Happy Periods & Happy Planet: This Entrepreneur’s Sustainable Period Product Reduces 99% Of Plastic Waste!

‘Being sustainable is the future!’ — that’d be the only key to sustain a better life — for us and our coming generations.

While Kiriti Acharjee, 31, believed in creating a brand that could be an eco-friendly choice for people, he also wanted it to remain true to its cause — something that could actually bring a difference in people’s lives.

And that’s how GoPadFree was born!

An eco-friendly period product labelled under the brand Healthfab, GoPadFree aims at replacing plastic sanitary napkins — to bring comfort to women & create a more plastic-free society. It reduces the total plastic waste generated during its lifetime by over 99%. While there are period panties in the market, this is the first stand-alone, reusable panty of its kind. 

Happy Periods & Happy Planet This Entrepreneur’s Sustainable Period Product Reduces 99% Of Plastic Waste!

Unlike menstrual cups, which are a sustainable alternative but neglected due to the taboo and fear of insertion, GoPadFree wants women to experience a hassle-free and comfortable menstruation.

And though it is one of the major USPs of the product, it is not the sole reason for Kiriti to start it.

“I was looking to create a solution that would make the lives of the working women in my family easier. They found it difficult to go to work during their periods since there were fewer to no places to change pads and dispose of the old ones. Gradually, I realized that this was not restricted to my household. This prompted me to make a reusable period panty — that could replace conventional sanitary pads. There is no reason that we can’t provide sanitary care solutions and save the environment at the same time! Our product was a direct solution to all the problems,” shares Kiriti.

“I decided to start Healthfab — with the express purpose of providing a comfortable and hassle-free environment for menstruating women. I decided to test this first in my inner circle. After six months of testing and incorporating the feedbacks, I came up with the final product, the GoPadFree reusable stand-alone period panty. The product — claiming to be the first and currently the only one of its kind in India — was ranged on Amazon in 2020 at a premium pricing and has become quite successful since.”

Before starting Healthfab, Kiriti worked with Flextronics (known since 2015 as Flex) as a senior analyst in their supply chain and procurement domain. “It was here that I understood supply chain, procurement, and logistic operations at a large scale,” he adds.

“After working in Flex for 4 years, I decided to switch industries and jumped into e-commerce and joined Amazon as Associate Account Manager. A year later, I opted to join Cloudtail (a joint venture between Amazon and Catamaran Ventures). I was given a portfolio of ~USD 75 million to manage and grow. I decided to quit my job around August 2019 and started to learn more about other marketplace nuances operating in the Indian continent,” he further continues.

He was joined by Saurav Chakraborty and Satyajit Chakraborty as co-founders in September 2019, and they together registered their company officially.

As of this writing, the team managed to sell around 10,000 units and save 3 tonnes of sanitary plastic. “We have not been aggressive in promoting our product and have invested all our efforts in perfecting its features. We did not even expect to sell these many units so soon, but the customer response has exceeded our expectations,” the 31YO optimistically adds.

GoPadFree is currently one of the top 75 sanitary products on Amazon. The startup has also started selling in the Middle East and has got very reassuring responses from the customers there. 

“While the product is highly rated with excellent reviews on Amazon, the aspect that has truly delighted us is the number of users who have reached out to us through our website to appreciate us for the product and give their detailed thoughts and feedback. This has made the whole experience personal — it makes us feel that we have genuinely made enough of a difference in someone’s life that they took time off to contact us!”

Kiriti shares recalling the positive feedback

While every industry can talk about having a personal effect on its customers, it is never truer for anyone more than it is for the health and hygiene industry. The level of trust that a brand in this space can command from its customers is huge, and consequently, the rise and fall of a brand is intense. 

“We have seen our customers treat us with doubt and suspicion before trying our product. We have also seen the insane level of comfort and familiarity they show to us once they have tried and bought into our product proposition. Each of us in the team has worked in a different industry, and none of us has experienced this level of engagement with any customer before. Our biggest lesson, consequently, is about taking the trust of the customer extremely seriously. There is absolutely no room to repair the situation once that trust is broken,” the CEO shares.

