Posts tagged ‘poverty’

October 27, 2011

Stay hungry, stay foolish

India is home to a quarter of the world’s hungry — about 230 million people — according to the World Food Programme. About half of the country’s children are malnourished, a record poorer than the world’s poorest area, sub-Saharan Africa [1].

Hardly a day went by during the past month, in which we didn’t think of food. And no, it wasn’t because we couldn’t get our minds off of planning the first meal we would have at the end of our experiment. Rather, it was because, food was the largest component of our budget at both Rs. 100/day (50%) and Rs. 32/day (68%).

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October 26, 2011

Happy Diwali from Matt, Tushar (and the other 400 million)

Happy Diwali everyone! We hope you all are having a great time at home this festive season. With all your encouragement, our experiment has ended successfully. But, we wish we could tell you that we are excited that it’s all over. Wish we could tell you that we are happy to have our “normal” lives back. Wish we could say that our sumptuous celebratory feast two nights ago was as satisfying as we had been hoping for throughout our experiment. There was nothing wrong with the food. In fact, it probably was one of the best meals we’ve ever had, packed with massive amounts of love from our hosts. However, each bite was a sad reminder of the harsh reality that there are 400 million people in our country for whom such a meal will remain a dream for quite some time. That we can move on to our comfortable life, but they remain in the battlefield of survival – a life of tough choices and

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October 22, 2011

The Great Indian Thirst

We invited our friend and neighbor Sunita, who is the CEO of the NGO Arghyam, to write on water issues faced by the common man. Below is her post. You can also see a related video interview we took of a washerman in Bangalore who didn’t have enough water to wash clothes here.

Living on Rs. 100 a day – How does it impact how much water you consume?
Sunita Nadhamuni, CEO Arghyam (sunita@arghyam.org)

The Indian standard for daily water requirements varies based on where you live. For a Bangalorean, it is a 150 lpcd (litres per capita per day), for her rural cousin it is 40 lpcd. This difference is primarily because metros & large cities have piped water supply, which has a certain amount of unavoidable leakages and sewerage systems that require a certain volume of water to ensure

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October 21, 2011

“Rs. 32/day?, you must be joking”

At least, that’s been the unanimous opinion of people we talked to in Karukachal so far (sample size 5). And, it isn’t the case that we are talking to people shelling out loads of money on living expenses. A majority of them are consumers of PDS (Public Distribution System) goods at Below Poverty Line (BPL) prices. Primarily, our conversations involved the issue of food, which is supposed to take up Rs. 17/day. Our sources implied that it would take the willful suspension of disbelief to even imagine spending such a paltry amount on food. They cringed at the possibility of eating a limited menu, which wasn’t very appetizing, and dismissed outright the possibility that a manual laborer would get the adequate nutrition at that price point. An insightful audio interview with one of them – a local day laborer who also taught Matt to play soccer – can be heard here (translation included)

We couldn’t agree more, sitting in comfy chairs

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October 20, 2011

Missed call, Planning Commission?

To those unfamiliar with the concept of missed calls in India, it’s a fundamental form of communication. It involves calling someone on his/her mobile phone from your mobile phone and hanging up after a couple of rings before the other person picks up. It is like a facebook poke. It isn’t very descriptive, yet can mean a lot. “Call me back”, or, “Your letter has arrived”, or, “Your package is ready to be picked” etc. Why is it done? Because it is free – well almost, if you have lifetime validity on your sim card.

Non food expense in INR. Total Rs. 8

Why is this relevant?

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October 18, 2011

Rs. 32/day: Day 1

Today began with 2 sleepy heads getting up early in the morning to get blood tests done in Kottayam in Kerala. After that, we indulged ourselves with a banana and 5 Parle Gs (total Rs. 4) each before taking a rickety bus ride to Karukachal, a sub-urban town 17 km from Kottayam. To those unfamiliar with Kerala bus rides, they are one of India’s must experience great adventures: High speed competitions between private bus companies on single and double lane roads that would put most hollywood thrillers to shame. We were contemplating getting bicycles in Karukachel to travel to Kottayam or Kumarakom; but after witnessing the roads, are having second thoughts already! Burning through the last piece of our reserves from the days we were rich (aka lived at Rs. 100 a day), we finally made it to Karukachal in one piece.

As excited as we were about entering the new phase in our experiment, the reality of it finally hit us pretty strongly as tiredness set in. Don’t know if it was the low blood sugar levels from the light breakfast or the hangover of the 14 hour third class train travel in which we had barely split a railways meal, so that we could scrape through without overdrawing on our reserves. As we walked to Matt’s ancestral home to pick up our sheets, the heat, hunger and exhaustion got to us and we slept off at the house – Matt in the verandah itself!

Next to our room in Karukachal

We were woken up

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October 17, 2011

Living on Rs. 32 a day

Just got off the unreserved category train from Bangalore to Kottayam and burnt almost all of our reserves doing that! And its time to get ready for the tough week ahead – living at the poverty line as suggested by the Planning Commission. So, how have we prepared for it? Well, we spent our journey reading and analyzing the Planning Commission’s affidavit to Supreme Court and the Tendulkar report on Estimation of Poverty to try and understand what the Rs. 32 really includes. Our findings: everything!

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October 16, 2011

You drink/smoke/chew, you lose

“You can burn down your house smoking”. “You can drink your dreams away”. The fact that addiction is bad for financial balance is well known. But that it can be economically devastating for the average Indian was somewhat of an eye-opener for us. This topic struck our curiosity when we realized that it was virtually impossible for us to have even one drink without seriously affecting our daily budget. To get a better picture of the situation, we interviewed a couple of pan walas (the road side tobacco and pan sellers) and also visited couple of suburban liquor stores. You can see a video interview here. The following is a summary of what we learned:

1. A Katta of Bidi (pack of local 24 cigarettes): Cost Rs. 10; average consumption is 1 – 2 kattas per day.

2. A Gutka or a small packet of chewing tobacco costs Rs. 2 – 4 per packet; Average consumption is 10 – 15 packets per day.

3. A standard “Quarter” bottle of the cheapest alcohol at the liquor store: 180ml. Cost Rs. 45 – 50; Average consumption is 1 bottle (daily for some, weekly or bi-weekly for others).

Using these numbers, we ran the following sensitivity analyses on the possible scenarios for the total spend on addiction related expenses:

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October 12, 2011

opportunity costs?

When we started this experiment roughly two weeks ago, we foresaw it as a part-time exercise. We had just left our jobs with the intention of starting up on our own and figured that a month was the perfect duration of time to do some business planning. But 17 days into our  ‘average living’ we have hardly done anything related to our venture. No doubt, we were initially tired and hungry from the nutritional/caloric deficiencies, which prevented us from having the energy to do much. However, even after acclimating ourselves to the lifestyle, we found that there was simply not enough time left in the day to do any start up related work. The primary reason for this was that we didn’t have a ‘houseperson’ at home.

Who exactly is a houseperson?

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October 6, 2011

The X factor: Size does matter

Remember “economies of scale” from Econ 101? We got to experience it first hand recently! Since Matt joined Tushar in the experiment, the average costs per person have done down,  along with our risk exposure to external economic shocks, while the average morale has gone up. And no, it isn’t because Matt is a highly disciplined, jovial fellow (well, not entirely at least), its because when it comes to living together, eXtended is the way to go – be it families, communities or “societal networks”.

So where does it impact the most? We looked at a few trends and came up with the following areas where we think this “X factor” hits us hard.

COST TREND LINES - before and after Matt joined. See the bullet on "Hedging economic shocks" to understand the calculation behind risk exposure ratio.

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