Newsmakers: J.P. Rhea '06
Rhea 'Makes a Difference' in India
up surrounded by his own family's business — a Nebraska
farm they've maintained for nearly 135 years — gave
J.P. Rhea '06 a keen appreciation for microeconomics.
When Kellogg Professor John
Ward offered him the chance to spend three weeks in India
to learn about and stimulate small business development there,
Rhea jumped at the opportunity.
co-director of the Kellogg
School's Center for Family Enterprises, is a board member
of the Family Business Network, an international organization
that promotes success and sustainability for family businesses.
He was also a member of the planning committee for FBN's Make
a Difference project, which sent Rhea, three other Westerners
and four young Indian professionals to the 750-person, poverty-stricken
village of Kathanpatti, India.
Make a Difference team taught Kathanpatti farmers to cultivate
the Jatropha plant, which will later be sold to D1-Mohan —
a large nearby company that converts the plant's berries into
biodiesel — and helped the farmers form a lasting partnership
with that company. "Everybody was really excited about
wanting to do it, but they just didn't know how," says
Rhea, adding that the crop is expected to double or triple
the land's profitability.
summarized the impact of the Jatropha project in a report
for FBN's Web site. "There are many resources available
to help the villagers," he wrote, so "it is more
a matter of connecting them to the right resources so they
can help themselves. They don't have the knowledge or connectedness
to find a company like D1-Mohan to help them. What the village
needs is not a handout, but a helping hand."
their stay in Kathanpatti, the Make a Difference team also
assisted a group of young women in their plan to set up a
sewing business by suggesting they learn to sew the uniforms
for workers at a local cotton mill.
says villagers ultimately benefited from the same lessons
about social responsibility and community that define Kellogg
leadership. "Even within India, [the key to success]
was teaching the younger generation to be more socially conscious
... It was really exciting to see that at work."