Acumen Blog

zhl1

Experimenting with leaner ways to collect poverty data

In partnership with Grameen Foundation India, Acumen is working on a Lean Data Initiative, analyzing the poverty rates among investee Ziqitza Healthcare Limited‘s callers in Orissa, one of India’s poorest states. Wei Wei is an Impact Associate working on this project and provides context for the study below.

In contrast to the chilly, grey morning outside, the brightly-lit room in Amritsar, Punjab buzzes with life as a few dozen young people sit in front of phones and computers. Phones ring every few seconds and alerts on pending calls flash on their computer screens. Fingers dance quickly and lightly across keyboards, punching in numbers and commands instinctively.

But this isn’t just any call center in India – the young 20-somethings are answering calls that are often a matter of life and death. They’re working for Ziqitza Healthcare Limited, which runs 240 ambulances for the government of Punjab in addition to several hundred ambulances across several other states. Known locally as “108”, the emergency telephone line, everyone from taxi drivers to villagers is aware of the service. The call center processes almost a thousand calls a day from traffic accidents to expectant mothers headed into labor.

DSC06002

Acumen invested in Ziqitza over five years ago, when the company had a fleet of just nine ambulances in Mumbai and a can-do spirit. Through a number of public private partnerships with state governments wanting to provide reliable emergency transportation services to both their rural and urban populations the company has since grown to serve over 2.5 million callers with a fleet of nearly a thousand ambulances. Ziqitza’s emergency medical technicians are indeed very reliable – they were first responders in the 28/11 attacks at the Taj hotel in Mumbai and rescuers during the flooding in Orissa this year.

1298 029

As board members of the company and investors, we’ve always known Ziqitza to be a socially-focused company with cutting edge standards of service. But what we didn’t know as deeply was who they were serving, and whether – as a free service in states where they’ve signed contracts with the government – they were reaching into poorer segments of the population that would have no alternative emergency medical transport. Given the company’s social mission, Ziqitza’s CEO Sweta Mangal is also determined to better understand their focus on the poor. So we came together with Grameen Foundation India to run a study of poverty rates among ZHL’s callers in two of their biggest states – Punjab and Orissa – using Grameen Foundation’s Progress Out of Poverty Index, an easy-to-administer 10 question tool that determines poverty likelihoods.

The impetus behind Grameen’s creation of the Progress Out of Poverty Index was the desire to create a tool that would simplify the process of understanding who was being served and whether there were any improvements in poverty levels over time. Income-related information is notoriously difficult to collect accurately, and existing surveys took hours to conduct in person.

The study is novel in two ways in its application of the PPI to Ziqitza:

1)      Rather than being conducted in person, the study is layered on Ziqitza’s existing infrastructure – its call centers – where members of their quality team perform customer call backs within days or weeks of the initial call. The quality team is adding the PPI’s 10 questions onto their usual set of customer feedback questions. This process cuts down on surveying time and costs dramatically. We’ll be conducting an in person validation of a small percentage of calls to determine the efficacy of this method.

2)      It will test correlations of poverty rates to other information regularly, and rigorously, collected by the company such as the urgency of the caller’s medical complaints and whether the caller comes from a rural versus urban area.  By doing so we’ll learn more about whether poorer callers are using the service differently and what the company can do to target them most effectively.

We’re particularly excited that the study will be the first to be part of Acumen’s Lean Data Initiative, which is experimenting with leaner, more cost and time efficient ways to collect better data on our investee’s customers, with the hope of furthering both business and impact measurement goals. By testing a range of collection methods (like call centers, SMS, and automated voice response), we’ll also be improving upon our own understanding of what methods work best with different business models.

We look forward to sharing what we’ve learned in the next months!

