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How About A Start-Up In A $Trillion Market With No Competition

These days there’s no shortage of opinion regarding the size and role of government.

But one thing everyone can agree on; corruption has no place in any government.

In the USA we are lucky in this regard, but many (usually poor) people in developing countries don’t have that luxury.

I’m not talking about the stupidity of an elected official flying to Argentina on taxpayer’s money to visit his soul-mate. I’m talking about people having to pay local officials just to get business permits, drivers licenses, and even having a sick child be admitted to a hospital.

The World Bank has estimated that $1 Trillion are paid in bribes around the world every year.

But what can be done?

Shaffi Mather is a successful young [Indian] entrepreneur, whose goal is fighting the business of corruption in public service, eliminating it one bribe at a time.

And he plans to do it in a totally capitalistic way. It turns out there is a lot of gross margin to be made when you are operating in a $1 Trillion market.

Click On This Image To Watch Shaffi's TED 12 Minute Talk

You can watch Shaffi describe his idea in a 12 minute talk at the TED Conference in Mysore, India which he delivered last month.

In the lecture he begins by describing 298 for Ambulance a for-profit emergency medical service he founded. It operates on a sliding scale payment system that has revolutionized medical transport in Mumbai and Kerala and it is self funded.

That amazing success lends credibility to his even more exciting anti-corruption idea.

If you are like me you will stand up and applaud at the end of the video.

I guarantee it.

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2 thoughts on “How About A Start-Up In A $Trillion Market With No Competition

  1. I don’t think I fell asleep in the middle … but did he really explain what his “new way” is?

    Posted by Breck | January 10, 2010, 10:42 pm
    • Breck,

      He talked generally, but didn’t get into great detail.

      Conceptually he starts from the premise that the actual costs in legal fees and hourly fees for someone who knows their way around the system to fix a problem is less than the cost of the bribe. They ‘tested’ this with about 40 specific examples and along with gathering costs ‘proved’ that virtually every case was fixable either by pressure on the bribe-taker or using existing legal channels.

      The next step would be to ‘train’ up an army of people who know their way around the system well enough to do what his highly trained people did in the test. It sounded like he could franchise mini-businesses who would train people and once they got familiar with the typical bribe situation could deal with it quite easily. I’m guessing a lot of the solution is data sharing of ways to fix what are probably very typical bribe situations. If you are being asked for a bribe you don’t have time to figure out how to get around the guy issuing the building permit. But if, on the other hand, you are in a centralized office and have done a few of these already, you have the knowledge of the system at your fingertips to solve the problem quite quickly.

      He even suggested an 800 number that you dial to get help. I’m optimistic in thinking that once they get off the ground if you are standing in front of an official who asks for a bribe and you dial your mobile right there and hand it over for the official to talk to your ‘expert’ who picked up your call in the central office of the bribe-busters, the problem might be resolved immediately…but I’ve always been an optimist.

      That was my take on it.


      Posted by Bob Gelber | January 11, 2010, 10:56 am

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