Gupta, 48, is known for his hands-on approach to education. In his courses, teams of students must engage in local community projects and devise ideas for new services. The group with the best idea gets a prize. "I teach my students not to be amoebae and just fit into systems," he says. One graduate joined a fund that turns around sick, small industries. Even his students who go on to lucrative finance careers often retain a concern for community. A group of Gupta's former students set up a $1 million microcredit fund for village entrepreneurs.
Gupta is best-known for his extracurricular activities. An economist from northern India, he founded the Society for Research & Initiatives for Sustainable Technologies & Institutions (SRISTI). Its task: to help peasants register patents for innovations devised in their daily work. SRISTI has registered more than 10,000 innovations, ranging from an affordable, herbal pesticide to a tilting cart used for distributing compost.
Gujarat entrepreneurs are starting to produce these goods and pay license fees to farmers. India's government, at Gupta's urging, has set up a $5 million National Innovation Fund similar to SRISTI. The model may be exported to other nations. It's grassroots capitalism, and it works.