OUR PROGRAMS

TBF identifies entrepreneurs in the poor and the marginalized communities and assist them with support such as training, capacity building and support activities and assist them to come out of poverty. So far TBF has assisted about 168,197 families have been directly assisted by way of training, capacity building and support services. 

Micro Enterprise Development

The Bridge Foundation believes poverty is a problem that needs to be solved, and the solution must come from the poor themselves. They have the capacity and capability to come up with the solution that works best for them, through their own initiative and hard work. We can only be facilitators in the process.

Way back in 1979, three far sighted personages – Rev. Dr. Vinay Kumar Samuel, a development economist from India, Mr. David Bissau, a development consultant from Australia , industrialist Mr. Jagadish Devadasen, and Mr.David Lobo a businessman, united in the task of uplifting the lives of the least affluent in society. Inspired by the vision of ‘an enterprise solution to poverty’ they sowed the seeds for The Bridge Foundation. They launched the very first micro enterprise development initiative with financial assistance of $30 to two young people to start a small business.


We have been identifying ways in which we can help the poor find some form of economic activity according to their skills, local raw materials available and access to nearby markets so that they can earn a livelihood. We encourage and provide assistance so that they can start a small business or expand an existing venture, based on the skills and experience they possess. We select promising entrepreneurs among the poor and marginalised communities and then groom them with training, capacity building and other support activities so that they can come out of poverty. We also monitor the beneficiaries and we provide consultancy services.


Since its inception, we have directly assisted 106,157 families impacting the lives of more than 525,000 people and their communities in about 3,855 villages throughout South India and Orissa.

Micro Resource Bridge

For over two decades, we had witnessed how our micro enterprise programs transformed, almost magically, the lives of the micro entrepreneurs and their families positively impacting the entire community. However, the market economics that made the ‘poverty penalty’ a harsh reality for the micro entrepreneurs remained a constant, draining their meagre resources. This injustice fueled our drive to develop a suitable intervention – the Micro Resource Bridge program to mitigate their hardship. Poverty penalty is the phenomenon where poor consumers at the bottom of the economic pyramid are forced to pay a higher cost for goods and services. This is not only because they stay in remote rural areas faraway from centers of manufacturing but also because various middlemen mark up the price at every step of the distribution chain.

Aggregation of either demand or supply is at the core of the program. Through our network of contacts and decades of experience, we were able to aggregate the needs of micro entrepreneurs into large purchase requirements which allowed us to negotiate a deep discount price from the manufacturers. The savings could then be transferred to each micro entrepreneur. With this program we ventured into the procurement of sewing machines and wet grinders from Meritt India, bicycles from Tube Investments India, animal fodder from Godrej Industries and sarees from textile manufacturers.

After the tsunami in 2006, the demand for fishing nets grew exponentially from fishermen on the Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu coast. TBF stepped in with the Micro Resource Bridge program to become the largest buyer of fishing nets from Garware India by aggregating the demand from the entire fishing community in the area.

Micro Resource Convergence

Photo 2

The quaint picture of an individual farmer selling his own produce to passers by, standing on the roadside near his fields, is not sustainable in today’s world. Each separate input, while adding value, adds yet another layer to the final price of the item. Typically corporate conglomerates try to control as many inputs as they can manage to maximize their profits. If they sell garments or coffee or wine, they often own the plantations to source the raw material, the factories that do the manufacturing and down the line they also own the chain of outlets that sell the finished product, and in some cases even the media that advertises it! They are only practicing resource convergence, of course to their own advantage.

The poor farmer who grows and collects the produce with his toil and hard labour receives only a small fraction of the final price. Return on investment is much higher on the finished product than on the primary raw material.

To take the example of cotton: while 1 kilogram costs only about Rs.110/-, a finished garment of 200 grams is sold for Rs.800/-, at a price of Rs.4000/- per kg. This increase in cost is attributed to processing which includes ginning,spinning, weaving, designing and printing and finally retail sale of the garment; in fact cotton goes through 9 separate stages before it becomes a garment in the hands of the consumer.

After two decades of experience with micro enterprise development, TBF launched Micro Resource Convergence, the program to help farmers, the primary producers, increase their income with value addition.

‘Ahimsa Silk’ is one successful example. Normally while producing silk, the cocoons of the silkworm are boiled, killing the pupa inside whereas in ‘Ahimsa’, the non-violent variety of silk, the pupae are allowed to grow into adult moths and then the empty cocoons are used. Not only is this ethically attractive, ‘Ahimsa’ silk also fetches a much higher price.

Eri-culture is the growing of a wild variety of silkworms that thrive on easily available leaves of plants like castor, cassava and tapioca. Eri, being hardier than the mulberry silkworm, is easier to cultivate and since the process involved and investment is very low, even the poorest, the landless and destitute are able to take up eri-culture. TBF coordinated with the Central Silk Board in Bangalore and with their guidance and support, special training programs for rearing eri silkworms were conducted for Self Help Groups in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

To add value to the product, TBF engaged with spinners, weavers and a designer to arrive at the finished product of eri-silk stoles for the international market.

