By Srinivasan Santhanam
All those associated with the micro-finance movement, both in India and world wide, know pretty well the expansion of the term ‘SHG’. It stands for ‘Self-Help Group’. On 23 Jan 2013, while reading a news item in the ‘Firstpost’ on the first ever presidential inaugural ball organised by Indian Americans to welcome Barack Obama’s second coming and loudly register the community’s presence, I stumbled on the term ‘SHG Foundation’ in it.
It was reported that the inaugural ball was attended by the ‘Who is Who’ of Indian Americans. A closer reading of the news item gave me a new joy as it was mentioned that the man behind the great arrangement was one Mr MR Rangaswami, a San Francisco-based technology entrepreneur, who founded Indiaspora last year under his non-profit organisation called SHG Foundation and delivered the ball in just 60 days with more than a thousand attendees and adequate buzz.
I was wondering what this small man Mr Rangaswami was doing in USA by promoting SHGs and setting up a ‘Foundation of SHGs’ there. I was also wondering while we Indians have not been able to take the SHG movement in an organised way, how come this man was doing it in such a prosperous country like USA. My quest to find an answer to my wonder led me to google him and his organisation and its activities further. After a couple of attempts I found that ‘SHG foundation’ is situated in the US. Here is the brief summary of this organisation and Mr Ramaswami.
SHG Foundation, USA
Till I read the above news item, I had not heard about any SHG Foundation in the USA. The SHG Foundation is a fund devoted to enabling U.S.-based non-profit organizations to improve the lives of low-income women and children worldwide.
Look at the ‘great men think alike’ thought passing through the minds of most of those associated with SHG movement in India as the mission of the SHG movement in India and that of ‘SHG Foundation’ of US is almost one and the same. My curiosity increased further and proceeded further to read about the organisation.
I found that the ‘SHG Foundation’ was created by Sand Hill Group co-founders M.R. Rangaswami and Constantin Delvanis. It was endowed by funds from the groups Enterprise conference series. The goal to build a $1-million endowment was achieved at the tenth anniversary Enterprise event in 2007. In 2012 the foundation created Indiaspora – a Forum for 100 influential leaders from the India American community.
The SHG Foundation funds one or two outstanding organizations per year with either a San Francisco Bay Area or international focus. Grantees also get connected to the influential Sand Hill Group network of entrepreneurs, VCs and software industry executives. The list of institutions which got the funding support from India included names like,
SKS Microfinance, Unitus, Child Relief and You (CRY), Asset India Foundation, Sahana and Akshaya Patra.
Whether it is Sand Hill Group (SHG) or Self-Help Group (SHG), so long as the term addresses the same cause, that is, improving the lives of low income women and children worldwide, it would certainly give a great of joy and satisfaction to all those are associated with the micro-finance movement in India and abroad. As an Indian who believes in good omens, in the programme organised by Mr Ramaswami, the co-founder of SHG Foundation was for falicitating Barrack Obama, the President of USA who wants to improve the living standards of those US Citizens who are less privileged than others in the country, I believed that there is a Mission match between SHG Foundation of USA and that of the President of USA. It augurs well for a great beginning for Barrack Obama of his Second Term of Office of the President of USA as he also strives to improve the lot of the not so priviliged US citizens.