By: Varun Rattan Singh
Working on a new initiative is like raising one’s children. It brings its own anxieties, worries and happiness. Today our small baby – HimVani.com completes one year. What started as a small community for Himachalis in 2001 has taken shape of an information resource for the people and by the people of Himachal Pradesh. The story of how we reached here is long and probably I will talk about it some other time. For the time being we have one year experience of running an initiative behind us. So is it time to sit back and celebrate or do we plan ahead and set some more targets for us in the coming year? I have been deliberating on these issues for a while. I think it is time to share some thoughts and probably open the house for people to give us a feedback.
For a long time we have kept one word in our mind i.e. Catalyst. All our strategies and plans are built around this keyword. There is a constant deliberation which goes between us on – “How can we act as a catalyst in the development process in Himachal Pradesh?”. HimVani.com came after all these deliberations. It was felt that considering the geography and small population, Himachal fails to get any media attention. So it was conceived that we set-up a website which is supported by ordinary citizens like you and me. We the citizens take not just reporting but come up with solutions as well. In the last one year we have been able to mobilise opinions from a wide section and we hope to continue with the same.
Much before the website, we had this itch of doing something for the state and prove our credibility to the people that we are serious about implementing our ideas. As we are low on financial resources, we thought a website was probably the easiest and cheapest way to give shape to our ideas. I think to a certain extent we have been successful. Now another question has started hounding us. What next? Is this the only way we can catalyse development. Through internet we are able to reach out to a very small segment of population across the globe. Next bright idea is to go offline. Hold on! Going offline certainly does not mean closing shop but going to the grassroots. We would want to see action on the field where we work along with people towards achieving our goals.
Like any other nation or state, government of Himachal is the largest player in the arena. It has huge resources to pursue the task of development in the form of abundant natural resources. The social indicators of the state continue to place us among the five most developed states in India. Yet our economy is in perpetual state of mess. We are heavily indebted to the central government and to the World Bank. The job opportunities are emerging but are the people in Himachal ready for them? The geographic terrain makes it impossible to reach many areas. Government schools are in abundance, but are they imparting quality education? Health services are probably the best in the country but do they match up to international standards? Do people have any share in the natural resources or is it being exploited by people from plains who have deep pockets but utter disregard to the values and culture of the hill people?
Keeping all these issues in mind we at the Voice of Himachal (VOH) have decided to commit ourselves to become a promoter of social enterprises by augmenting resources available with the community. This is a vision statement for us and it certainly fulfils the desire of many who have wanted to associate with this initiative. By ‘augmenting resources’ we intend to provide a plethora of services which will support entrepreneurial activity in the state focussing on use of resources already available with the community. I must emphasise that profit is not a bad word for us. We are also not engaging in charity. We are going to promote enterprises and we will be talking about business and market linkages but with a difference. Our approach to business will see that people are put before profits and the rightful owners of our natural resources should get a share in the pie.
In the near future we see ourselves playing multiple roles. At one end we will be challenging the state and at the same time we will continue to work along with the state as catalysts. We will adopt an approach to work which unlike the government will move beyond bureaucracy and is performance oriented. We will continue to build a network organisation which partners with institutions across the globe and learns from their best practices, adapt these practices to our local conditions and implement them. We understand that issues related to development are complex and difficult to tackle. So we want to experiment with various kinds of interventions with which we can trigger a change but at the same time we have no intention to turn wheels again.
We think that young professionals like us who can bring in fresh and innovative ideas should be supported. HimVani.com came into existence because a small group of people thought about it and then went ahead to execute the idea. From this experience, we think that each idea needs a champion, somebody who is constantly thinking about that idea, working out ways to implement them and pursue it with a lot of perseverance and passion. There are immense opportunities in Himachal in the fields of education, tourism, health, renewable energy, IT, floriculture and horticulture etc. We invite individuals or groups who are willing to pursue their ideas to join our network and be part of a growing tribe of social entrepreneurs from Himachal. At the same time we also invite individuals and organisations who are willing to commit valuable resources to partner with us and support such initiatives.