Micro Insurance

Insurance is perhaps the only safety net available to the working class to mitigate life’s risks and prevent setbacks into becoming calamities. However, this fundamental need is not fully met for the working poor at the bottom of the economic pyramid.

In 2002 The Bridge Foundation developed Micro Insurance Program in partnership with Tata AIG, as a safety net to protect the poor from the worst ravages of unanticipated tragedies, through insurance.

Awareness of the benefits of insurance products was sorely lacking among the target group, those at the bottom rung of the income ladder. Even insurance companies did not have the ability or the manpower to create this awareness. Moreover, due to the uncertainty in the livelihood of the impoverished, an insurance product that required recurring payments over a long period of time was not a viable option, neither for the insurance buyer nor for the insurance company.

TBF, however, was in a position to overcome these challenges by utilizing its vast network of Self-Help Groups that were participants in the micro finance programs. The SHGs reached out to the people, in their own social milieu and raised their awareness about insurance products. They also ensured through constant personal contacts that regular recurring payments were made so that the insurance policies did not lapse.

Multiple discussions with the Insurance Regulatory & Development Authority of India resulted in an amendment whereby the eligibility criteria for insurance agents was reduced from 100 hours of physical training to 50 hours of online training. This welcome change in regulations was a force multiplier as many members of far flung SHGs themselves underwent training and became insurance agents earning commissions on all products sold. Thus, TBF not only provided relief to the poorest in case of contingencies but also empowered SHG member agents with an enterprise solution to poverty.

By 2003 we were able to make a start and micro insure 10,680 families. There are now over 11.11 crore people (as of 2020) covered across India by various insurance companies and programs that can trace back their genesis to this program.

Micro Enterprise Development in Prison

Prison MFI

When a petty thief is caught, tried and incarcerated into prison, an unfortunate fall out of this justice system is the loss of the income source of the prisoner’s family. Without the breadwinner, the wives are forced to look for ways and means of sustaining their families and regrettably some women even turn to prostitution in desperation.

This distressing and ill-fated situation was brought to light during discussions with the Karnataka Director General & the Inspector General of Police. The Bridge Foundation was invited to develop and implement a program that would aid the suffering families and thus the prison micro finance program was conceived.

Along with our partner NGO’s, we formed Self Help Groups among the wives of prison inmates when they came to visit their husbands. Each group was guided by an animator from the NGOs. These groups empowered and motivated the women to become micro entrepreneurs, thereby earning themselves a livelihood. They also helped to grow their confidence while establishing a system of accountability amongst the members of the group, thus ensuring a permanent solution to their needs.

Our Prison Micro Finance programs have been implemented in the Bengaluru, Mysore, Hyderabad and Coimbatore jails.

REACH (Responsible Empowering Accessible Community Healthcare)

Healthcare and modern medical treatment is beyond the reach of the poor living in remote rural areas. Charitable hospitals are few and mostly in urban centers far away. The poor cannot afford to bring the patients to be treated by qualified medical personnel in nearby towns. The effect of government healthcare efforts in far flung regions is negligible.

 Under these circumstances the poor and sick patients, hoping for some relief, remain at the mercy of unscrupulous quacks. Illness in a poor family strains their meagre resources and finishes whatever little savings they might have. If the breadwinner becomes ill the whole family suffers. This situation leads to further misery when they fall into the clutches of usurious moneylenders.

To mitigate this suffering, TBF conceived and introduced the program known as REACH. Village community workers with basic education are   selected and trained for 90 days in a reputed hospital. Strict medical protocols of dos and don’ts are instilled in them, to be rigorously followed while treating common illnesses, diagnosing suspected diseases and while advising preventive health care.  (This is a first line of defense against illness and further consultation, if required, with doctors at hospitals is facilitated by the trained interns from the patient’s own village.)
 
The highlight is that as the REACH program rolled out, understanding the importance of supporting the healthcare workers, all the families in the community contributed a small amount through Self Help Groups to give the trained medical guides a minimum salary of a few thousand rupees.

Bridge Meal

After the devastating tragedy caused by the tsunami on India’s southern coastline in 2004 many NGOs and charitable institutions carried out relief and rehabilitation work. However, The Bridge Foundation focused its efforts on addressing food security and health concerns of children, women and senior citizens among the victims.

It is now known that after a natural calamity the food supply chain in the affected areas is abruptly disrupted, leading to severe malnutrition and even bouts of starvation among the poorest sections of the population.The drinking water supply system gets damaged leading to contamination, causing diarrhea and other water borne diseases. In fact, most young children, pregnant women and the frail aged lose their lives, later in the aftermath, due to these factors than the number of people who are actually killed by the disaster. All these facts were brought out clearly during TBF’s consultations with experts from the Christian Medical Association of India.

The concept of Bridge Meal was one way to tackle this problem of food deficiency. A carefully designed high protein balanced meal that was easy to prepare and distribute in difficult conditions. The meal was meticulously formulated to provide the total daily requirement of protein for the child in just one serving. It was a tasty porridge with a unique combination of ragi (Eleusine coracana, local millet), green gram (Phaseolus Aureus), soyabean (Glycine max), peanut (Arachis hypogaea) and jaggery (Panela). It not only provided all the necessary nutrients, giving strength and immunity to young children, but was also a very healthy diet for pregnant women and senior citizens.

