Alina Alam, social entrepreneur and participant of Griffith University’s Indian Women Innovators program, is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Mitti Café, a non-profit organisation that runs a chain of cafes which are completely managed by adults with physical, intellectual and psychiatric disability.  Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Mitti Café used space provided in corporate office buildings in India, to enable people with disabilities to be productive and showcase their potential, while creating awareness of the need for economic independence and dignity for all. Alina is recognised in the 2020 Forbes 30 Under 30 Social Entrepreneurs list for her work in establishing Mitti.

The two-phase Indian Women Innovators program, led by Dr Dhara Shah and Professor Michelle Barker from the Department of Business Strategy and Innovation, was co-funded with the support of the Queensland Government’s International Education and Training Partnership Fund, which is managed by Study Queensland within Trade and Investment Queensland. Phase One of the program comprised two Masterclasses for social entrepreneurs held in Bangalore and New Delhi, from which 10 women, including Ms Alam were chosen to participate in Phase Two—a week-long Bootcamp in Queensland—where they were joined by entrepreneurs in Brisbane, the Gold Coast, and Cairns. Some of the highlights of the Bootcamp were meetings with Queensland’s social entrepreneurs, Queensland Government officials, the Social Business session with Alex Hannant, Professor of Practice & Co-Director of The Yunus Centre, Griffith Business School, and interacting with Indigenous women entrepreneurs in Cairns, which was hosted by Associate Professor Henrietta Marie of CQUniversity’s First People’s Think Tank. Alina commented on the positive impact that the Bootcamp program had on her as an individual, and on her business as a social entrepreneur.

The current lockdown in India has led Mitti Cafe workers to innovate to help others in need. India has a large informal workforce who earn daily wages—migrant labourers, house helpers, stone cutters, beggars, rag pickers, garbage collectors etc. Their income has become zero. In this crisis, they and their families are the ones who have been deeply affected since they have no income, no jobs and no savings to carry them through. Even after the lockdown lifts, this vulnerable community will take longer than anyone else to get back to daily wages and regular food.

Working on ‘a war footing’, Mitti is providing the most basic of the necessities: food and drinking water to 2000 daily wage laborers every day. Meals are cooked with the support of Mitti’s superb staff with disabilities who are motivated to serve the society, despite having to live in isolation to provide the service.

Mitti Café staff have distributed more than 30,000 meals. (Photos supplied)

Each meal costs Rs 25-$0.3. For one dollar, Mitti Cafes provide food boxes to four people who are extremely poor and cannot afford it. Through crowd funding, they have been able to serve over 30,000 meals to the economically less privileged, and are continuing to do so with the support of the generous community and their motivated staff.

Find out more in the Griffith News article Griffith Indian Innovators program participant recognised by Forbes for creating a journey of hope.