One of the world’s biggest business schools, Harvard has expanded the scope of its full-time MBA Programme syllabus to include a case study about an Indian -profit organization, Robin Hood Army (RHA), who is aimed at serving surplus food from restaurants and weddings to the hungry people.
As per a recent report made by economic times, the Harvard University’s Harvard Business School will not be teaching a case study about India’s Robin Hood Army in their classes to the full-time MBA programme students. Robin Hood Army is no more a new name to all of us. However, for those who don’t know, Robin Hood Army is a non-profit organisation, which consists of thousands of volunteers, who collected surplus food from restaurants, cafes, marriages, corporate events etc and then serve and distribute it around to poor, needy and hungry people who do not have access to proper meal.
Unlike many NGOs, Robin Hood Army does not take any financial support but only take donations in the form of food. The volunteers of Robin Hood army collect the food from the respective restaurant or event and distribute it among the hungry people, all by themselves. While, the organisation was founded, only a few years back, in 2014 by just 5 people who served 150 people on their first drive, there are currently 40,000 active volunteers working in this direction. RHA started in Delhi and is now operating actively in 158 cities across 9 countries and have served more than 25 million so far.
As Economic Times quoted Brian Trelstad, senior lecturer at Harvard Business School “It is an interesting case study of an organisation that has achieved some scale, both within India and internationally, but without any financial support.”
What catches the eye of the experts is how have the organisation and the idea has fostered so rapidly across the globe. The case study was written by Susanna Gallani in 2018. She is an assistant professor at Harvard Business School. She completed her study after meeting Neel Ghose, founder of RHA. Ghose was part of Galliani’s MBA class of 2019.
Speaking about how she got famished by the idea of RHA, Gallanni said, “It was in a small group lunch when I go around the room and say, “So, what do you do in your spare time? Why are you here?” He brought up this idea of the Robin Hood Army and what he was doing with it. And I remember half of the people at lunch had tears in their eyes.”
Galliani said this in a podcast ‘Cold Call’, a part of HBR Presents – a network of podcasts curated by Harvard Business Review (HBR) editors.
The best part is that the organisations do not have a designated office space and work mostly through the instant messaging platform ‘Whatsapp’. Apart from this, they do not accept any financial donations. The volunteers collect the surplus food from their network restaurants and distribute it to the hungry people.
The volunteers are called ‘Robins’ and they work for the cause during their free times. As told by Ghose, the ideas were inspired by a similar organisation called ReFood that he came across when he was living in Lisbon in 2014, while working with Zomato. He was astonished to see how the surplus food can be used to eradicate hunger with a bit of extra managerial efforts. As a result, he came back to India and incited Robin Hood Army with some of his friends.
India is one of the topmost hunger affected nations. As per the Global Hunger Index (GHI), India comes at 102nd Rank in 2019 from among 117 countries in Hunger. The position has slipped down from 95th Rank in 2010. The GHI report has been jointly published by Concern Worldwide, an Irish aid agency, and Welthungerlife, a German NGO, tracks hunger and malnutrition in various countries.
Not only this, but the global hunger figures have increased from 785 million in 2015 to 822 million in 2018. It is approximately a 5% increase.
“There are 800 million people who suffer from hunger, which is probably one out of every nine people in the world, and in India, that’s probably one-fourth of the world’s hungry live in India alone. What’s even more disturbing is that when you crunch the numbers, 3,000 children under the age of five die every day of hunger in the country,” Ghose said.
“And the most stupid thing is that 40 per cent of the food which we produce gets wasted and thrown away. So, the two fundamental problems in society and one solves for the other. We’re just trying to go deeper and make a difference through that,” Ghose added.
Every day thousands of marriage functions happen around us, there is a restaurant, right across every Indian street and the country houses 125+ crore people. Still, more than 200 million people suffer from hunger in India every day. This is because there is a link-break between the demand and the supply, the creation and the need for food.
With an organisation like RHA, we can help those who need the food that we have but we don’t need.
The Harvard case study can be read/downloaded from here: