Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Social Entrepreneurship

Natasha Bhatia CC'14

A new business from Dallas, TX, Jatalo, sells urban bracelets and backpacks, but it’s more than just your regular backpack company.

                This summer when Jatalo founder, 17-year-old Aditya Viswanathan, visited family in India, he found that village children were unable to attend school because of financial need. The education in India is primarily through privately funded village schools, and tuition can be subsidized for less fortunate students. However, the cost of textbooks and related supplies still falls upon the families and, at times, keeps children out of school. Naturally curious and eager to learn, these kids may listen in on classes by peering over the school walls, but they cannot attend as full students. He came back to America with the problem in mind and created Jatalo to do something about it.
The model is simple. For every bracelet Jatalo sells, they donate a textbook to a child in need. For every backpack they sell, they donate a year’s worth of textbooks to a child in need. One backpack at a time, Jatalo is looking to end illiteracy worldwide.
                Unlike other companies, Jatalo works directly with the school administration and teachers to identify students in need and distribute textbooks. “This way,” Aditya says, “the students receive exactly what they need.” By eliminating the intermediary of a nonprofit or governmental agency, Jatalo utilizes the school’s knowledge of its students. He explains that the schools “keep tabs on who has left school and who is about to leave because of financial difficulty, and from these students, the administration selects further based on the student’s promise.” Then the administrators are then able to purchase based on their particular curriculum with Jatalo’s donation.
As a high school senior, Aditya is constantly surrounded by backpacks, so he sought to make his product unique even beyond its mission. Each Jatalo backpack is ethnically inspired, correlating to extant or future possible affiliate regions. “When I was in India,” he explains, “I saw that there was so much vibrant art out there that you don’t see in the everyday world. Why not combine that with something as commonplace as a backpack?” Currently, the two designs are inspired by a traditional South Asian weaving technique, ikat, and on October 2nd, Jatalo announced on its blog that three new backpacks were in the works, one Mexican-inspired, one African-inspired, and one of an unknown variety.
Jatalo’s impact has already been felt halfway across the globe in Mumbai, India. 8th grader Shelar Shraddha Harish writes, “I am very thankful to my sponsor for helping in my education and studies, and I give a promise that I will do my best.”

Columbia students receive a 10% discount at Jatalo with code books71.

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