Cambridge, MA. – On March 2, 2010, corruption in India took the life of Sarla Nilkant, aunt of the founder. After being abandoned by her husband at an early age, she worked diligently to put herself through high school and completed her bachelor degree to become a teacher. She was left to bleed on the streets of her hometown for want of medical care. (Sarla’s story: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=euX1tQsnql0) Hers, regrettably, is not an isolated case in India.
A recent survey by Transparency International revealed that the bureaucracy of India is the most corrupt in the Asia Pacific region. In fact, almost 70% of Indians are routinely forced to pay bribes when looking to access basic services, such as accessing basic medical services. American companies like Walmart, which are governed by the stringent US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, find it difficult to do business India without paying bribes. All Indians are aware of this rampant corruption, but to date there has been little recourse for them to effect change.
The just-launched website, EmpZen.com – short for “EMPowered citiZEN” – hopes to change that. EmpZen is a platform completely independent of government where citizens can praise fair practices and anonymously expose unfair ones. Through transparency and collective watchdog efforts, the site looks to hold offending officials and offices accountable. Connecting ordinary people via democratizing technologies to extraordinary effect, EmpZen aims to enable citizens – by providing a means of gathering and reporting injustices – to become an active part of the solution.
It is created by Deepak Bidwai, born and raised in India, he himself experienced a lot of emotional and physical abuses from the government officers. And through the life of his aunt, he saw the extreme effects of abuse, neglect and corruption. Her untimely death encouraged Bidwai to devote his career to untangling India’s dangerous web of politics and bureaucracy.
As part of his research, he wrote for Indian newspapers, communicating regularly with common people like himself throughout India. Many with whom he spoke to were, like himself, helpless, angry and scared. Indian justice was meted out not based on innocence or guilt, it seemed, but according to who could pay and who could not.
Due the lack of stringent laws to protect whistleblowers and rampant corruption in police and judiciary, he decided to move to the USA in 2010. He had to spend three months and thousands of hard earned Indian rupees to pay bribe to get the education loan. In Boston, where he attended programs at Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and University of Massachusetts, where he ultimately earned his master’s degree in finance and information technology. In Boston, and other American cities, he met students from all over the world and learned first-hand what was working and what wasn’t in places like Kenya, Russia, Iran, South Korea, Israel, Germany, Bangladesh, and China.
According to Deepak, MIT has played a big role in making his dream project come true. At MIT Enterprise Forum (MITEF), he attended Start Smart, a nine-week entrepreneurship program. Currently, Empzen is being selected by MITEF to participate in the mentor program. “Mentors Marjan Tabari, a Harvard alumni and social impact expert and Tani Chen, MIT alumni have been providing a great value addition to the startup,” says Bidwai enthusiastically.
To begin, EmpZen is launching in Nashik, Maharashtra, on whose busy street Sarla was left to die. In coming months, it will expand to other major cities, providing citizens with reliable information about all government offices and employees. He wants to take this initiative to other developing countries also.
“It is with a mixed sense of loss, responsibility, gratitude and hope,” reflected Deepak, “that I launch EmpZen into the world – trusting that it will serve a real need and make a lasting difference. For my aunt and the nameless others who need not share her fate.”
“I think this could be a powerful new tool to fight corruption. Everyone working together can make a difference”. – Tani Chen, PhD, MIT and Suffolk University Law School. EmpZen mentor. with MIT Enterprise Forum
“Empzen: A Place for Social Justice; A Safe Place for All of Us; Will Expose Crimes and Social Injustices; Will Protect Our Identities; Will Bring Justice to Our World”. – Dr. Sumner Barenburg, Executive Director at BGI. CMRU and Kellogg School of Management.
• Website – www.empzen.com
• Story of Sarla Nilkant – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=euX1tQsnql0
Company Name: EmpZen
Contact Person: Deepak Bidwai
Email: [email protected]
Address:Workbar Cambridge, 45 Prospect St
State: MA 02139
Country: United States