Growing up in Chennai, India, in the 1980s, Zubaida Bai became acutely aware of the daily struggle so many in her community go through to survive. At a young age, she was exposed to the social and economic hardships faced by women in the rapidly growing city, where roughly one in five people live on less than $1.90 a day.
“I saw women around me whose potential was not being recognized,” said Bai, which stoked a desire to give back to those she cared so deeply about.
The first in her family to attend college, Bai worked to pay for her education as she went on to complete a bachelor’s degree, and then a master’s, both in mechanical engineering, finishing her course work in Sweden.
Determined to bring what she learned back home, Bai returned to India and spent four years as an engineer developing appropriate technology solutions, emphasizing ideas that have the biggest impact — instead of just using the highest technology.
Her efforts focused on delivering much needed products to low-resource communities. As the work wore on, the realization set in that too many great innovations never got out of prototyping and into the hands of those who needed them most.
She began exploring other outlets to help the women in her community and saw business as a path forward.
This approach was not dependent on charity, but driven by effectively serving those in need.
“Business can innovate solutions to reach underserved populations in new and more enduring ways,” said Bai.