Posted in Operations & IT Articles, Total Reads: 3000
, Published on 12 July 2011
Akshaya Patra in Sanskrit means an inexhaustible vessel. As the name suggests the Akshaya Patra foundation was started by Iskcon with the aim of being an inexhaustible vessel and feeding school children across hundreds of government schools. The mid day meal scheme serves as an incentive for the parents of these children to send them to school as they atleast get one decent meal everyday.
The history behind the start of this program is actually very touching. In a small village near Calcutta A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada saw a group of children fighting with street dogs over scraps of food. This inspired him and he vowed that no one within ten mile radius of the centre would go hungry. This has now been translated by the Iskcon foundation to one of their major social welfare programmes and now it reaches to around 1.2 million children everyday
The scale and operations of this programme is mind boggling as it reaches to around 1.2 million children. Supporting this initiative are 18 kitchens in 8 states and the programme reaches to around 8000 schools across India. With such operations in place it is indeed a case which every b-school grad should be acquainted to. The goal of feeding hungry children in the hindsight serves another purpose of achieving literacy growth across the country.
Akshaya Patra operates in different parts of the country through two operational models - centralised and decentralised. The centralised kitchen model basically leverages on technology in order to increase efficiency, lower costs but at the same time maintain high standards of quality. The decentralised kitchen model focuses on rural areas.
So what are the highlights of this scheme
1. By using technology the processes are very efficient and also the kitchens can cook large amounts of food in a short span of time. This helps in keeping costs low. The kitchens use steam for cooking which cooks the food faster and at the same time retaining the nutrients. Most of the processes are mechanised which increases the speed. Also the vehicles used in transportation are designed for optimal storage and minimal spillage. The processes and the set up in place meet the ISO standards. The employees are trained in cooking and following hygienic standards. Thus the operation is high efficient, low cost and maintains high standards if quality.
2. Yet another idea put in place is to set up kitchens in different places. This helps in sourcing vegetables and other products from local markets thereby reducing transportation costs, spoilage costs. Thus the scheme is leveraging the local Market and also helping the local economy grow.
3. The success of the project is not just restricted to rural areas. It can be easily scaled to the urban schools as well which they have demonstrated by successfully replicated in major areas. It has also replicated it low cost, operationally efficient model and has a proven track record as indicated by its success across the length and breadth of the country. This idea has the potential to be a model for implementation not just in India but across the world.
4. The partnership in place for this model is that of public-private-NGO. All the stakeholders have to ensure the food is distributed efficiently and effectively. The government subsidises the programme and helps to keep the costs low. The private sector brings best management practices and discipline to the operations. The foundation manages the partnership and grows the program across the country.
The organisation has bought in excellent transparency across its operations. The program is managed by an independent board with eminent people from all walks of life associated with it. The idea which started at a small village has now grown leaps and bounds and is bringing smiles on the faces of hundreds of children who struggle to get one decent meal on a daily basis. Such is the power of Akshaya Patra Foundation.
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