 

Comments

Imagining the world as it could be

Christine Gitau is an East Africa Fellow and an enterprise coach at Craft Afrika, which provides business support services to craft entrepreneurs, enabling them build viable and thriving businesses in Kenya. At Acumen we often use the term “Moral Imagination” when talking about leadership. Christine wrote a reflection on how this concept has shifted her thinking. We could not be more proud of what she is building! [Read More]

How two Acumen Fellows are disrupting the education model in India

Whether its running youth soccer programs, providing vocational training services, or transforming the education system in India, Acumen India Fellows are driving real change in their communities.  Abbas Dadla and Abhilasha Sinha are India Fellows who are addressing the teacher shortage in India through the use of technology and peer collaboration. Find out what they are building below.  If you have grit, resilience and a commitment to creating change in your community in India, East Africa or Pakistan, we encourage you to apply for the Regional Fellowship Program! [Read More]

Meet Manjushree Patil, Founder of Aatman Academy

This month saw violent tragedies in Pakistan and Kenya, regions where Acumen works and which five classes of Acumen regional fellows call home. Among them there are dedicated teachers like Acumen India Fellow Manjushree Patil, crusaders against sex trafficking, builders of government, creators of liberating mobile medical technologies, and curators of slum sports programs. The need for strengthening the connections between those who are working for positive change against seemingly impossible odds has never been greater. We at Acumen have never been prouder to be the thread tying together these courageous individuals. Read more about Manjushree and how she is changing her community in India below! [Read More]

No, not silence again!

The Acumen Fellowship’s Cambridge Leadership Associates (CLA) training is notorious for digging deep, breaking Fellows down to reveal their deepest fears, identifying the sources of resilience that will fuel them with the tenacity to continue along the path to social change. Kahabi G. Isangula is an East Africa Regional Fellow living in Tanzania and recently participated in our CLA training. Get an idea of what it is like, below!  [Read More]

Announcing the Class of 2015 Acumen Global Fellows

Acumen Global Fellows are architects for the impact sector. They are innovators, game changers, visionaries, with various professional experiences looking to make substantial change in the world. They have thrived in companies such as Google; they have started their own companies in Sri Lanka, Canada and Malaysia.  They are choosing the challenge of working alongside our portfolio companies and immersing themselves in a rigorous leadership training. [Read More]

Welcoming Ajit Mahadevan as Acumen India Country Director

We are pleased to announce that Ajit Mahadevan will be joining Acumen as India Country Director. Ajit joins Acumen from Ernst & Young, where he has served as Advisory Partner & Leader (Life Sciences) for the past six years.  At EY, he was a strategic advisor to the leadership of some of the leading Indian and global life science and healthcare players with the focus being business transformation and growth.  Prior to his time at E&Y, Ajit was President of Piramal Healthcare, one of the leading pharmaceuticals companies in India, where he built the international business from inception in 2002 to $300M by the end of 2008. Ajit held multiple leadership roles across strategy, M&A and business leadership. During his tenure at Accenture’s Strategic Services practice in UK and India, he led the development of one of the firm’s largest and most successful internal projects – the Offshore Development Centre in 2001, which has now grown to about 100,000 people across multiple cities in India. Ajit has worked in an advisory capacity to Acumen in the past, most recently participating in Regional Fellows selection panels in Mumbai. [Read More]

Why We All Need A ‘Rikki’

Caren Wakoli is an emerging leader in East Africa who has launched a foundation to support the next generation of female leaders for Africa. Caren applied twice for the fellowship and was not accepted, but she did not give up. Her resilience and grit allowed her to persevere, and this year we are proud to have her as an East Africa Fellow. Below she shares her story on why everyone needs a ‘Rikki,’ and failure is never final.  [Read More]

Acumen Joins Beyond the Grid as Founding Partner

Acumen is proud to be a founding partner of Beyond the Grid, an innovative framework under President Obama’s Power Africa initiative to increase energy access for underserved populations across sub-Saharan Africa. Beyond the Grid will leverage partnerships with investors and practitioners committing to invest over $1 billion into off-grid and small scale solutions for this underserved market. [Read More]

Life after Lean

In May 2013, Sabrina Natasha Premji & Afzal Habib participated in +Acumen’s inaugural Lean for Social Change course based on Lean Start-Up principles. Enrollment for the next session of the Lean for Social Change course is open now. If you are working on a social issue in your community, are interested in pursuing your own social venture, or are just interested in creating an impact in this world…Register today! Sabrina & Afzal joined the course with a simple idea and the passion to transform the childcare crisis in East Africa’s informal settlements. Seven weeks later, they had developed a customer-tested business model ready to pilot in Kenya’s densest slums. Read their story below. [Read More]