Menstrual health is still a taboo in today’s world — more so in India, it is an extremely under-served segment — where these issues are barely acknowledged, let alone discussed in public. This is that one common barrier that cuts across all demographics.

Since the ideation stage, all the insights and feedbacks incorporated were received from females in friends and family. But as the startup grew and broadened its customer base, Healthfab’s biggest challenge was to break through that social barrier and talk to potential customers.

Kiriti wanted his startup to be free of that social barrier. With all the male co-founders and one female in the team, the idea was to neutralize period talks and make people realize that periods are common and men can too talk about it!

“One thing we learned early in our journey is the importance of being willing to be proved wrong. This wasn’t a category we knew well and had to learn everything from scratch. A lot of information we obtained was disproved over time, and we changed course accordingly. This was particularly intense for the category we are working in since the janta doesn’t talk about it much. We approached every situation with the assumption that we may not always be right, and that helped us get a far better understanding of our customer than what we would have had otherwise,” he further shares.

While talking about investments and profits, Kiriti shares, “we are bootstrapped and has been focusing on expanding our categories. We believe that our product has achieved a level of acceptance that can now allow us to scale. We are working on additional product lines which are specific to the health and personal hygiene category. The underlying philosophy, though, is that they will all be environmentally friendly. We will further be approaching investors in order to expand our operations and manufacturing.”

Kiriti believes that if everything, in the beginning, is going your way, then you are on the wrong track! “For anyone who wants to start off, it is to surround yourself with folks who can offer constructive criticism for everything you do. That’s the only way you can ensure you are on the right track,” the entrepreneur ends it on an optimistic note.

You can visit Healthfab here or can connect via Facebook or Instagram.

With so many startups working in the femtech sector, the future is disruptive, competitive, yet demanding!

Stay tuned with NextBigWhat for more such innovative and informative stories! #TowardsABetterWorld

Despite Being On Oxygen Himself, Srinagar’s 50YO Asthma Patient Supplies Oxygen Cylinders To COVID-19 Patients!

As the nation battles with rising COVID-19 cases, shortage of medicine, oxygen cylinders and hospital beds, people from every corner of the country, in fact, the world, are coming forward to offer help and do their bit.

One such selfless man from Srinagar came into the limelight who has been delivering oxygen cylinders to hospitals and needy COVID-19 patients despite being on oxygen himself for the past three years.

Manzoor Ahmad is an asthma patient and carries an oxygen cylinder with him 24×7 as it helps him breathe better. The 50YO driver from Srinagar uses a small truck to transport oxygen cylinders to COVID-19 patients and hospitals.

ALSO READ: How 500+ teachers in Mumbai are connecting COVID-19 patients to healthcare facilities!

“I know the importance of oxygen as I have been on oxygen support for the last three years after suffering an asthma attack. I have been driving this vehicle and ensuring my family’s well being. But today, it is even more important to carry these cylinders,” Ahmad says.

Ahmad, who is the only earning member of his family and a father of three, is at higher risk of contracting any deadly infection, let alone COVID-19, as his lungs are weak. And probably this is what drives him to work and serve people every day as he knows the true value of ‘oxygen’.

“I have three children: two sons and a daughter. My elder son is a school dropout while my younger son and daughter are studying, and I want to make them good human beings. This work today is not only giving me a livelihood but also a great amount of satisfaction,” Ahmad further adds. “During this crisis, even if my contribution is able to save even a single life, that would be a great achievement for me.”

ALSO READ: J&K teacher turns into a health worker; record COVID-19 sample collection to curb the cases!

People like Manzoor Ahmad makes us believe that there is much more beyond the struggles we face every day and that one should not give up, no matter what, as this too shall pass soon!

Amid the pandemic, NextBigWhat is featuring and honouring every single effort made by individuals, groups and organizations to acknowledge their fight against COVID-19.

