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

Maharashtra Doctor Couple Collects Unused Medicines To Help COVID-19 Patients Who Can’t Afford Them!

As the second wave of the pandemic continues to disrupt the nation, more than half the population struggles to avail of basic medical facilities even.

We have reached a point where it doesn’t matter how rich you are; the shortage of medical equipment and facilities are beating all.

In such a case, think about those who can’t really afford to pay grands for common flu and fever tablets.

To tackle this issue, a doctor couple from Maharashtra started an initiative, ‘Meds For More’ which aims to help people by providing them medicines that were not used by other COVID-19 patients.

“We started this initiative 10 days ago. We collect medicines from housing societies and provide them to those who can not afford them,” says Dr Marcus Ranney, who is heading this initiative along with his wife, Dr Raina.

“The idea came when one of the family members of our staff got infected from COVID-19, and they needed medication. As you know the medicines can be expensive. At that time, there were a few people who had recovered from COVID-19, so we decided to take their medicines and donate them,” Dr Raina said.

After that initiative, the couple decided to take this forward. They took help from some people residing in their neighbourhood and set up a team. “We started this mission with the objective of helping those who can not go out to buy medicines or anyone who can’t afford the COVID-19 medicines,” the couple added.

20 kilograms of unused COVID-19 medicines in just 10 days

Within the 10 days of this initiative, the team managed to collect more than 20 kilograms of unused and leftover medicines. These will further be distributed to primary health care centres in rural districts across the country, which can use them to treat underprivileged COVID-19 patients. 

“We have now 100 buildings that are sending medicines to us. We are a team of eight people and, of course, the volunteers in different buildings. Last week, we collected 20 kilograms of medicines, which have been packaged and given to our NGO partners,” Dr Ranney shared.

‘Meds For More’ is a citizen initiative that collects all kinds of medicines and donates them for the treatment of underprivileged patients. Besides this, they also collect basic equipment like pulse oximeters and thermometers.

People who are interested in supporting ‘Meds For More’ can reach out to the couple via social media or email: medsformoreindia@gmail.com.

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

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! 

J&K Teacher Turns Into A Health Worker; Record COVID-19 Sample Collection To Curb The Cases!

When a Kashmir based teacher tested positive for COVID-19, reality hit her hard. And that’s when she decided to work as a health counsellor and help the localities.

Babli Rani, originally from Bhaderwah, Doda, has been working in Kashmir for 11 years as a teacher. Things were fine until the virus caught her — and when she tested negative, she signed up as a health counsellor to do her bit.

“Since schools were shut due to COVID-19 and reduced activity, I decided to work as a health functionary days after I had turned negative,” Babli said in an interview. “I was moving from one village to another in Wakoora block carrying out samples of people who contracted the virus. I was tasked to take samples, maintain data of COVID-19 positives and conduct their contact tracing. I have been doing this for months.”

Rani has been posted in Ganderbal for 11 years and has worked in several schools — her last posting was in a government school at Rabitar, after which she started working as a health worker. She was trained in COVID-19 sampling collection, data processing and other basics of a surveillance team member.

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

As of this writing, she has collected over 2000 RAT and RT-PCR samples and has become an expert in sample collection.

The idea to take up this role was to ensure that none of the COVID-19 patients transmits the virus to another person, and the district doesn’t witness any rise in cases.

“During one sampling session, I tested a nine-month baby, and on another trip, 40 villagers were found infected with the virus. The officials were pleased with my work and said without these findings; the infections would have spread deeper into the community,” she added.

Discovering herself while working as a health worker

Her typical morning starts with beginning the awareness drive against the disease. Her village trip includes some counselling session where she shares all COVID-19 advisories and measures that can help in limiting the virus spread.

This job, Rani believes, helped her in discovering the social worker inside her. She enjoys her job as working for common people gives her peace of mind. It’s been a few months since she started working, and she has proved herself as an important member of the surveillance team.

“I was home once during the last winter vacation but did not get time to see the kids,” Rani, mother of two,  shared how her work has restricted her from visiting her family.

ALSO READ: Chennai Welfare Group converts autos into ambulances, saves 160+ lives!

However, prevention and precaution are the only ways to protect her loved ones, she says and is happy with helping people around her.

“I am at peace these days,” Rani ends with a high spirit, and she doesn’t intend to stop her work until the pandemic ends!

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

This Ghaziabad Family Delivers Home-cooked Meals To COVID-19 Affected Families Every Day For Free!

“I have been approached by several individuals and NGOs for help lately, but I sincerely denied them. I am trying my best to help people within my capability,” says Narendra Singh, a Ghaziabad based resident who has been helping COVID-19 affected families by offering them home-cooked meals for free.