The Bridge Foundation, in partnership with Carrat Moran Pvt. Ltd., Karnataka State Agro Corn Pvt. Ltd., Del Monte Hosur, etc., manufactured and supplied 3,40,000 meals to NGOs and relief organizations. Each meal cost 7 cents (about 50 paisa) and was even sought after by relief agencies in faraway Afghanistan and Sudan. TBF has also liberally shared the formula for the meal with any organization that wishes to manufacture the same.

This Bridge Meal was supplied and distributed all over India in later years, proving its effectiveness with the intended beneficiaries as well as with the malnourished and under privileged in many other communities.

Micro Enterprise Development in South Sudan

In 2010, The Bridge Foundation was invited to South Sudan by the Anglican International Development organization to provide their knowledge and expertise of over 30 years in poverty alleviation through micro enterprise development and micro finance.

For TBF, serving in this famine stricken and war-ravaged country was a challenge and an opportunity to implement its 1000 days MFI program; the concept being to establish a Micro Finance Institution within 1000 days in partnership with local organizations, wherever there was a crying need for such an institution and the socioeconomic situation amenable to its establishment.

The MFI program starts with a feasibility study followed by establishing a local legal entity and then initiating a pilot project. It also entails recruiting and training all the local staff needed to scale up the project so that finally the management can be handed over to the local partner. All this within a period of 1000 days!

In spite of political instability and a civil war in South Sudan with a distinct threat to life and omnipresent physical danger, TBF personnel travelled to that country and were stationed there to implement the program. There were also a host of social challenges to be faced before local individuals could be identified, trained and the micro enterprise development operations could be started with an effective management and workforce.

The Micro Finance Institution program in South Sudan was launched in 2011 and continues to function till date.

Aloka Vision

Over 40% of rural India suffers from a deficient vision. This severely affects their lifestyle and in many cases income generating capabilities.Much of this vision impairment can be corrected with spectacles, however, there is a huge gap in the availability and affordability of spectacles for the rural poor. The Aloka vision program was designed to bridge this gap.

In 2017, Carl Zeiss, international leader in  optics and optoelectronics supported a project to provide affordable and accessible vision care through the social entrepreneurship model. The Bridge Foundation was the program partner, identifying local entrepreneurs and supporting them with guidance in various areas such as administration, logistics, etc. The exercise resulted in creating awareness about eye health,  patient testing by the staff trained by Carl Zeiss and dispensing spectacles in resource poor settings. 

Bridge Accelerator

The Bridge Foundation  has endeavored to assist and  support these entrepreneurs and their enterprises wherever possible. Meanwhile, the foundation has been monitoring the lifecycle of these social enterprises for over two decades now and has a reasonably good understanding of their value towards social development, as well as the limitations and challenges they face.We believe that social enterprises are capable of driving quick and long- lasting social transformation, provided that they are conceptualized appropriately  and  nurtured  through the difficult gestation period to a point where they can overcome market challenges.

The bridge accelerator would essentially operate as an intelligent platform that would identify social enterprises that have the potential for significant scaling to achieve long term sustainability. These selected enterprises would then be subjected to an exhaustive evaluation to identify the gaps in their systems and processes that hinder scaling. Accordingly, the bridge accelerator would then help the enterprise bridge those gaps by providing them access to technology, learning, capital, infrastructure and much more.

 

Micro Enterprise Development

The Bridge Foundation believes poverty is a problem that needs to be solved, and the solution must come from the poor themselves. They have the capacity and capability to come up with the solution that works best for them, through their own initiative and hard work. We can only be facilitators in the process.

Way back in 1979, three far sighted personages – Rev. Dr. Vinay Kumar Samuel, a development economist from India, Mr. David Bissau, a development consultant from Australia , industrialist Mr. Jagadish Devadasen, and Mr.David Lobo a businessman, united in the task of uplifting the lives of the least affluent in society. Inspired by the vision of ‘an enterprise solution to poverty’ they sowed the seeds for The Bridge Foundation. They launched the very first micro enterprise development initiative with financial assistance of $30 to two young people to start a small business.


We have been identifying ways in which we can help the poor find some form of economic activity according to their skills, local raw materials available and access to nearby markets so that they can earn a livelihood. We encourage and provide assistance so that they can start a small business or expand an existing venture, based on the skills and experience they possess. We select promising entrepreneurs among the poor and marginalised communities and then groom them with training, capacity building and other support activities so that they can come out of poverty. We also monitor the beneficiaries and we provide consultancy services.


Since its inception, we have directly assisted 106,157 families impacting the lives of more than 525,000 people and their communities in about 3,855 villages throughout South India and Orissa.

