Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Desh Deshpande and his talk at URI

Quite impressive a talk by a scientist cum professor cum entrepreneur.He is a wise man who has gone beyond the stage of financial needs .With two grown sons and helpful wife and still a high level of energy and resources it seems stars have lined up for him, India and United states. He is the type of entrepreneur this world needs.

He has six for profit companies and six not for profit ventures .I asked him how does he manage it all ,though he did not give a clear answer but it seems that he is quite involved at the beginning of the concept development.Then he lets the principals take over and help them as any involved venture capitalist would.

For his for profit sector he has been quite involved with MIT community and has funded an innovation center with 20 million dollar investment.It seems to be a closed environment from the website as all events are by invitation and not open to public.As of today events are not web cast.I mentioned it to him and he agreed that he should look at making that available to public for use by other researchers and scholars or just people like me who are just curious.

Besides his financial success and ups and downs with the Sycamore networks he is a very serious thinker .He is thinking how to leverage world knowledge for the benefit of humanity.He was born in India and nurtured by its waters and people he has a special affinity towards it.But he is American to the core and said that he loves and admires American capacity to change and innovate.

His latest venture a battery project ( by the way he has been working for several years ) is coming to fruition with closer to billion and half dollars of funding and projects under development. This is a great forward thinking example.I admire it.Conceptually i am impressed.

His not for profit sector work is quite impressive also .His work with MIT maybe considered investment .His work in India in social sector can be considered innovation in social engineering for which India presents a great lab.He calls his work as a sand box of ideas in areas around Bangalore.I do not know who runs it how much input he has from his explanations it seems that he has not only funded it but has also helped scale it .

He explained about the development of Midday school lunch program .He mentioned how they have built an organization which with the help of state (material and partial funding)prepares and distributes 180 thousand meals per day to school children.He also mentioned that how at 12 cents per meal they are able to do it in a wholesome and healthy way to provide healthy food to students. State is funding half of it.They have developed infrastructure and systems to provide these meals.In true entrepreneurial spirit he has not blamed the problems of the place and system but has solved them .His mindset seems to have been adopted by his associates in every environment.
HE also informed us that this Mid day school lunch program has been scale to provide 1.5 million meals in different regions of India.This scalability is quite impressive.

He also informed about teaching new rice planting method to the farmers to increase output .He mentioned how they had to start by subsidising farmers for adopting it and there is possibility that in near future it will become self sufficient.I am quite impressed by his ability to scale up in not for profit sector .It seems that he is finding in governments and other non profits allies in his social sector work.


PS; I had forgotten to mention one important part of the conversation.Mr Deshpande asked us to start a chapter of his school luncheon program support group to fund that at $14 per child per year and it is a Worthy cause.It shows his focus and always a marketer(selling ideas).It is important to know that I as founder of a non profit and did not ask money from this Unique opportunity of meeting this first Billionaire in my life,Naturally he was not told about my project while he had discussed his non profit projects..I do not know if URI asked any contribution from MR Deshpande or he agreed to contribute any.I am sure as he has chosen to contribute half a day to URI he has given enough importance to its projects.

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