Karya is thrilled to be included in the first chapter of Harvard Business Review's new book, "Frontiers in Social Innovation". Described as "the one book you need to make a difference in the world", the book features "the world's most innovative social innovators". You can buy the book on Amazon today. A section of the chapter on Karya is provided below:
Relevant Excerpts from the Book
When technology and innovation unite, it can be the catalyst for the creation of global enterprises capable of generating vast revenues and transforming the way people live. However, as 25-year-old Manu Chopra is demonstrating, when technology and innovation are matched with human-centered design, they can create a powerful driver of social change. In their desire to help defeat extreme poverty, Chopra and his team are providing villagers in India with dignified ways of earning a living by enabling them to use smartphones to build computational models for thousands of India's languages, which are used by tech companies to build AI algorithms...
...A key focus for Chopra has been tackling the extreme poverty that still plagues his home country. So, on returning to India after graduating, Manu spent six months traveling across the country, visiting more than 1,000 villages-some of India's poorest. While doing so, he followed the advice that Gopal Krishna Gokhale gave to Mahatma Gandhi and which I cited at the start of this chapter: he kept his eyes and ears open, but his mouth shut.
Like others in his generation, he was putting empathy to work. And what he learned while visiting the villages and by listening to the people he met was that not one of them wanted charity. They wanted fair treatment, to be free from discrimination, and access to the same social and economic opportunities as others. In short, they wanted social justice. "We realized that poor Indians are incredibly aspirational," he says. "All they want is an opportunity for a job. They're not interested in handouts. So, then the question was: What jobs can you give people?"
The question is one many have tried to answer. Conventional wisdom is that poor people need education and training. However, with 800 million Indians either unemployed or under-employed, sheer numbers mean this is not a solution, at least in the short term. "There is no way you can train 800 million people," says Chopra. "You can't build enough schools and most people don't have computers. My question was: what skills do they already have that they can get paid for?
The answer, Chopra and his team realized, lay in the languages and dialects they speak-more than 19,500 of them, according to analysis of census data. They knew that technology companies were rushing to develop AI-driven and crowdsourcing platforms across the Indian market. To do so, they needed to develop databases in local languages, and it takes a million spoken hours to build a database in a given language. "We saw a fundamental gap," says Chopra. "There were hundreds of millions of people who spoke these languages who had no money, and there were all these American and Indian companies saying we need data."
Karya's way of advancing social justice is to bring about a transformation in the lives of the people they work with, enabling them to move from merely surviving to thriving and striving by giving them a stepping stone to the next economic opportunity. While earning money, villagers are also building skills since, for many, this is their first encounter with a smartphone, a key tool of today's economy. It's a model that's opening a door to poor communities and letting them step in to participate in the economy in a way that would not otherwise be possible.