If you know someone who’s bringing a change in people’s lives, share their story with us. Let the world know them! #CovidWarriors

ALSO READ: Ghaziabad family delivers home-cooked meals to COVID-19 affected families every day for free! 

Chennai Welfare Group Converts Autos Into Ambulances, Saves 160+ Lives!

Crisis teaches you a lot, they say!

With the number of COVID-19 cases increasing every day, a social welfare group in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, came up with a very interesting and innovative plan to fight the pandemic.

The community-based organization of North Chennai converted several autos into ambulances with oxygen cylinders installed in it. The idea was to help the COVID-19 patients who are critical and in dire need of oxygen and hospital beds.

As of this writing, the NGO, Chennai Welfare Group, managed to save 160+ patients’ lives with this initiative.

The group involves some engineering graduates and local residents who decided to work together to fight the surge in COVID-19 cases. 

[WATCH: COVID-19 Vaccinations for 18+: All you need to know!]

To ensure that no lives are lost or no patient struggle much, the volunteers also trained themselves in basic first aid to assist others. Critical patients are taken to the nearest COVID-19 care centre in the autos and are provided oxygen in the way.

In the wake of the rapid rise in COVID-19 cases, several auto drivers from different parts of the country have converted their autos into ambulances. Besides, many private car owners decided to utilize their vehicles to help COVID-19 patients for free.

In a country where the most basic medicine is even black marketed today, some people bring a ray of hope and make us believe that this too shall pass!

Amid the pandemic, NextBigWhat is featuring and honouring every single effort made by individuals, groups and organizations to acknowledge their fight against COVID-19.

If you know someone who’s bringing a change in people’s lives, share their story with us. Let the world know them! #CovidWarriors

Bridging The Gap: Meet The Duo Reviving Digital Learning Experience In Government Schools!

Which school did you attend? Was it that big posh convent type or just another Vidyalaya?

Either way, many of us didn’t realize how privileged we were to get the basic and higher education, unlike many children.

On top of that, covid-19 messed a lot!!

65% of India’s 250 million children study in public schools, and many of these are not yet ready for the digital world — for digital learning.

When Abhishek Dubey and Rishi Raj realized the points where the Indian education system was falling, they decided to do something together to fix it.

The duo knew how much technology could impact and change the entire education sphere, and they wanted to do something along the same line. They started Muskaan Dreams in 2017 to bridge this digital gap by equipping classrooms and teachers with ways to be future-ready. 

“I was born and brought up in a very small village. I did my initial schooling at a government school, and a few years later, when my family moved to the city, I was put in a private school. That’s when I realized the huge gap between government and private schools. I noticed the inequality, and I wanted to bridge that gap. So when I went to college, I decided to do something for the community. So I came up with the idea of Muskaan Dreams. The idea was basically to solve the societal challenge in education. I realized how technology can change the way we learn and how it can reach the last mile learners. Our vision was to empower the educators, the system, and the technology to improve the learning experience of the children. That’s how, in 2017, Muskaan Dreams started with one school as a pilot model, and today, we are working with a hundred plus schools” says Abhishek, co-founder of Muskaan Dreams.

Muskaan Dreams is a social impact nonprofit organization that works to bridge the digital divide in Government schools by empowering teachers with technology.

They work with the government to build digital highways for public schools – by enabling digital infrastructure inside classrooms. Parallelly, their army of tech volunteers helps teachers use these digital resources and tools to improve the learning experience for their students. 

Work highlights:

  1. Enabling digital learning by providing digital infrastructure in schools
  2. Capacity building of teachers on using digital tools
  3. Helping teachers in community engagement digitally
  4. Accessing technology in making learning enjoyable, reachable and accessible to children

“Our core focus is to enable teachers to use digital infrastructure instead of just putting hardware in school. We have seen many times that people under CSR and government projects had installed hardware in schools, but teachers have stopped using it after some time because they are not really tech-savvy, and they had zero assistance in case of any issue.  We help teachers to enable existing digital infra in schools and also ensure effective usage for six months. Our tech volunteer’s army ensures smooth operations on the ground,” Abhishek further continues.