Micro Resource Bridge

For over two decades, we had witnessed how our micro enterprise programs transformed, almost magically, the lives of the micro entrepreneurs and their families positively impacting the entire community. However, the market economics that made the ‘poverty penalty’ a harsh reality for the micro entrepreneurs remained a constant, draining their meagre resources. This injustice fueled our drive to develop a suitable intervention – the Micro Resource Bridge program to mitigate their hardship. Poverty penalty is the phenomenon where poor consumers at the bottom of the economic pyramid are forced to pay a higher cost for goods and services. This is not only because they stay in remote rural areas faraway from centers of manufacturing but also because various middlemen mark up the price at every step of the distribution chain.

Aggregation of either demand or supply is at the core of the program. Through our network of contacts and decades of experience, we were able to aggregate the needs of micro entrepreneurs into large purchase requirements which allowed us to negotiate a deep discount price from the manufacturers. The savings could then be transferred to each micro entrepreneur. With this program we ventured into the procurement of sewing machines and wet grinders from Meritt India, bicycles from Tube Investments India, animal fodder from Godrej Industries and sarees from textile manufacturers.

After the tsunami in 2006, the demand for fishing nets grew exponentially from fishermen on the Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu coast. TBF stepped in with the Micro Resource Bridge program to become the largest buyer of fishing nets from Garware India by aggregating the demand from the entire fishing community in the area.

Micro Resource Convergence

Photo 2

The quaint picture of an individual farmer selling his own produce to passers by, standing on the roadside near his fields, is not sustainable in today’s world. Each separate input, while adding value, adds yet another layer to the final price of the item. Typically corporate conglomerates try to control as many inputs as they can manage to maximize their profits. If they sell garments or coffee or wine, they often own the plantations to source the raw material, the factories that do the manufacturing and down the line they also own the chain of outlets that sell the finished product, and in some cases even the media that advertises it! They are only practicing resource convergence, of course to their own advantage.

The poor farmer who grows and collects the produce with his toil and hard labour receives only a small fraction of the final price. Return on investment is much higher on the finished product than on the primary raw material.

To take the example of cotton: while 1 kilogram costs only about Rs.110/-, a finished garment of 200 grams is sold for Rs.800/-, at a price of Rs.4000/- per kg. This increase in cost is attributed to processing which includes ginning,spinning, weaving, designing and printing and finally retail sale of the garment; in fact cotton goes through 9 separate stages before it becomes a garment in the hands of the consumer.

After two decades of experience with micro enterprise development, TBF launched Micro Resource Convergence, the program to help farmers, the primary producers, increase their income with value addition.

‘Ahimsa Silk’ is one successful example. Normally while producing silk, the cocoons of the silkworm are boiled, killing the pupa inside whereas in ‘Ahimsa’, the non-violent variety of silk, the pupae are allowed to grow into adult moths and then the empty cocoons are used. Not only is this ethically attractive, ‘Ahimsa’ silk also fetches a much higher price.

Eri-culture is the growing of a wild variety of silkworms that thrive on easily available leaves of plants like castor, cassava and tapioca. Eri, being hardier than the mulberry silkworm, is easier to cultivate and since the process involved and investment is very low, even the poorest, the landless and destitute are able to take up eri-culture. TBF coordinated with the Central Silk Board in Bangalore and with their guidance and support, special training programs for rearing eri silkworms were conducted for Self Help Groups in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

To add value to the product, TBF engaged with spinners, weavers and a designer to arrive at the finished product of eri-silk stoles for the international market.

Micro Insurance

Insurance is perhaps the only safety net available to the working class to mitigate life’s risks and prevent setbacks into becoming calamities. However, this fundamental need is not fully met for the working poor at the bottom of the economic pyramid.

In 2002 The Bridge Foundation developed Micro Insurance Program in partnership with Tata AIG, as a safety net to protect the poor from the worst ravages of unanticipated tragedies, through insurance.

Awareness of the benefits of insurance products was sorely lacking among the target group, those at the bottom rung of the income ladder. Even insurance companies did not have the ability or the manpower to create this awareness. Moreover, due to the uncertainty in the livelihood of the impoverished, an insurance product that required recurring payments over a long period of time was not a viable option, neither for the insurance buyer nor for the insurance company.

TBF, however, was in a position to overcome these challenges by utilizing its vast network of Self-Help Groups that were participants in the micro finance programs. The SHGs reached out to the people, in their own social milieu and raised their awareness about insurance products. They also ensured through constant personal contacts that regular recurring payments were made so that the insurance policies did not lapse.

Multiple discussions with the Insurance Regulatory & Development Authority of India resulted in an amendment whereby the eligibility criteria for insurance agents was reduced from 100 hours of physical training to 50 hours of online training. This welcome change in regulations was a force multiplier as many members of far flung SHGs themselves underwent training and became insurance agents earning commissions on all products sold. Thus, TBF not only provided relief to the poorest in case of contingencies but also empowered SHG member agents with an enterprise solution to poverty.

By 2003 we were able to make a start and micro insure 10,680 families. There are now over 11.11 crore people (as of 2020) covered across India by various insurance companies and programs that can trace back their genesis to this program.

Micro Enterprise Development in Prison

Prison MFI

When a petty thief is caught, tried and incarcerated into prison, an unfortunate fall out of this justice system is the loss of the income source of the prisoner’s family. Without the breadwinner, the wives are forced to look for ways and means of sustaining their families and regrettably some women even turn to prostitution in desperation.

