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Amritha Pillay profiles ‘The Hub’, a common platform for NGO start-ups in Mumbai
A number of NGOs working for different causes from one common platform to save costs—if this is what you are looking for, your search would end at ‘The Hub’. Perched near the steps of the famous Mt Mary Church of Mumbai is an ordinary-looking building. On its fourth floor is The Hub which literally vibrates with positivity. You could even call it a melting pot of Mumbai’s NGOs.
Just a few months old, the Hub provides an office and address to around 30 social-sector start-ups. These include groups working for senior citizens, women’s rights, sexually abused children, the blind and others. “We wanted to ensure there are groups working for various causes rather than having a number of groups working for the same cause,” says Pooja Warier, who co-founded UnLtd India (along with Richard Alderson) which supports the Hub and funds other social start-ups in the city.
“When we first started work for UnLtd India, we realised there was no common place that we could work from, like ‘The Hub’ in London,” said Pooja. This, coupled with frequent requests for space from social start-ups supported by UnLtd India, led to the creation of The Hub. While, The Hub is focused on supporting social start-ups, professionals such as designers, writers, job-recruiters and film-makers who are willing to help these NGOs with their expertise, are also welcome here. “The job recruiter with us helps NGOs working from The Hub to find people at subsidised rates or no charges,” says Pooja.
The Hub is run with contributions from the members, which range from Rs1,000-Rs11,000 per month, based on the duration of use, the space occupied and what they can afford. The same arrangement applies to workshop space.
A lot of thought has gone into planning the space. “We chose Bandra because it is ideally positioned and The Hub is also not very far from the railway station,” says Pooja. Its bright, cheerful and well-lit interiors too get a thumbs-up. It is also designed in a way that an open space can be created in 15 minutes flat.
The 1,500 sq ft Hub accommodates 24 work-stations and can host up to 100 people or more for events. This space is used for workshops and conferences for the NGOs working at the Hub. This amiable workspace is equipped with free facilities like coffee-vending machines and water purifiers.
To make The Hub its office space, an NGO must talk to the directors and fill an application form. If they are genuine and have been working in their field for a while, the application is accepted. As the space is meant to help start-ups, NGOs will have to leave the place once they become self-sustaining.
Pooja believes that the best thing about The Hub is the people involved with it. “At no point of time did we have a single person who thought that formation of the Hub was a bad or stupid idea,” she adds; “and they even help to take care of it.” The Hub in Mumbai is a one-of-its kind institution in India. However, Pooja and Richard wish to support formation of similar hubs in various cities across the country. “We would be very happy to share our experience and learning with those who wish to form similar hubs in other Indian cities,” says Pooja.
The Hub started just a few months back and needs to be supported with donations and funds. “The Hub aims to be self-sustainable and run on contributions from members. With our current projections, we will break even in our third year of operations. Until then, we will need a certain amount of grants to cover running costs, develop tools that can be shared by The Hub members (for instance, a start-up kit) and support some members who are unable to afford our fees,” says Pooja. In future, it also plans to provide more value-added services.
Candelar Building, 4th Floor,
26 St John Baptist Road,
Near Mount Mary Steps,
Bandra (W), Mumbai 400 050
Tel: +91 22 32163287
Beware! Many street vendors are selling alphonso mangoes, which are 'fake' and artificially ripened using chemicals, under the pretext of selling Ratnagiri or Devgad alphonso
When boxes of Alphonso started appearing on Pune streets for sale early this week from coastal Konkan, people were pleasantly surprised at the early onset of the mango season.
However, the ‘king of fruits’ could not be savoured by many as State Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officials had swooped on the vendors following complaints that the mangoes were harmful to health as calcium carbide (CC) had been used to ripen them artificially. What is more stunning is neither are these alphonsos from Konkan region, nor they alphonsos. This look-alike variety of mangoes is from Chennai and Mangalore whereas the original alphonso mango belongs to the Konkan region of Maharashtra.
Scores of boxes containing dozens of mangoes smeared with CC powder have been seized and destroyed in warehouses since the FDA inspectors in coordination with their Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) counterparts, launched a concerted drive a couple of days back.
Interestingly, street vendors are selling these so-called ‘alphonsos’ for Rs300 per dozen whereas the ongoing rate of 'original' alphonso from the Konkan region is between Rs1,100 to Rs1,300 per dozen.
Mangoes worth over Rs70,000 have so far been destroyed in the drive against the vendors involved in the malpractice and the FDA operation is being extended to the entire Pune division comprising Kolhapur, Sangli, Satara, Solapur and Ahmednagar, Sanjay Patil, joint commissioner, FDA Pune, told PTI.
"We had come across isolated cases of artificial ripening of mangoes put on sale last summer. But this time the hazardous practice by unscrupulous elements seems to have assumed a greater magnitude as our combing operations to detect such fruit stocks are continuing," said Mr Patil.
The use of CC, available in the form of a white powder, is banned under the FDA Act as an agent for artificial ripening of fruit as it entails health hazards affecting nerves, eyes, skin and lungs.
At one of the storages used to pile up the mangoes, the FDA inspectors on 17th March stumbled upon a packet containing about 2.5kg CC powder, a sample of which has been sent for chemical analysis in FDA labs.
"A lab report is awaited to confirm chemical analysis of CC. Once that is confirmed, we can initiate legal action by filing a criminal offence against those involved," he added.
So far, the FDA-PMC squad of food inspectors numbering around 25 have seized mangoes thus ripened, mainly from Guruwar Peth and Shukrawar Peth areas of the city but they believe that the dubious activity is rampant in many other parts.
Interestingly, FDA officials acknowledged that they got the clue about the large-scale hazardous artificial ripening of mangoes using CC powder through a written complaint filed by Dilip Bhairat, a Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) activist who has also approached PMC on the issue.
An MNS activist said most of the vendors who were involved in the malpractice came to Pune from Mumbai and sold the artificially-ripened mango stocks, originally purchased from Mangalore.
The Mangalore fruit variety resembles the popular ‘Ratnagiri hapus’ (alphonso), that comes from the Konkan region.
"This is a big racket run by anti-social and unscrupulous elements to the detriment of local traders in mangoes as these fake alphonsos are sold in large quantities at a cheaper price cheating the customers. Many vendors hawk their stocks going around residential societies," he claimed.
Meanwhile, FDA officials have appealed to people to bring to their notice sales of mango suspected of artificial ripening.