A hi-tech NGO uses technology to improve the lives of tribal population, creating a win-win model that benefits adivasis and the society
Ravi Waghmare, a serious-minded tribal youth from Maharashtra, wanted to be a teacher. But government posts in the taluka were auctioned to the highest bidder and he did not possess the ability, or the confidence, to work in the city. Today, this diploma-holder in education works as a diver for an illegal sand-dredging operation which reduces his life expectancy by 10-20 years; it could also lead to blindness, hearing loss or paralysis.
Adivasis or ‘indigenous tribes’ are at the threshold of change. With depleting forests, on the one hand, and increasing influence of mass media and development on the other, they find themselves the crossroads: they cannot sustain their traditional lifestyle and are also unable to benefit from India’s growth economy. That is where Crisys steps in.
Crisys is a registered non-profit company based in Thane (Maharashtra). Its vision is to create a connected, abundant and responsible society through technology. Its name is an acronym for ‘Creative Responsible Integrated Systems’ and it is developing innovative solutions for the development of indigenous tribes.
Crisys is the brainchild of Glenn Fernandes, a visionary technologist, who worked in Siemens India Ltd for 20 years before he quit his job to dedicate his life to social work. He has been joined by an able and dedicated team of software and electronics engineers, medical practitioners, bio-technologists, professionals in sustainable development & management and volunteers from Germany and Austria.
Its flagship project ‘PACT’ (pratigya apprenticeship for community transformation) provides free training to adivasi youth in fields like IT, healthcare, education and agriculture. They use these skills in two ways: firstly, to work in development projects for their own communities; secondly, to undertake external projects that provide professional work experience and help generate funds for their monthly stipends and salaries. For instance, IT apprentices work part-time in developing educational multimedia for adivasis, and part-time in ‘Jungle BPOs’ doing 3D modelling, animation, data processing, software maintenance and other IT jobs under professional supervision. The infrastructure and equipment set-up is financed by Crisys.
Crisys is developing similar programmes in agriculture and industry aimed at providing training and livelihood in situ, in the adivasi villages. This would reduce migration to cities, give opportunities to women and help develop backward areas, without imposing any burden on the society.
Another innovative project is the ‘rapid remote kit’ (R3) developed by Crisys to provide immediate medical relief in remote areas, with no roads or ambulances. It comprises (1) mono-wheel ambulance that can traverse rough, rocky terrain (2) portable low/no-power respirators (3) snakebite relief measures such as humane snake trap, leg gaitors or coverings and first-aid medication.
R3 kits are distributed free of cost in snakebite-affected areas as part of its ‘snakeathon’ project. Funds are generated from Crisys Software and IT projects as well as corporate and individual sponsorships. Crisys had also filed a PIL (public interest litigation) in the Bombay High Court about government action to help reduce deaths due to snakebite. In October 2014, the court asked the Maharashtra government to examine its research and to consider the feasibility of promulgating an Emergency Medical Services Act, on the lines of such legislation in Gujarat.
Crisys is an NGO with a difference. It provides a platform for connecting marginalised population with mainstream society.
Ground Floor, Madhav Baug Brahmin Society,
Naupada, Thane 400602, Maharashtra,
Telephone: +91 022 25393537, +91 91670 23335
Email: [email protected]
Poised to reap the benefits of expansion
In its latest annual report, Grindwell Norton (Grindwell) had admitted, “Domestic demand continues to be weak and there are no signs of an industrial recovery in the short term.” That is the past. The fact is that Indian manufacturing is at one of its lowest points and is poised to rise. As a company making abrasives, ceramics and plastics, Grindwell will be a big gainer from a manufacturing boom.
Grindwell is India’s second largest manufacturer of abrasives and ceramics (after Carborandum Universal) with a market share of around 25%; both companies have held ground against Chinese imports. The other player in the market is Wendt with 4% market share.
Grindwell’s parent, Saint-Gobain, is a global leader in abrasives and electro-minerals. The parent company is targeting to triple group sales by 2019. For this, Grindwell has implemented gross block expansion of 70% over FY10-14. It has unused capacity of 35% and is well placed to ride the manufacturing cycle based on its leadership position in India (with Carborandum) and innovative products.
For the quarter ended June 2014, Grindwell’s sales were Rs260.89 crore (Rs224.74 crore) and its net profit was Rs23.84 crore (Rs21.71 crore). For the year ended March 2014, Grindwell’s revenues were Rs941.61 crore (Rs945.09 crore). Its net profit for FY13-14 was Rs82.32 crore (Rs97.67 crore). Exports were at Rs102.78 crore in FY13-14 against Rs123.72 crore in FY-12-13.
In FY13-14, the new plant at Bengaluru was fully commissioned and the bonded abrasives expansion project at Nagpur, which had slowed down in
FY12-13, was also completed and commissioned. Capex is through internal accruals and the company’s share capital has not been increased since FY05-06.
Grindwell’s performance remained steady through high inflation, low GDP growth and depreciation of the rupee. Over the past five quarters, the average growth in sales of Grindwell was 3% and operating profit was down 4%. The average operating margin is 14%. The market-capitalisation is 2.67 times sales and 17.80 times operating profit.
Return on net worth is 15% and return on capital employed is 19%. It has no debt.
