INDIAN NEWS & TIMES

Thursday, December 8, 2022

 Former ICICI Bank Limited chairman and the Chancellor of Krea University Narayana  Vaghul and Ashok Jhunjhunwala, President, IIT Madras Research Park & Incubation Cell launched ‘LEAD the Journey – Catalysing Change, Enabling Transformative Solutions’ – a coffee table book that chronicles nearly two decades of impact research undertaken by IFMR Society and Krea University’s research centre LEAD.   

LEAD’s roots can be traced to an initial seed funding from the ICICI Bank’s Social Initiative Group in 2005, which laid the foundation for an innovative research platform. A pioneer of action research in the country, and one of the first research centres incubated by the IFMR-Krea ecosystem, LEAD provides a unique opportunity for academics of various disciplines, practitioners, researchers and students to learn together through real-world experiences, thus strengthening local capacity for rigorous field-based research in India.   

Today, LEAD leverages research and innovation to address complex challenges such as enhancing access to social protection and financial well-being for vulnerable segments, testing and evaluating solutions to catalyse small business growth, and creating sustainable livelihood pathways for female workers and entrepreneurs, among other areas.   

Speaking at the launch, LEAD’s Executive Director Sharon Buteau said that “Knowledge creation is a powerful tool for positive impact, provided it can be shared and ultimately used. From some of the earliest product innovations in microfinance to unpacking the growth dynamics of small businesses, we have seen first-hand the immense potential of testing powerful, innovative ideas on the ground. Through this book, we are telling the story of our own journey before charting our next chapter. We are also upbeat about LEAD’s next phase – LEAD X – which will focus on disruptive solutions for critical development problems that remain intractable.”  

The book release also coincided with the inauguration of LEAD’s new office at IIT Madras Research Park. LEAD is a member of IITMRP’s “Fintech for Inclusion” ecosystem which includes partners from industry and academia working towards enhancing access to critical financial services for underserved segments, through collaboration and innovation.   

“With 85% of households in India earning less than ₹25,000 per month, IITM Research Park recognises the value of FINTECH for Inclusion. Fortunately, this area has been the focus of work for many companies in the Research Park over the last ten years, with companies like Dvara, KGFS, Samunnati and Northern Arc making a major difference to the nation. LEAD at Krea University is the latest addition and it brings its unique strengths to the ecosystem. There is significant scope to harness synergies between LEAD’s work on understanding the barriers faced by different vulnerable segments, and the work of industry partners who are developing solutions to enhance socio-economic well-being at scale. Their extensive experience in working on solving challenges through action-research and testing innovative solutions to the ground will result in more innovation and strengthen our entrepreneurship ecosystem.” said Dr. Ashok Jhunjhunwala, President, IITM Research Park & Incubation Cell and special guest at the launch.