This distressing and ill-fated situation was brought to light during discussions with the Karnataka Director General & the Inspector General of Police. The Bridge Foundation was invited to develop and implement a program that would aid the suffering families and thus the prison micro finance program was conceived.

Along with our partner NGO’s, we formed Self Help Groups among the wives of prison inmates when they came to visit their husbands. Each group was guided by an animator from the NGOs. These groups empowered and motivated the women to become micro entrepreneurs, thereby earning themselves a livelihood. They also helped to grow their confidence while establishing a system of accountability amongst the members of the group, thus ensuring a permanent solution to their needs.

Our Prison Micro Finance programs have been implemented in the Bengaluru, Mysore, Hyderabad and Coimbatore jails.

REACH (Responsible Empowering Accessible Community Healthcare)

Healthcare and modern medical treatment is beyond the reach of the poor living in remote rural areas. Charitable hospitals are few and mostly in urban centers far away. The poor cannot afford to bring the patients to be treated by qualified medical personnel in nearby towns. The effect of government healthcare efforts in far flung regions is negligible.

 Under these circumstances the poor and sick patients, hoping for some relief, remain at the mercy of unscrupulous quacks. Illness in a poor family strains their meagre resources and finishes whatever little savings they might have. If the breadwinner becomes ill the whole family suffers. This situation leads to further misery when they fall into the clutches of usurious moneylenders.

To mitigate this suffering, TBF conceived and introduced the program known as REACH. Village community workers with basic education are   selected and trained for 90 days in a reputed hospital. Strict medical protocols of dos and don’ts are instilled in them, to be rigorously followed while treating common illnesses, diagnosing suspected diseases and while advising preventive health care.  (This is a first line of defense against illness and further consultation, if required, with doctors at hospitals is facilitated by the trained interns from the patient’s own village.)
 
The highlight is that as the REACH program rolled out, understanding the importance of supporting the healthcare workers, all the families in the community contributed a small amount through Self Help Groups to give the trained medical guides a minimum salary of a few thousand rupees.

Bridge Meal

After the devastating tragedy caused by the tsunami on India’s southern coastline in 2004 many NGOs and charitable institutions carried out relief and rehabilitation work. However, The Bridge Foundation focused its efforts on addressing food security and health concerns of children, women and senior citizens among the victims.

It is now known that after a natural calamity the food supply chain in the affected areas is abruptly disrupted, leading to severe malnutrition and even bouts of starvation among the poorest sections of the population.The drinking water supply system gets damaged leading to contamination, causing diarrhea and other water borne diseases. In fact, most young children, pregnant women and the frail aged lose their lives, later in the aftermath, due to these factors than the number of people who are actually killed by the disaster. All these facts were brought out clearly during TBF’s consultations with experts from the Christian Medical Association of India.

The concept of Bridge Meal was one way to tackle this problem of food deficiency. A carefully designed high protein balanced meal that was easy to prepare and distribute in difficult conditions. The meal was meticulously formulated to provide the total daily requirement of protein for the child in just one serving. It was a tasty porridge with a unique combination of ragi (Eleusine coracana, local millet), green gram (Phaseolus Aureus), soyabean (Glycine max), peanut (Arachis hypogaea) and jaggery (Panela). It not only provided all the necessary nutrients, giving strength and immunity to young children, but was also a very healthy diet for pregnant women and senior citizens.

The Bridge Foundation, in partnership with Carrat Moran Pvt. Ltd., Karnataka State Agro Corn Pvt. Ltd., Del Monte Hosur, etc., manufactured and supplied 3,40,000 meals to NGOs and relief organizations. Each meal cost 7 cents (about 50 paisa) and was even sought after by relief agencies in faraway Afghanistan and Sudan. TBF has also liberally shared the formula for the meal with any organization that wishes to manufacture the same.

This Bridge Meal was supplied and distributed all over India in later years, proving its effectiveness with the intended beneficiaries as well as with the malnourished and under privileged in many other communities.

Micro Enterprise Development in South Sudan

In 2010, The Bridge Foundation was invited to South Sudan by the Anglican International Development organization to provide their knowledge and expertise of over 30 years in poverty alleviation through micro enterprise development and micro finance.

For TBF, serving in this famine stricken and war-ravaged country was a challenge and an opportunity to implement its 1000 days MFI program; the concept being to establish a Micro Finance Institution within 1000 days in partnership with local organizations, wherever there was a crying need for such an institution and the socioeconomic situation amenable to its establishment.

The MFI program starts with a feasibility study followed by establishing a local legal entity and then initiating a pilot project. It also entails recruiting and training all the local staff needed to scale up the project so that finally the management can be handed over to the local partner. All this within a period of 1000 days!

In spite of political instability and a civil war in South Sudan with a distinct threat to life and omnipresent physical danger, TBF personnel travelled to that country and were stationed there to implement the program. There were also a host of social challenges to be faced before local individuals could be identified, trained and the micro enterprise development operations could be started with an effective management and workforce.

The Micro Finance Institution program in South Sudan was launched in 2011 and continues to function till date.