So far, the duo managed to achieve the following milestones:

  1. Reached out to 20k+ students in 100+ public schools through their Digital Shiksha project. 
  2. Reached 1.5 lac parents and teachers in covid-19 crisis through their VFS project to create awareness among children, parents and teachers.
  3. Connected children with local teachers on WhatsApp and collected their feedback to improve program delivery. 
  4. Built 100+ digital classrooms 
  5. Got listed in Forbes 30 Under 30, 2019
  6. Got appreciation by Hon’ble President & Vice president of India.

They further aim to improve the learning experience of children in government schools by continuing to build the digital capacity of schools and teachers. 

Abhishek concludes by saying:

“There are so many nonprofit organizations in India that are working with so much professionalism. They have a lot of opportunities for the youth or innovators who are actually passionate to solve the problems. There are ‘n’ number of challenges in this world, and till the time you have challenges, you will have opportunities because opportunities are born from challenges. As they say, there is a silver lining in everything. Having said that, the sector needs more innovators, more young minds who can solve these problems that require a lot of skill sets.

65% of India’s 250 million children study in public schools, and many of these are not yet ready for the digital world — for digital learning.

But let me tell you all, the biggest thing is satisfaction and empathy. And when you work with an organization that is working towards making an impact, you feel more satisfied because you are doing something. Because you know that you are here with a purpose, you are here to do something good for the people and society. So that’s what is the role of every individual coming into play. That’s how you can try to make an impact. And you don’t have to start your own organization to change the world, and you just have to be a part. And trust me, there is a lot of growth.

Talking about growth opportunities in the development sector, I think this sector is multi-faceted and is moving towards a more professional, more structured, and more scalable approach, just like for-profit organizations. This makes a lot of sense for the youth to be a part of this sector as it is creating a lot of opportunities, and as I mentioned, the growth is very high. And I am talking not just in terms of career growth but also economic and social growth. Because when you work with a nonprofit, you get more exposure, you are able to solve such complex problems. And it is very different from the corporate sector.

65% of India’s 250 million children study in public schools, and many of these are not yet ready for the digital world — for digital learning.
Making digital learning easier

I think that there are a lot of opportunities here. You just have to identify the right organization and issues that you feel strongly about. The first step is to determine what kind of path your career will take because it is very important. You need to think about why I am doing what I am doing today. What’s the purpose behind my work, what kind of environment are we looking for, what is our core background, do we have something in our mind to do something big for our community, or do we just want to earn more money from the for-profit sector. Of Course, money is a very important part of our lives, but I think that if we talk about today’s world, the relevance of humans is in question.

Earlier, the development sector was seen as social work, without any income, and people were working part-time just on the weekends. But now people are working full time and also getting good salaries. Today, it’s no longer needed to sacrifice legitimate personal desires to make a difference because now the development sector is giving a good salary. They are giving all the functionalities and opportunities that for-profit business gives. 

In the end, I would just say that if you are passionate about problem-solving, if you really want to make an impact or at least be a part of it, if you feel that there are a lot of issues in the society that needs to be bridged, then this is the right place for you!”

Stay tuned with NextBigWhat for more such inspiring and informative stories! #TowardsABetterWorld

Exploring Bihar: Meet The 25YO Entrepreneur Revolutionizing The Rural Bihar!

“Although, it’s one of the toughest questions for me; still I would love to introduce myself as a Bihari, who is entirely dedicated to developing Bihar in most possible way,” says Ranjan Mistry, the 25YO social entrepreneur who also considers himself an educationist, journalist, researcher and thinker! Staying in Bihar, working for it and contributing to its development is one of the best things he says he’s doing, which he loves to flaunt.

Over the last one year, Ranjan worked with different organisations, entrepreneurship cells and incubation centres to develop innovation, covid-19 related activities, and enhance women-oriented jobs across the country. He worked with startups and community enablers like Hanuman, Medishala, etc., from idea to execution phase and supported startups in reviving their dead business. 

