XVI National Convention on Entrepreneurship and Skill Development by Fair Trade India (FTF-I) – A Report


Shyam S. Sharma Memorial Lecture By Mr. David Wilcox, Founder, ReachScale

The session was chaired by Dr. K Panchaksharam. Recalling Mr Sharma’s contributions to the Fair Trade Movement in India, Mr Panchaksharam remembered how as a renowned educationist and social entrepreneur Mr Sharma had started Tara during 1970s in order to help the marginalized people.

He was one of the honorary members of WFTO and agreed to host the FTF national secretariat in Delhi. Later, through the years, Tara became a leading initiative and Mr. Sharma lead the Fair Trade Forum by being the president from 2003- 2009, till his passing away.

Dr. Panchaksharam introduced Mr David Wilcox, a resident of Brookline Massachusetts and an alumnus of the Harvard Business School. Mr Wilcox founded ReachScale for helping social entrepreneurs scale and widen their impact. According to him there are many scaling opportunities in India and is open to collaborate with 10 of them.


Dr. Panchaksharam and Mr David Wilcox

Mr Wilcox began his lecture with 4 data points that were in the form of comments on the earlier speakers.

1: Recalling his recent visit to Ahmedabad, he said that there are many more members in the artisan community and hence the actual number project by FTF-I is not accurate. Even though they may not be formal members, they are spiritually engaged in a much larger quest and lots of people are working for this cause.

2: With reference to point made by an earlier speaker regarding the need for village products to meet global standards, he cited the example of products being shipped to Ikea from India. He also gave the example of Mr. Sam Pitroda whom he met in the recent NASSCOM meeting in Bengaluru. He exhorted the efforts of Mr Pirtoda in putting India global communication system on the world map, almost 35 years ago with a budget of 35 million USD. This point should make us think about how our investments should get us results and make a global mark and it can become the benchmark for assessing the probability of investments yielding similar results.

3: He also said that while looking for opportunities he discovered that top 5 of the 10 scaling initiatives had started in India.

4: Referring to the comment from Mr Jaikant Singh on 0.9 % entrepreneurship in India, Mr Wilcox said that fair trade will scale it to another 60million making it 5.4% and most will be women. This is a phenomenal opportunity, which cannot be accomplished with skill development alone. Hence there is a need for networking to deliver products capture 2% of the global market. Alongside, the women who have capital should generate work for others , find partners, funds and scale up.

He also mentioned 3 core concepts surrounding the purpose, the need for networks and collaboration in scaling.

  • We need to choose and embrace the purpose and on a parallel level, there is a dire need for honest networking.
  • One should not practice networking only when there is a need, but do it all through for consistent engagement.
  • Conversations within the network can be very powerful in scaling and any collaboration should be built on mutual trust.

The Sharma Memorial Lecture was followed by a Cultural Programme that enlivened the evening, before the networking dinner.

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