Krannert’s iSeek team is teaching entrepreneurship to women and their famiies in Jharkhand, India, where many products are made by skilled women using their local resource, Tasar silk. (Photos by iSeek)

Meeting the Challenge

Krannert initiative combats poverty with entrepreneurship

It’s a big goal: In 10 years pull 10 million people out of poverty in 10 different countries. But Alok Chaturvedi has a purpose, a plan and a team in place to help him reach it.

“I started wondering how can we help people who have been left behind and have never been to school or have been to school for a very short time,” says Chaturvedi, professor of management.

With a research background in national and homeland security, Chaturvedi has experience working on large-scale information technology projects in impoverished countries. “I started wondering," he says, "what will happen if I directly work for the people, to help them out of poverty, rather than work with the government?”

Project vision

Chaturvedi’s vision is to empower girls and young women by providing entrepreneurial training, mentoring and other tools to help them start and grow their own businesses. In addition, the program educates participants about good mental and physical health practices, including reproductive health.

Much of the information they need to know about becoming entrepreneurs will be taught through crowd-sourced gaming, using cellphone technology. The program, the Institute for Social Empowerment through Entrepreneurship and Knowledge, is known as iSEEK. Organizers are currently working in India and planning to expand the program into South Africa, Latin America, then southeast and central Europe.

“I was visiting India when I saw the level of cellphone penetration was just tremendous –– 900 million cellphone users,” Chaturvedi says. “The trend is such that in the next two or three years, many of these people will have smartphones and at least access to the Internet.”

“Initially we thought we would use a text-based game, but by the time we get it ready, everyone will have a smartphone anyway. We decided to develop our gaming and knowledge platform for smartphones. We hope that the adoption of our games will be much faster because more and more people are getting smartphones and smartphones are becoming more powerful.”

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