An optimist and a strong believer in dynamic smart work, Ranjan believes that moral support and entrepreneurial spirit is something that keeps the business going. NextBigWhat interviewed this young entrepreneur and discussed what the future for startups and the development sector looks like. Here’s a quick glimpse of our conversation and the insights Ranjan brought to the table.

You never really did a formal college, yet are known to so many coding languages, several skills and course curriculums. What kept you going?

It entirely depends on your passion for learning something new; if you stop learning, then your knowledge and growth will also stop at some point over time. Being from a lower-middle-class family, I always faced a financial crisis, and somehow my learning helped me in executing my startups & ventures at zero cost.

You started Campus Varta at a very young age. What was the vision behind that? How many people have you reached so far?

The vision was to connect rural schools, colleges and universities on a digital platform, and enable students to explore the outer world with the right information at the right time, especially in states like Bihar, Jharkhand, UP, West Bengal, Assam and so on. Till now, we have directly and indirectly reached more than 3.5 million students with more than 1800+ College, 150+ Universities in more than 22 States. We have done more than 2000+ partnerships in the last four years, including several Bollywood movies.

Tell us about your other initiatives –  Patna University Incubation Hub, Womenia Chakra, Hunar Didi, & Womenia Story.

I have been working toward developing the Entrepreneurship Cell and Incubation Center at University in Bihar for the last three years. So, In 2019 Patna University finally decided to bring their own Incubation centre to their campus after doing more than 750+ meetings with students, professor, VC, etc. Patna University Incubation Hub is the first Incubation Center at any University level in Bihar. 

Womenia Chakra is a platform to empower rural women via online and offline mode by providing opportunities to influence the status of women, both economically and socially- through employment practices, sourcing, product and service development, partnerships, supplier relationships, and marketing campaigns. It has several subsidiary organisations like Hunar Didi and Women School of Entrepreneurship.

Womenia Story is a digital platform covering women stories from rural India to inspire and empower women and enable them in their branding. 

What is your idea behind WSE? How are rural women entrepreneurs taking it?

Women School of Entrepreneurship (WSE) is a section 8 non-profit company registered as Womenia Chakra Foundation, which aims to create, leverage and nurture the last mile girls and women entrepreneurial leadership talent in India’s social, entrepreneurial, and startups sector by educating them about entrepreneurship.

WSE is a non-profit learning and entrepreneurship development organisation that aims to build and strengthen last mile girls and women entrepreneurial leadership talent in India’s social and startups sector. We enable girls and women leaders from various sectors—such as schools, colleges, corporates, and government services— to make a meaningful contribution to the social and startup sector; we also offer capacity building opportunities for leaders in the social sector. We endeavour to build critical entrepreneurial and leadership skills that will allow us as a sector to create better, more innovative and sustainable solutions for greater impact at scale.

It was set up on 14th March 2020 with the aim of creating a learning and entrepreneurial leadership development organisation that will help build and strengthen last mile girls and women entrepreneurial leadership capacity for India’s social and startup sector.In November 2020, Deepti Kiran,Juhi Smita, Md. Amanullah joined it as a co-founder.

Exploring Bihar: Meet The 25YO Entrepreneur Revolutionizing The Rural Bihar!

It has namely three programs, i.e., Kanyapreneurship, Herpreneurship and Didipreneurship.

Kanyapreneurship is a Nine Days Certificate Program in Entrepreneurship for school going girls offered by Women School of Entrepreneurship. It has been designed as a Womenia Chakra Foundation initiative to fuel entrepreneurial leadership spirit among kidopreneur girls. We will cover almost 27 modules under this program in vernacular language.

Herpreneurship is a Nine Days Certificate Program in Entrepreneurship for College, University going girls and women or Women’s Founder offered by Women School of Entrepreneurship. It has been designed as a Womenia Chakra Foundation initiative to fuel entrepreneurial leadership spirit among girls and women. We will cover almost 27 modules under this program in vernacular language.

