Meet the New Ashoka India Fellows

Meet the new Ashoka India fellows Sunanda Mane - Lend-A-Hand India, Krishna Prasad - Sahadja Samrudha and Irfan Alam - Sammaan Foundation.


Sunanda Mane


The significant disconnect between the education imparted and livelihood skills needed in rural India is a major contributor towards the migration to urban areas. Educational curricula focus more on the needs of the urban population. Knowledge and skill-sets relevant to the daily lives of the rural population are not addressed in the educational curricula. 

Sunanda is bridging the gap between education imparted in secondary schools and real life skills required in rural India. By introducing trained local entrepreneurs into schools, Sunanda creates an environment where students are able to develop entrepreneurial skills. As a result of her work in over 60 Government aided schools in rural Maharashtra over the last four years, absenteeism and drop-out rates have decreased significantly.While working to develop entrepreneurial skills and qualities in the students, Sunanda seeks to ensure that the youth remain locally connected. Towards this end she trains local micro-entrepreneurs to act as role models and become instructors in schools to train the students.  Students also acquire practical business skills such as timeliness, calculating costs, marketing and selling their products locally and ascertaining profits.

Quote: I must admit that it is a great feeling!  It is a big deal that a world renowned, prestigious organization such Ashoka Foundation as has recognized the work that Lend-A-Hand India is doing in education sector. This recognition provides immense opportunity to connect with the best and the brightest in the social entrepreneurship sector, share, and learn from them.  It is going to provide a big boost to our efforts. Thank you so much.

Krishna Prasad

Krishna is plugging the increasing demand for organic seeds in India, by commercializing organic seeds through an organic seed company that will be owned and managed by farmers. He 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.While there is a significant number of farmers opting for organic farming, there is a limited supply of quality organic seeds. Krishna intends to set up ‘seed centers’ near the seed farms that will have necessary infrastructure to undertake quality testing, store, preserve and pack the seeds. In order to help farmer communities and groups monetize their intellectual property rights over traditional varieties of seeds and farmer varieties, Krishna also intends to organize farming communities and farmer breeders into associations or societies. He then intends to enter into negotiated licensing arrangements with them in return for royalty payments or equity interest in the seed. 

Quote: “ I am deeply touched for the recognition given to me by the Ashoka Fellowship. This would help our network develop alternatives andsolutions to farmers miseries. Receiving the fellowship would help reach out to a large number of people and work towards removal of deeply-rooted social, environmental, economic inequities of the farming community and help fight for their seed sovereignty”.

Irfan Alam

The rickshaw community is highly unorganized and there are also no enterprises that mass manufacture rickshaws. Currently, small vendors assemble rickshaws locally. Irfan is making rickshaw operators and their families ‘full economic citizens’ by  building channels for essential services such as banking, individual access to credit and health and making the rickshaw a ‘mobile small shop’ for the sale of various products and services. Seeing rickshaw operators as significant contributors to the growth of the Indian economy, he believes that it is imperative that they participate actively in the economy as consumers and enjoy equal opportunities. Towards this goal he organizes the rickshaw operators to augment their income by utilizing the rickshaw as a mobile advertising medium and marketing the transaction point for the sale of various products, while placing an emphasis on financial savings. On the other hand, he uses a market-based approach to create partnerships between the rickshaw operators and business enterprises to provide access to various essential services.

Irfan is currently in the process of making the rickshaw operators and their families owners of a for-profit company that will organize the rickshaw manufacturing process (to provide cost and design benefits to the rickshaw operators) and also provide access to affordable housing. Through his work, Irfan is creating a captive market at the bottom of the pyramid by empowering rickshaw operators to become economic citizens.

Quote: "I am delighted to join most sought after Ashoka fellow club. I am sure I will have better opportunity now to connect with like minded people who are warriors of change making. But being  Ashoka fellow I feel expectations would be mutual and I am equally responsible to spread entrepreneurial virus all across the globe and perform at the highest level in the process of change making".