Aloka Vision

Over 40% of rural India suffers from a deficient vision. This severely affects their lifestyle and in many cases income generating capabilities.Much of this vision impairment can be corrected with spectacles, however, there is a huge gap in the availability and affordability of spectacles for the rural poor. The Aloka vision program was designed to bridge this gap.

In 2017, Carl Zeiss, international leader in  optics and optoelectronics supported a project to provide affordable and accessible vision care through the social entrepreneurship model. The Bridge Foundation was the program partner, identifying local entrepreneurs and supporting them with guidance in various areas such as administration, logistics, etc. The exercise resulted in creating awareness about eye health,  patient testing by the staff trained by Carl Zeiss and dispensing spectacles in resource poor settings. 

Bridge Accelerator

The Bridge Foundation  has endeavored to assist and  support these entrepreneurs and their enterprises wherever possible. Meanwhile, the foundation has been monitoring the lifecycle of these social enterprises for over two decades now and has a reasonably good understanding of their value towards social development, as well as the limitations and challenges they face.We believe that social enterprises are capable of driving quick and long- lasting social transformation, provided that they are conceptualized appropriately  and  nurtured  through the difficult gestation period to a point where they can overcome market challenges.

The bridge accelerator would essentially operate as an intelligent platform that would identify social enterprises that have the potential for significant scaling to achieve long term sustainability. These selected enterprises would then be subjected to an exhaustive evaluation to identify the gaps in their systems and processes that hinder scaling. Accordingly, the bridge accelerator would then help the enterprise bridge those gaps by providing them access to technology, learning, capital, infrastructure and much more.

 

Micro Enterprise Develeopment
Micro Resource Bridge
Micro Resource Convergence
Micro Insurance
MED in Prison
REACH
Bridge Meal
Other Programs
Bridge Accelerator

Micro Enterprise Development

The Bridge Foundation believes poverty is a problem that needs to be solved, and the solution must come from the poor themselves. They have the capacity and capability to come up with the solution that works best for them, through their own initiative and hard work. We can only be facilitators in the process.

Way back in 1979, three far sighted personages – Rev. Dr. Vinay Kumar Samuel, a development economist from India, Mr. David Bissau, a development consultant from Australia , industrialist Mr. Jagadish Devadasen, and Mr.David Lobo a businessman, united in the task of uplifting the lives of the least affluent in society. Inspired by the vision of ‘an enterprise solution to poverty’ they sowed the seeds for The Bridge Foundation. They launched the very first micro enterprise development initiative with financial assistance of $30 to two young people to start a small business.


We have been identifying ways in which we can help the poor find some form of economic activity according to their skills, local raw materials available and access to nearby markets so that they can earn a livelihood. We encourage and provide assistance so that they can start a small business or expand an existing venture, based on the skills and experience they possess. We select promising entrepreneurs among the poor and marginalised communities and then groom them with training, capacity building and other support activities so that they can come out of poverty. We also monitor the beneficiaries and we provide consultancy services.


Since its inception, we have directly assisted 106,157 families impacting the lives of more than 525,000 people and their communities in about 3,855 villages throughout South India and Orissa.

Edit Template

Micro Resource Bridge

For over two decades, we had witnessed how our micro enterprise programs transformed, almost magically, the lives of the micro entrepreneurs and their families positively impacting the entire community. However, the market economics that made the ‘poverty penalty’ a harsh reality for the micro entrepreneurs remained a constant, draining their meagre resources. This injustice fueled our drive to develop a suitable intervention – the Micro Resource Bridge program to mitigate their hardship. Poverty penalty is the phenomenon where poor consumers at the bottom of the economic pyramid are forced to pay a higher cost for goods and services. This is not only because they stay in remote rural areas faraway from centers of manufacturing but also because various middlemen mark up the price at every step of the distribution chain.

Aggregation of either demand or supply is at the core of the program. Through our network of contacts and decades of experience, we were able to aggregate the needs of micro entrepreneurs into large purchase requirements which allowed us to negotiate a deep discount price from the manufacturers. The savings could then be transferred to each micro entrepreneur. With this program we ventured into the procurement of sewing machines and wet grinders from Meritt India, bicycles from Tube Investments India, animal fodder from Godrej Industries and sarees from textile manufacturers.

After the tsunami in 2006, the demand for fishing nets grew exponentially from fishermen on the Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu coast. TBF stepped in with the Micro Resource Bridge program to become the largest buyer of fishing nets from Garware India by aggregating the demand from the entire fishing community in the area.

Edit Template

Micro Resource Convergence

Photo 2

The quaint picture of an individual farmer selling his own produce to passers by, standing on the roadside near his fields, is not sustainable in today’s world. Each separate input, while adding value, adds yet another layer to the final price of the item. Typically corporate conglomerates try to control as many inputs as they can manage to maximize their profits. If they sell garments or coffee or wine, they often own the plantations to source the raw material, the factories that do the manufacturing and down the line they also own the chain of outlets that sell the finished product, and in some cases even the media that advertises it! They are only practicing resource convergence, of course to their own advantage.