Didipreneurship is a Nine Days Certificate Program in Entrepreneurship for College, University going girls and women or Women’s Founder offered by Women School of Entrepreneurship. It has been designed as a Womenia Chakra Foundation initiative to fuel entrepreneurial leadership spirit among girls and women. We will cover almost 27 modules under this program in vernacular language.

It has three fellowships, i.e., WSE Fellowship, Womenia Fellowship, Women Innovation Fellowship.

WSE Fellowship is a 2 Month extensive fellowship for girls and women to understand the journey of startup founders and their enterprises by researching them and preparing case studies, which will be published and used as study material. It’s an opportunity for young, dynamic individuals to contribute to enhancing skill and promote entrepreneurship.

Womenia Fellowship is a one-year extensive fellowship for girls and women to learn and understand an organisation’s work culture by working in different partner organisations such as startups, small women-led ventures & enterprises, and NGOs. It’s an opportunity for young, dynamic individuals to contribute to enhancing skill and promote entrepreneurship.

Women Innovation Fellowship is a one-year extensive fellowship for girls and women to learn and understand innovation in entrepreneurship for empowering women by directly working on the Womenia Chakra Foundation Program. It’s an opportunity for young, dynamic individuals to contribute to enhancing skill and promote entrepreneurship.

Exploring Bihar: Meet The 25YO Entrepreneur Revolutionizing The Rural Bihar!

It has three campaigns, i.e., Stri, Antrik and Sarthi.

Stri: Women Entrepreneurship Awareness Program: It’s a regular campaign to make entrepreneurship awareness among last-mile girls and women through articles, audio, video and several modes in collaboration with startups, government, NGOs and organisations.

Antrik: Intrapreneurship Awareness Program: It’s a regular campaign to make Intrapreneurship awareness among last-mile girls and women through articles, audio, video and several modes in collaboration with startups, government, NGO and organisation to support their founder in the best possible way.

Sarthi: Entrepreneurship Enabler Awareness Program: It’s a regular campaign to make entrepreneurship awareness among last-mile girls’ and women’s family, friends and colleagues through articles, audio, video and several modes in collaboration with startups, government, NGO and organisation to support them in their entrepreneurial journey.

Ranjan, you’ve worked with people from rural areas on a grassroots level & have brought education to Naxal affected areas. Please share your experience and thoughts regarding the present condition of women & children in rural India.

Somehow, after running several government programs and after several decades, the conditions of women and children in Rural India are the same, as we all knew that it’s huge, so we need more organisation in this field for upgrading the conditions of rural women and children. Of the approximately 432 million working-age women in India, about 343 million are not in paid formal work, and 324 million of these women are not in the labour forces, and another 19 million are in the labour force but not employed. Despite being the third-largest startup nation and having over 27,000 startups, India still has only 5% of women startups founders. Gender disparity across the Indian startups’ ecosystem increased in 2020, with nearly 77% of firms having less than 20 % women in leadership roles, compared to 69 % in 2019.

Let me tell you another hidden story of an Indian women-owned business, and it will give you clear pictures of women’s conditions. India has 13.5-15.7 million women-owned enterprises, representing 20% of all enterprises. These are overwhelmingly single-person enterprises, which provides direct employment for an estimated 22 to 27 million people. 

Further, a number of enterprises reported as women-owned are not in fact controlled or run by women. A combination of financial and administrative reasons leads to women being “On Paper” owners with a little role to play. I hope you have watched the recent web series Panchayat; the condition of the Lady Mukhiya portrayed is similar across rural India.

Similarly, rural children have the same case as accessing education in the lack of financial help and accessibility.

Please share your working process – how do you identify the pain points and how exactly the work gets started? How many people/organisations/ villages have you worked with so far?

