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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 β€” to give value to consumers who are usually unseen and underserved β€” 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 β€” 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 Louis Hansel on Unsplash
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This story was originally shared on Capital One.

Inside the walls of her kitchen at her childhood home in Guatemala, Evelyn Klohr, the founder of a Washington, D.C.-area bakery called Kakeshionista, was taught a lesson that remains central to her business operations today.

"Baking cakes gave me the confidence to believe in my own brand and now I put my heart into giving my customers something they'll enjoy eating," Klohr said.

While driven to launch her own baking business, pursuing a dream in the culinary arts was economically challenging for Klohr. In the United States, culinary schools can open doors to future careers, but the cost of entry can be upwards of $36,000 a year.

Through a friend, Klohr learned about La Cocina VA, a nonprofit dedicated to providing job training and entrepreneurship development services at a training facility in the Washington, D.C-area.

La Cocina VA's, which translates to "the kitchen" in Spanish, offers its Bilingual Culinary Training program to prepare low-and moderate-income individuals from diverse backgrounds to launch careers in the food industry.

That program gave Klohr the ability to fully immerse herself in the baking industry within a professional kitchen facility and receive training in an array of subjects including culinary skills, food safety, career development and English language classes.

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Cipolla's graph with the benefits and losses that an individual causes to him or herself and causes to others.

Have you ever known someone who was educated, well-spoken, and curious, but had a real knack for making terrible decisions and bringing others down with them? These people are perplexing because we're trained to see them as intelligent, but their lives are a total mess.

On the other hand, have you ever met someone who may not have a formal education or be the best with words, but they live wisely and their actions uplift themselves and others?

In 1976, Italian economist Carlo Cipolla wrote a tongue-and-cheek essay called "The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity" that provides a great framework for judging someone's real intelligence. Now, the term stupid isn't the most artful way of describing someone who lives unwisely, but in his essay Cipolla uses it in a lighthearted way.

Cipolla explains his theory of intelligence through five basic laws and a matrix that he belives applies to everyone.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."