Promoters hold 59.03% of equity while 2.85% is with foreign institutional investors, 7.90% with domestic institutional investors and 30.22% with the general public.
Grindwell distributed dividends of 130% in each of the past three financial years. The face value of shares is Rs5 and book value is Rs100.45. Its share price rose from a 52-week low of Rs229.60 on 4 February 2014 to a 52-week high of Rs541.05 on 16 September 2014. The share is expensive at the current levels of around Rs524.15. A decline to around Rs400 would make it an attractive buy.
Never pro-consumer, IRDA now wants to give insurers a license to mis-sell even more
IRDA is expected to suggest removal of 40% cap on agency commission. It is an anti-consumer move which can bring back mass mis-selling like before September 2010 which saw insurers laughing their way to the bank and consumers crying foul for getting duped.
Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA) Chairman TS Vijayan seems to be making a U-turn on the product caps put by previous chairman J Hari Narayan.
Media reports suggest that IRDA is expected to suggest to the Parliamentary Panel on Insurance Law (Amendment) Bill, that the new Insurance Bill remove the existing 40% cap on agency commission and leave agent licensing process to insurers themselves. TS Vijayan was slated to meet the panel members of on 27th October.
Removal of agency commission cap seems to be a desperate move to accede to Life Insurance Council’s demand to sell more insurance. Removing caps on agent commission will surely improve sales as history shows that a motivated and highly paid agent will surely sell more. Unfortunately, the victims of such selling will be consumers who will end up with a flawed product which gives meagre returns. Senior citizens will be made to buy products in the name of their children or grandchildren as making a sale would be more important to help the agents earn more.
This is not just conjecture. History has shown this to be the case. The disaster of pre-September 2010 ULIPs is still unfolding. Moneylife Foundation’s Insurance Helpline gets numerous cases of wealth destruction through flawed products, sold by aggressive salespeople only for their own benefit – high commissions. History will repeat itself if insurers are allowed to make their own decisions on intermediary commission. Higher agent commission will mean even lower returns from the product, which is already pathetic in case of traditional products like endowment, money-back and whole-life.
In September 2010, after IRDA was inundated with complaints about mis-selling, especially ULIPs, IRDA capped overall charges at 3% of net yield in case of ULIPs with a tenure of 10 years or below. Net yield is the return that a customer gets on maturity minus charges.
In case of insurance policies of above 10 years, IRDA had capped total charges at 2.25%.
While it made the product better, agents shifted to selling traditional products which earned up to 40% commission in first year (35% in case of LIC). This tilted the insurance company’s sales portfolio completely. LIC with 70% business in ULIP and 30% in traditional products went on to have 30% ULIP and 70% traditional. This again proved that agents can sell inferior products if there is enough commission.
Media reports quote Life Insurance Council secretary general V Manickam, saying, “Agents are responsible for bringing in over 90% of business to the life insurance industry. But they do not find their job attractive now with the 40% of first year premium as their commission.” The insurance company lobby has an agenda of penetration, but should also be answerable to the humungous complaints received by IRDA on product mis-selling. Is there any action plan to help improve the returns for the consumer or just selling a product is all that matters for Life Insurance Council? Will Life Insurance Council promote term plans if they really want Indian to be adequately insured? IRDA’s desire to develop online market for life insurance seems to be contradictory with its latest move to remove caps on agent commission.
Over the past few years, IRDA has caught several insurance companies paying more than the legally permissible commission to agents, especially corporate agents. Apart from the blatant violations of commission norms, life insurers also find ways to give additional compensation to agents with lucrative contests, paid foreign trips and so on.
Moneylife has highlighted that buying traditional products instead of new ULIPs was like jumping from frying pan into fire. It was also a candid opinion from IndiaFirst CEO Dr P Nandagopal. In an interview with Moneylife in 2011, he stated that “ULIPs certainly offer lot of advantages over traditional products in terms of transparency, lower charges and flexibility of investments.”
In a recent media interview, he stated, “If an insurer’s charges are steep, open markets will beat that insurer down. But, if the insurer is selling an opaque product (traditional), the charges and benefits are neither known nor comparable, and the insurer gets away with selling an inferior proposition with high pitch marketing. Unlike in a ULIP, there is no meaningful limit on the expenses in a traditional plan; the insurer can pass on all expenses to the policyholder in the initial years. An inefficient company with high operating and distribution costs can pass on its cost to the policyholders without their knowledge. Traditional participating plans for savings are long outdated in developed markets such as the UK. They are present only in Asia and West Asia due to underdeveloped regulations.”
IRDA’s life insurance guidelines, effective January 2014 fell short of bridging the gap between commissions on traditional and ULIP commission. In the case of regular premium insurance policies, a policy with a premium paying term (PPT) of five years will not pay more than 15% in the first year, 7.5% in the second and third year and 5% subsequently. Products with PPT of 12 years or more will have first year commissions up to 35%, in case the company has completed 10 years of existence and 40% for the company in business for less than 10 years.
With ex-LIC CMD and now IRDA Chairman moving to help the life insurance companies get back to its heydays and also helping the 20 lakh agents earn better livelihood, it can only mean difficult times for consumers ahead. It is not just individual agents, but banks that will be happy to earn fat commissions from sales to gullible banking customers. The feeble steps taken by previous IRDA Chairman to safeguard consumers will be crushed by insurers with a new license to kill.