As I always believed to stay grounded for identifying the pain points, no one can pick the pain points within a day; it takes time to understand that’s why we need to be among the people and somehow be part of that community. Once we identify the pain point, then we start thinking to bring the solution, and after that, we execute it. Let’s take the example of Women School of Entrepreneurship; I have been working on this for three years as a pilot project silently to identify the real problem and solutions, and I have executed several things with rural women. Till now, I have worked with more than 20K women across Bihar and Jharkhand.

Exploring Bihar: Meet The 25YO Entrepreneur Revolutionizing The Rural Bihar!

Given the time you have been operating till now, what are the drawbacks or fallbacks you have found in the startup ecosystem & development sector?

The biggest drawback of the startup ecosystem & development sector is the ignorance of Bureaucrats. We can’t develop a healthy ecosystem without government support, and government schemes, plans, programs have been implemented and run by Bureaucrats, and somehow they didn’t support the startup ecosystem. Let’s take an example of Jeevika, one of the biggest organisations of Govt. of Bihar, several startups write down mails for support or new ideas for collaboration, but they didn’t get any response in the last two years, even they didn’t get any receiving mail. Similarly, the condition of Industry Dept. The Government of Bihar is worse if I talk about support. Somehow, We need to solve it rather than hiding things.

The rural sector is still unexplored; what are your further plans to help the people from the remotest areas?

Yeah! It’s true, and I have been trying to bring more startups that will focus on rural India, and I always believe that bringing startups focused on rural issues is the fastest and best way to help the people from the remotest areas.

What would you suggest to entrepreneurs thinking to enter this domain? 

Getting satisfaction after completing the work is the real success, whether you are awarded for the work or not; each & every time you will get some learning &, most importantly, internal satisfaction with peace in mind and heart. Entrepreneurship is just like engineering; it’s not about spoon-feeding; if you have the guts, then you only become an entrepreneur; similarly, if you have the passion, then you only become a true engineer by heart.

Stay tuned with NextBigWhat for more such inspiring and informative stories! #TowardsABetterWorld

Climatic & Ecological Trauma: The Story Behind The Inception Of Zerodha’s Rainmatter Foundation!

“There won’t be much of an economy or stock market left without a planet!”

When Zerodha decided to commit $100 million funds towards initiatives to combat climate change, it wasn’t just a random (or namesake) CSR act ― it was their love, responsibility and pain for this planet that made them support grassroots individuals and organisations working on problems related to climate change.

“Climate Change is no longer a problem for just researchers and governments to deal with and solve. We’re seeing an impact from it in a variety of ways. There is a strong belief in the team that this is our responsibility, too and much beyond mandatory CSR levels. It’s not just a “domain” to address or profit from,” says Sameer Shisodia, CEO, Rainmatter Foundation.

The Rainmatter Foundation is making both grant funding as well as investments in entrepreneurship that can create scaled solutions for addressing various aspects and impact of the climate change and ecological crisis we face. They are largely going after the ideas and organisations that have already done good work or shown some promise and helping them be more effective in terms of lasting changes over a longer period, and is being replicated or scaled across the country, either directly or through shared learnings and playbooks.

Love for nature

Sameer, on the other hand, has also been running Linger Leisure, an eco-friendly and sustainable chain of properties offering vacation rentals and workations.

“I’ve been running Linger for over ten years now, and more recently, have helped create multiple permaculture-based farming collectives for communities that live more sustainably and regeneratively. In both cases, my exposure to a wider, larger India has been immense, and I have started to understand ― or at least have deeper questions about ― the problems and issues we face as a country significantly better. I have seen consumerism especially represented through packaged food, start to devastate even remote ecologies and economies; I have been witness to changes that are adding up to a very scary future across the country and at least have some thoughts around how these might be fundamentally addressed,” Sameer continues.

However, grants or funding are not the only things required to bring a large scale change; he believes: “impact, philanthropy, giving back, sustainability etc., are all popular notions these days. They sometimes deflect from more serious responsibility and deeper engagement. Big corporations, individuals and society and governments all need to double down on issues like climate change that impact everyone and everything. We need not just funding commitment, but a lot of collaboration, technology, research and especially a huge amount of messaging that helps make the issue and discussion mainstream.

