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An entrepreneur turns cellphones into 'rewarding' opportunities for India's working poor.

Finally, a loyalty program that's truly worth the spending.

An entrepreneur turns cellphones into 'rewarding' opportunities for India's working poor.
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Hard work is the key to success ... right?

Well, that's what they say. But even some of the world's wildest successes would say it's not that simple.


Bey knows. GIF from "Life Is but a Dream."

Certainly the world's two billion working poor might disagree.

Take a country like India for example. Social entrepreneur Akanksha Hazari says most workers there do "literally back-breaking work" but don't earn enough to meet their families' needs.

Photo by paradiz/Pixabay.

Hazari comes from humble beginnings in India, too. Her parents worked hard and succeeded at giving her a better life. But she recognizes their ascendance, while partially the result of hard work, was also a matter of luck.

Images via Vital Voices Global Partnership/YouTube.

"For me, it’s very important that I contribute to the world that creates equal access to opportunity," Hazari told TakePart. "Anyone who works hard, the system should be set up in a way that they can be successful and see the rewards of that hard work."

After graduating from college in the U.S., Hazari put her career where her values were and went into the humanitarian field, which eventually brought her back to her home country. However, the more she learned, the more she realized it wasn't her truest calling.

She began to wonder:

"How do we live in a world where you have mobile phones and you have Coca-Cola, but we can't deliver electricity and education?"

Hazari was baffled by sights of people in extreme poverty carrying cellphones and sodas but lacking fundamental services like clean water, electricity, education, and health care.

But in that contrast, she saw a big opportunity to leverage both commercial tactics and India's massive cellphone ownership for good.

Cellphones are a powerful way to connect businesses with customers and families with what they need.

Hazari launched m.Paani, a loyalty program like those you might use through your cell provider or credit card. Users collect points by using their phones and shopping with the program's partner vendors.


What sets m.Paani apart from other rewards programs is that points can be used to buy food, household goods, water filters, tuition support, and other items that make important differences in their lives.

According to Hazari:

"It was taking loyalty and applying it in a completely different way — to give value to consumers who are usually unseen and underserved — and creating for them a second wallet of points they can actually use to improve their quality of life, to achieve their aspirations."

An added benefit is that m.Paani is helping India's mom 'n' pop shops grow their businesses by using data and analytics — information most owners have never seen or considered.


"They live in what we call a 'data dark world,'" said Hazari. "Because there's no information about you, you don't get access to fundamental services like insurance or loans."

We don't have to reinvent the wheel to solve critical issues like poverty.

If there's anything we can learn from Hazari's story, it's that the tools of enterprise can be used for so much more than profit. They're already here. We can use them where it matters most.

Watch a profile of Akanksha Hazari and m.Paani:

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels
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Increasingly customers are looking for more conscious shopping options. According to a Nielsen survey in 2018, nearly half (48%) of U.S. consumers say they would definitely or probably change their consumption habits to reduce their impact on the environment.

But while many consumers are interested in spending their money on products that are more sustainable, few actually follow through. An article in the 2019 issue of Harvard Business Review revealed that 65% of consumers said they want to buy purpose-driven brands that advocate sustainability, but only about 26% actually do so. It's unclear where this intention gap comes from, but thankfully it's getting more convenient to shop sustainably from many of the retailers you already support.

Amazon recently introduced Climate Pledge Friendly, "a new program to help make it easy for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products." When you're browsing Amazon, a Climate Pledge Friendly label will appear on more than 45,000 products to signify they have one or more different sustainability certifications which "help preserve the natural world, reducing the carbon footprint of shipments to customers," according to the online retailer.

Amazon

In order to distinguish more sustainable products, the program partnered with a wide range of external certifications, including governmental agencies, non-profits, and independent laboratories, all of which have a focus on preserving the natural world.

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Even as millions of Americans celebrated the inauguration of President Joe Biden this week, the nation also mourned the fact that, for the first time in modern history, the United States did not have a peaceful transition of power.

With the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, when pro-Trump insurrectionists attempted to stop the constitutional process of counting electoral votes and where terrorists threatened to kill lawmakers and the vice president for not keeping Trump in power, our long and proud tradition was broken. And although presidential power was ultimately transferred without incident on January 20, the presence of 20,000 National Guard troops around the Capitol reminded us of the threat that still lingers.

First Lady Jill Biden showed up today with cookies in hand for a group of National Guard troops at the Capitol to thank them for keeping her family safe. The homemade chocolate chip cookies were a small token of appreciation, but one that came from the heart of a mother whose son had served as well.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Welcometoterranova and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Welcometoterranova-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.