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J. P. Rhea, center with garland, among some of the people he came to know during a three-week project in Kathanpatti, India
J. P. Rhea, center with garland, among some of the people he came to know during a three-week project in Kathanpatti, India
Alumni Newsmakers
  Gil Penchina '97
  Paul Campbell '00
  Maury Fertig '85
  J.P. Rhea '06

Alumni Newsmakers: J.P. Rhea '06

J.P. Rhea 'Makes a Difference' in India

Growing 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.

Ward, 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.

The 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.

Rhea 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."

During 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.

Rhea 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."  — AH

©2002 Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University