Finally, the test will be when corporations face the hard decisions that need them to pick less ecologically harmful or even regenerative practices over cost savings or even growth. At every level, we have to realise that the larger good is critical for the survival of each of us and what we do.”



Inside the Rainmatter

On asking him about the operation and survival strategy of Rainmatter, Sameer says that they do not take any equity for grant funding; however, there are some small amount of equity involved in case of investments. “We’re structured as a section 8 company, and the idea of the investment is not profit, per se, but the growth of good ideas. The profits and payouts from these investments will, of course, be ploughed back into the fund and help with further grants and investments. In all grants and investments, we look for the possibility of the idea growing at a country scale or beyond. Indeed we think good ideas should be replicated rapidly by many, and further iterations and local adaptations will create solutions that make sense everywhere,” he further adds.

Rainmatter has supported many great organisations that are working to protect and extend forests, wildlife to further and popularise agro-ecological techniques that benefit the environment, strengthen localised economies, help with waste management, and solutions that drive energy efficiency, amongst others. They further plan to foster wide-ranging collaborations across problem solvers, create playbooks that help many more start solving problems in their neighbourhood. They are also starting to support journalism and storytelling focused on ecological issues and how they relate to us every day.

Is the government supporting/ backing up such startups or initiatives? Sameer believes that every solution must either become part of the market in a sustainable way or become institutionalised, depending on whether “I” need to pay for it or “We” should, as in the case of cleaner commons for all.

“There is a lot of institutional support available that can be used, and once enough folks in geography or context want something, the government usually does follow up with policy, laws, provisions and funds for it. Part of what we are trying to do is discover and make available the policy, funding support that exists that can be used towards climate change solutions. We do believe the government is an important part of solving these problems, as is civil society, and we need a very large set of collaborations going between these,” he says.

Need of the hour

And do you remember how the initial phase of lockdown cleaned out the lakes/ ponds and even the Delhi clouds? #DoPalKiKhusiyaan… Well, that was just a temporary phenomenon and not sustainable either!

It also came at a huge economic and human cost. “While it did present an opportunity to create a more spread out localised economy and relook at how our economic engine works, I think the changes need to be a lot more structural, will happen over time and hopefully with a positive impact on people and livelihood rather than as a shock. Of course, without starting the journey in this direction, we can almost certainly expect many sudden disruptions, shocks and much pain ― COVID was only one such that we came face to face with,” adds the Bengaluru based serial entrepreneur.

NextBigWhat asked Sameer if the Rainmatter Foundation is further looking to invest or focus on other Sustainable Development Goals to which he replied, “The climate change problem is deeply linked to the structure and nature of our economy, to livelihoods. It finds parallels and both cause and effect in the problems we see today with equitable distribution. It has deep roots in how human society, and especially agriculture, has developed over the ages. The SDGs talk about these issues, but we would rather not look at those as separate, isolated silos ― we risk too many short terms, symptomatic fixes with that approach.

We believe that there are four broad pillars that help make a place more livable, and people can and will fundamentally care about places they live in and depend on. We are trying to foster multi-dimensional problem solving, even as we pitch for urgent attention to address the most broken one ― the ecology ― in whatever problem solving is being attempted.”

The untold compunction

“I have two kids stepping into the world, and I say sorry to them often for leaving them a world that’s broken in so many ways. We have been terrible custodians for a generation and a half, and I wish I personally, and we collectively, had woken up to this earlier and started to create better goals for us all than the limited, self-focused ones we pursue today, and also create a set of better tools the coming generations could build upon for truly making the planet a better place to inhabit,” Sameer ends with an emotional yet practical and worrisome thought!

Cheers to Rainmatter Foundation and several other similar initiatives that are trying to make this world a better place to live in ― for us ― for our future generations! You can check their website here!

Stay tuned with NextBigWhat for more such inspiring and informative stories! #TowardsABetterWorld

Also read: How a Harvard Dropout Joined the Global Billionaire’s Club!