CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – A University of Illinois business professor who champions programs to combat poverty and promote marketplace literacy has earned an international award, joining past winners that include Mother Teresa and the former vice president of India.
Madhu Viswanathan will receive the India International Friendship Society’s Bharat Gaurav Award, given annually to honor people whose work promotes India’s heritage and contributions at home and abroad.
Viswanathan, a native of India, has developed marketplace literacy programs for adults in India who cannot read or write, and started a grassroots program to help poor people improve their consumer and entrepreneurial skills.
Helping the poor participate in the marketplace by becoming better buyers and sellers compliments other efforts to combat poverty, he says. Those social initiatives compliment Viswanathan’s research on subsistence marketplaces, as well as courses he teaches at Illinois on sustainable business solutions for alleviating poverty.
He says the award provides a platform to further his efforts to improve quality of life in subsistence economies.
“The recognition is wonderful, but it’s also a reminder that we should redouble our efforts to make a real impact,” Viswanathan said.
“In a very small way, we focus on people who have not had a chance, whether it is through marketplace literacy for people living in poverty or through preparing our own students here at Illinois for the challenges of the 21st century.”
He will receive the award Jan. 7 in New Delhi as part of Global Friendship Day, marking the anniversary of political and spiritual leader Mahatma Ghandi’s return to India after having led non-violent civil rights efforts in South Africa.
Bharat Gaurav awards are presented by the India International Friendship Society, a volunteer organization that promotes unity among people of Indian origin around the world and seeks to strengthen friendship and cooperation with other nations. Bhartat Gaurav translates to “India pride” or “India respect.”
Along with Mother Teresa and former Indian Vice President B.D. Jatti, other past winners include retired cricket star Sunil Gavaskar and Harinder Takhar, the first Indian-Canadian to hold a cabinet post in Ontario.