Ashoka Awards Fellowship to Three Social Entrepreneurs

February 16, 2011
Release Date: 
February 16, 2011

Ashoka Innovators For The Public India today announced that it has selected three social entrepreneurs in India as Ashoka Fellows.  

The social entrepreneurs who have been awarded the Ashoka Fellowship are Sunanda Mane, founder of Lend-A-Hand India (LAHI), Krishna Prasad, founder of Sahaja Samrudha and Irfan Alam, founder of SammaaN Foundation. The three join a distinguished list of over 350 Ashoka Fellows in India, who have been identified over the last 30 years as those creating lasting social impact in their chosen fields through innovative solutions.

Ashoka Fellows are leading social entrepreneurs who we recognize to have innovative solutions to social problems and the potential to change patterns across society. They demonstrate unrivaled commitment to bold new ideas and prove that compassion, creativity, and collaboration are tremendous forces for change. Ashoka Fellows work in over 70 countries around the globe in every area of human need.

Ashoka India Country Director Solomon Prakash said, “At Ashoka, we are constantly looking for individuals who undertake the task of creating system changing solutions for the most urgent social problems in their role as social entrepreneurs. In Sunanda, Krishna and Irfan we see passionate individuals with a vision of creating a better future, and the urge to be Changemakers. We are proud to induct them as Ashoka Fellows.”

Sunanda Mane

A former Maharashtra state representative for CARE, Sunanda started Lend-A-Hand India (LAHI) in 2003 to help students develop skills of critical thinking, management of resources, teamwork and timeliness. LAHI currently works with 60 schools across Maharashtra and 6 schools across Karnataka and Goa. The program received recognition from the Government of Maharashtra and it appears as a part of the transcript of the high school certificate as a full credit course and is also recommended by State Government to be implemented across the State.

“Ashoka’s vision to enable everyone to be a Changemaker synchronizes with LAHI vision of making a difference in the lives of the poor through self-help. Ashoka’s global support network and their presence across the country will help in spreading LAHI’s work,” said Sunanda Mane.

Krishna Prasad

Krishna Prasad is creating a new market for organic farming in India by leveraging the knowledge and networks of existing farmers to revive and maintain traditional varieties of seeds and commercialize organic seeds. Krishna Prasad started a company, Sahadja Samrudha, in 2006 to facilitate new markets for organic farming in India, by leveraging the knowledge and network of existing farmers to revive and maintain traditional varieties of seeds. The company to be owned and operated by farmers is intended to create a sustainable model for the commercialization of organic seeds in India. Currently he has established 34 seed banks in the last 15 years

“India having the second largest farming land globally; It is time to analyze the potential of organic farming to maximize the yield in India by creating a legal and social framework for farmers, I am honored that Ashoka has recognized the cause and has decided to promote the cause of Improving agriculture In India,” said Krishna Prasad.

Irfan Alam

Irfan Alma completed a three-month programme at Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad on Management Development. He founded SammaaN Foundation as a guarantor to provide access to direct credit to several rickshaw operators to purchase rickshaws at market rates. Further, Alma has provided rickshaw operators access to health care services, bank accounts and other financial services such as mobile banking and insurance. Currently the network has grown to include 500,000 rickshaw operators across five States in India. He has partnered with the Tourism Department in the State of Bihar, to accommodate pre-paid rickshaws at airports and railway stations at tourist destinations while also partnering   with the Government of Madhya Pradesh to implement a welfare scheme, replicating his work in the State for cycle rickshaw operators.

“In India Rickshaws contributes 30% in urban transport, majority of rural population becomes rickshaw operators in urban cities, it is high time to provide recognition and empowerment to this clan of our society, Asoka’s support toward the cause will surely be of great help in optimizing the goal of SammaaN Foundation,” said Irfan Alam.

About Lend-A-Hand India (LAHI)

Lend-A-Hand India is a non-profit venture launched in 2003 by young professionals. It is based in New York City and focuses on issues related to youth. Its programs provide vocational training, career development, employment, and entrepreneurial opportunities to young boys and girls in rural and urban communities.
Lend-A-Hand India collaborates with dynamic grassroots non-profit organizations to develop and implement innovative projects. Lend-A-Hand India is a tax-exempt 501(c) (3) non-profit with offices in the US, India, and UK-London.

About Sahadja Samrudha

Sahaja Samrudha started as a farmer initiated group to exchange ideas, seeds and share knowledge on sustainable agriculture. The formation of Sahaja Samrudha was the culmination of their individual efforts into a more exciting and powerful force to make sustainable agriculture a way of life for the farming community.

The founders of Sahaja Samrudha have been engaged in work with the farmers with concerns such as appropriate technology, soil, land, environment and health from the year 2000. Since inception Sahaja Samrudha has been establishing contacts, building networks, facilitating exchange of experience and developing programmes based on the needs of farmers of specific regions. These pioneer farmers encourage other farmers to grow top quality produce and work in harmony with a healthy ecosystem, encouraging nature 's protective network of soil micro organisms and beneficial insects to help them farm successfully. Many of the team members have been recognized at the state and national level for their pioneering work.

About SammaaN Foundation

The term 'SammaaN' means recognition to all. Thus, a society based on equality is the dream that SammaaN Foundation pursues. We are a company registered under section 25 of the Company’s Act 1956.

Established on January 25, 2007, the aim is to link the socio-economically most descendant class with the main stream by empowering them through training, capacity building, education and financial support. In India, the unorganized section forms almost 20 percent of the total population. Of this 20 percent, 92,00,000 are rickshaw operators with the majority of them being seasonal migrants. SammaaN Foundation is working towards organizing the rickshaw-pulling sector and is constantly trying to bring this class under a uniform system by providing those opportunities to grow and strengthen their livelihoods.

Employment generation, women empowerment, children’s education, health services and micro credit are the key areas where the organization is gradually making its leap.

About Ashoka

Founded in 1980, Ashoka is the world’s leading community of more than 2,700 leading social entrepreneurs. It champions the most important new social change ideas and supports the entrepreneurs behind them by helping them get started, grow, succeed, and collaborate. As the rate of change in the world continues to escalate exponentially, social entrepreneurs and Ashoka must play a special role in helping the world evolve new systems designed to serve the good of all. Central to that change is the necessity for everyone to be able to contribute to change. Ashoka, its inner circle of leading social entrepreneurs across the globe, and its other partners ranging from highly successful business entrepreneurs to 12- to 20-year-old Youth Venturers are all contributors – individually and collectively – to the world of helping the world make the transition to its “everyone a changemaker™” future. For more information, visit