Robin Hood Army enters Harvard classroom
Founded in Delhi in 2014, the Robin Hood Army operates in 158 cities in nine countries and serves an average of 200,000 people a week — without accepting any money for their services. It has served more than 26 million meals so far. When restauran...
The Indian non-profit that gives the hungry surplus food from restaurants and weddings will now be taught as a case study for students of Harvard’s full-time MBA programme.
“It is an interesting case study of an organisation that has achieved some scale, both within India and internationally, but without any financial support,” said Brian Trelstad, senior lecturer at Harvard Business School (HBS), who will teach the case study in a course on social entrepreneurship and innovation.
Founded in Delhi in 2014, the Robin Hood Army (RHA) operates in 158 cities in nine countries and serves an average of 200,000 people a week — without accepting any money for their services. It has served more than 26 million meals so far.
When restaurants tell them they have surplus food, volunteers — who number more than 40,000 — use their own vehicles to pick and distribute the food.
The operations are hyperlocal and mostly happen via instant messaging platform WhatsApp, said Apurv Mishra, a founding member.
The organisation doesn’t have an office space or full-time employees. The ‘Robins’, as the volunteers are known as, do this in their spare time. The volunteers are attracted to the fact that RHA does not take money, and has a highly de-centralised form of working, Mishra says.
Susanna Gallani, assistant professor at HBS, wrote the case study last year after meeting Neel Ghose, co-founder of the non-profit organisation who was in her MBA class of 2019.
Ghose got interested in the idea when he came across a similar organisation, Refood, in Lisbon in 2014, when he was setting up Zomato’s Portugal operations. Ghose, who was with Zomato from 2012 till 2017, stepped down as vicepresident of international operations.
Gallani, who taught the case study to an executive audience for a course called ‘Driving Corporate Performance’ in summer this year, said the example was of interest to teach how — other than compensation — intrinsic motivations like strong values, purpose and a sense of autonomy could help attract and motivate workers.
India ranked a lowly 102nd among 112 countries that were surveyed in the 2019 Global Hunger Index, even though the country has made some strides in reducing under-five mortality and stunting, both of which are closely linked to hunger.
India, which has the highest absolute number of hungry people in the world, wastes about 40% of the food it produces, Mishra says.
RHA volunteers also run an “academy” in some cities, where they teach street children on weekends, and also help them get into school. Over 1,600 children have now been enrolled into government schools.