The poor farmer who grows and collects the produce with his toil and hard labour receives only a small fraction of the final price. Return on investment is much higher on the finished product than on the primary raw material.

To take the example of cotton: while 1 kilogram costs only about Rs.110/-, a finished garment of 200 grams is sold for Rs.800/-, at a price of Rs.4000/- per kg. This increase in cost is attributed to processing which includes ginning,spinning, weaving, designing and printing and finally retail sale of the garment; in fact cotton goes through 9 separate stages before it becomes a garment in the hands of the consumer.

After two decades of experience with micro enterprise development, TBF launched Micro Resource Convergence, the program to help farmers, the primary producers, increase their income with value addition.

‘Ahimsa Silk’ is one successful example. Normally while producing silk, the cocoons of the silkworm are boiled, killing the pupa inside whereas in ‘Ahimsa’, the non-violent variety of silk, the pupae are allowed to grow into adult moths and then the empty cocoons are used. Not only is this ethically attractive, ‘Ahimsa’ silk also fetches a much higher price.

Eri-culture is the growing of a wild variety of silkworms that thrive on easily available leaves of plants like castor, cassava and tapioca. Eri, being hardier than the mulberry silkworm, is easier to cultivate and since the process involved and investment is very low, even the poorest, the landless and destitute are able to take up eri-culture. TBF coordinated with the Central Silk Board in Bangalore and with their guidance and support, special training programs for rearing eri silkworms were conducted for Self Help Groups in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

To add value to the product, TBF engaged with spinners, weavers and a designer to arrive at the finished product of eri-silk stoles for the international market.

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Micro Insurance

Insurance is perhaps the only safety net available to the working class to mitigate life’s risks and prevent setbacks into becoming calamities. However, this fundamental need is not fully met for the working poor at the bottom of the economic pyramid.

In 2002 The Bridge Foundation developed Micro Insurance Program in partnership with Tata AIG, as a safety net to protect the poor from the worst ravages of unanticipated tragedies, through insurance.

Awareness of the benefits of insurance products was sorely lacking among the target group, those at the bottom rung of the income ladder. Even insurance companies did not have the ability or the manpower to create this awareness. Moreover, due to the uncertainty in the livelihood of the impoverished, an insurance product that required recurring payments over a long period of time was not a viable option, neither for the insurance buyer nor for the insurance company.

TBF, however, was in a position to overcome these challenges by utilizing its vast network of Self-Help Groups that were participants in the micro finance programs. The SHGs reached out to the people, in their own social milieu and raised their awareness about insurance products. They also ensured through constant personal contacts that regular recurring payments were made so that the insurance policies did not lapse.

Multiple discussions with the Insurance Regulatory & Development Authority of India resulted in an amendment whereby the eligibility criteria for insurance agents was reduced from 100 hours of physical training to 50 hours of online training. This welcome change in regulations was a force multiplier as many members of far flung SHGs themselves underwent training and became insurance agents earning commissions on all products sold. Thus, TBF not only provided relief to the poorest in case of contingencies but also empowered SHG member agents with an enterprise solution to poverty.

By 2003 we were able to make a start and micro insure 10,680 families. There are now over 11.11 crore people (as of 2020) covered across India by various insurance companies and programs that can trace back their genesis to this program.

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Micro Enterprise Development in Prison

Prison MFI

When a petty thief is caught, tried and incarcerated into prison, an unfortunate fall out of this justice system is the loss of the income source of the prisoner’s family. Without the breadwinner, the wives are forced to look for ways and means of sustaining their families and regrettably some women even turn to prostitution in desperation.

This distressing and ill-fated situation was brought to light during discussions with the Karnataka Director General & the Inspector General of Police. The Bridge Foundation was invited to develop and implement a program that would aid the suffering families and thus the prison micro finance program was conceived.

Along with our partner NGO’s, we formed Self Help Groups among the wives of prison inmates when they came to visit their husbands. Each group was guided by an animator from the NGOs. These groups empowered and motivated the women to become micro entrepreneurs, thereby earning themselves a livelihood. They also helped to grow their confidence while establishing a system of accountability amongst the members of the group, thus ensuring a permanent solution to their needs.

Our Prison Micro Finance programs have been implemented in the Bengaluru, Mysore, Hyderabad and Coimbatore jails.

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REACH (Responsible Empowering Accessible Community Healthcare)

Healthcare and modern medical treatment is beyond the reach of the poor living in remote rural areas. Charitable hospitals are few and mostly in urban centers far away. The poor cannot afford to bring the patients to be treated by qualified medical personnel in nearby towns. The effect of government healthcare efforts in far flung regions is negligible.

 Under these circumstances the poor and sick patients, hoping for some relief, remain at the mercy of unscrupulous quacks. Illness in a poor family strains their meagre resources and finishes whatever little savings they might have. If the breadwinner becomes ill the whole family suffers. This situation leads to further misery when they fall into the clutches of usurious moneylenders.

