatable.”

Next on his list is to penetrate the naxal area in Chhattisgarh. “I am not a pure rational being. I’m partly irrational. You need to live life in more than just one dimension - work/family. There’s more to it. Give back to society for it has given you everything.” The doctor is now eagerly awaiting the next big development -- the release of the prosthetic hand, which fits from elbow and below. Being developed in collaboration with Stanford University, it is expected to be available soon. “It is not an exact science, so I can’t tell you how soon,” he said.

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