To mitigate this suffering, TBF conceived and introduced the program known as REACH. Village community workers with basic education are   selected and trained for 90 days in a reputed hospital. Strict medical protocols of dos and don’ts are instilled in them, to be rigorously followed while treating common illnesses, diagnosing suspected diseases and while advising preventive health care.  (This is a first line of defense against illness and further consultation, if required, with doctors at hospitals is facilitated by the trained interns from the patient’s own village.)
 
The highlight is that as the REACH program rolled out, understanding the importance of supporting the healthcare workers, all the families in the community contributed a small amount through Self Help Groups to give the trained medical guides a minimum salary of a few thousand rupees.
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Bridge Meal

After the devastating tragedy caused by the tsunami on India’s southern coastline in 2004 many NGOs and charitable institutions carried out relief and rehabilitation work. However, The Bridge Foundation focused its efforts on addressing food security and health concerns of children, women and senior citizens among the victims.

It is now known that after a natural calamity the food supply chain in the affected areas is abruptly disrupted, leading to severe malnutrition and even bouts of starvation among the poorest sections of the population.The drinking water supply system gets damaged leading to contamination, causing diarrhea and other water borne diseases. In fact, most young children, pregnant women and the frail aged lose their lives, later in the aftermath, due to these factors than the number of people who are actually killed by the disaster. All these facts were brought out clearly during TBF’s consultations with experts from the Christian Medical Association of India.

The concept of Bridge Meal was one way to tackle this problem of food deficiency. A carefully designed high protein balanced meal that was easy to prepare and distribute in difficult conditions. The meal was meticulously formulated to provide the total daily requirement of protein for the child in just one serving. It was a tasty porridge with a unique combination of ragi (Eleusine coracana, local millet), green gram (Phaseolus Aureus), soyabean (Glycine max), peanut (Arachis hypogaea) and jaggery (Panela). It not only provided all the necessary nutrients, giving strength and immunity to young children, but was also a very healthy diet for pregnant women and senior citizens.

The Bridge Foundation, in partnership with Carrat Moran Pvt. Ltd., Karnataka State Agro Corn Pvt. Ltd., Del Monte Hosur, etc., manufactured and supplied 3,40,000 meals to NGOs and relief organizations. Each meal cost 7 cents (about 50 paisa) and was even sought after by relief agencies in faraway Afghanistan and Sudan. TBF has also liberally shared the formula for the meal with any organization that wishes to manufacture the same.

This Bridge Meal was supplied and distributed all over India in later years, proving its effectiveness with the intended beneficiaries as well as with the malnourished and under privileged in many other communities.

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Micro Enterprise Development in South Sudan

In 2010, The Bridge Foundation was invited to South Sudan by the Anglican International Development organization to provide their knowledge and expertise of over 30 years in poverty alleviation through micro enterprise development and micro finance.

For TBF, serving in this famine stricken and war-ravaged country was a challenge and an opportunity to implement its 1000 days MFI program; the concept being to establish a Micro Finance Institution within 1000 days in partnership with local organizations, wherever there was a crying need for such an institution and the socioeconomic situation amenable to its establishment.

The MFI program starts with a feasibility study followed by establishing a local legal entity and then initiating a pilot project. It also entails recruiting and training all the local staff needed to scale up the project so that finally the management can be handed over to the local partner. All this within a period of 1000 days!

In spite of political instability and a civil war in South Sudan with a distinct threat to life and omnipresent physical danger, TBF personnel travelled to that country and were stationed there to implement the program. There were also a host of social challenges to be faced before local individuals could be identified, trained and the micro enterprise development operations could be started with an effective management and workforce.

The Micro Finance Institution program in South Sudan was launched in 2011 and continues to function till date.

Aloka Vision

Over 40% of rural India suffers from a deficient vision. This severely affects their lifestyle and in many cases income generating capabilities.Much of this vision impairment can be corrected with spectacles, however, there is a huge gap in the availability and affordability of spectacles for the rural poor. The Aloka vision program was designed to bridge this gap.

In 2017, Carl Zeiss, international leader in  optics and optoelectronics supported a project to provide affordable and accessible vision care through the social entrepreneurship model. The Bridge Foundation was the program partner, identifying local entrepreneurs and supporting them with guidance in various areas such as administration, logistics, etc. The exercise resulted in creating awareness about eye health,  patient testing by the staff trained by Carl Zeiss and dispensing spectacles in resource poor settings. 

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Bridge Accelerator

The Bridge Foundation  has endeavored to assist and  support these entrepreneurs and their enterprises wherever possible. Meanwhile, the foundation has been monitoring the lifecycle of these social enterprises for over two decades now and has a reasonably good understanding of their value towards social development, as well as the limitations and challenges they face.We believe that social enterprises are capable of driving quick and long- lasting social transformation, provided that they are conceptualized appropriately  and  nurtured  through the difficult gestation period to a point where they can overcome market challenges.

The bridge accelerator would essentially operate as an intelligent platform that would identify social enterprises that have the potential for significant scaling to achieve long term sustainability. These selected enterprises would then be subjected to an exhaustive evaluation to identify the gaps in their systems and processes that hinder scaling. Accordingly, the bridge accelerator would then help the enterprise bridge those gaps by providing them access to technology, learning, capital, infrastructure and much more.

 

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