It all started when Singh realized how some of his friends suffered when their sisters/ mothers/ wives tested positive. “They weren’t used to manage the home, unlike the ladies. And that striked me. What if we could help them with the food part. At least they won’t need to worry about cooking,” he shares!

However, it wasn’t easy initially. While some couldn’t ask him for him because he was a stranger, others weren’t sure how costly the food would be. And that’s when Singh started circulating WhatsApp messages on his society and friends’ groups; confirming that he would be serving home-cooked meals to every COVID-19 affected family for free!

It’s been 20 days since Narendra Singh and his wife, Dr Manpreet Kaur, started this initiative. Currently, they deliver food to almost four to five families, each consisting of 5-6 members every day. The meal consists of protein-rich dishes paneer, beans, nutella, peas and grams.

Jo khate hain, wahi khilate hain,” says Dr Kaur, who is a dentist by profession and has been making 50+ chapattis and more than 500gm rice every day. It’s not easy to manage home, a 4 YO kid, along with taking care of patients’ meals, but this is the need of the hour, she says. “We’ve been seeing people struggling for basics. While we also help people in getting verified information about plasma, oxygen cylinders, hospital beds, ventilators, etc., helping them with their meals is something we thought of doing by ourselves,” Dr Kaur continued.

“We’ve always been spiritual and believed in working for humanity. Generally, we used to donate to Gurudwaras in the form of ‘Dasvandh’, but this time we thought of using this money and resources for COVID-19 affected families. Although we are not doing it on a large scale, I am happy with the feedback and the blessings we receive,” says Singh, who lives in Indirapuram.

Narendra and Manpreet belong to a nuclear family. Their daughter is still very young, and hence they never really thought of expanding this initiative. Neither they considered taking any form of donation. But every time someone offers them help, they encourage them to donate only in the form of raw materials or staples and not money. “What we are doing is for humanity and for the almighty; can we really justify it with money,” he smiles. 

Free Home-Cooked Meals

Providing quality with quantity

Currently, Singh and his wife only want to maintain the quality of food and the amount they are serving. They generally prepare and pack the food in containers and send it via delivery services like Swiggy Genie.

Every time they send food to any family, they form a relationship with them, which cannot be defined. “I feel they become my family and their health and recovery start mattering to me as much as it matters to their loved ones,” Narendra says.

[Watch: Team Hope offering free food amid #COVID19​ in Varanasi]

Over time, he is also preparing a database of all the patients he has been serving food to. The idea is to keep a record of people who may wish to donate plasma after they recover. Besides this, Singh also works with some local Gurudwaras and communities to help people. 

Singh believes that this nature of helping others and going beyond one’s comfort zone is in the culture of Sikhism. “Langar is a basic and very old & vital part of our culture. While ours is a home-kitchen based langar, a lot many people are doing it on a societal level. This is a time which demands us to work for others and not for ourselves,” he says.

Singh doesn’t know for how long or how many people he would be able to help, but he doesn’t intend to stop until then. “Nanak Naam Chardi Kala, teraa bhane sarbat da bhala,” he ends with this.

If anyone wants to get in touch with Narendra Singh, s/he can contact him via +91 99903 14742. Currently, they serve food to people residing only within the 10km radius of their home. This ensures that the food remains fresh and hot by the time they receive it.

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

Meet The Samaritans Providing Meals To Needy And COVID-19 Patients For Free!

What adds to the agony of COVID-19 is the level of helplessness a person experiences — with no resources available around, people suffer to the extent that is unexplainable.

Be it a COVID-19 patient or a frontline worker, or someone low on finances — the unavailability of resources, particularly food, is one of the major sufferings right now.

Several people have come forward to fight this and are offering free meals to needy and COVID-19 patients in their locations. Here are some of those good samaritans NextBigWhat salutes to!

‘Food for Kashmir’ by ‘Tiffin Aaw’

When Rayees Ahmad, co-founder, ‘Tiffin Aaw’, started getting calls from people outside Kashmir requesting to deliver food to their COVID-19 positive parents, the food entrepreneur decided to start this campaign, ‘Food for Kashmir’.

These are some of the less known heroes who are fighting the pandemic and offering free meals to needy and COVID-19 patients!
© Provided by DNA

“We are a small startup, and it’s just been a year. People are calling us; we are giving food to people without asking for money. And among those people only, some get so emotional and tell us that they want to sponsor other COVID-19 positive family’s or patients,” said the co-founder, Nida Rayees.

The husband-wife duo delivers home-cooked meals to needy and COVID-19 patients, their families, and COVID-19 warriors for free. They have decided to keep this initiative going till the pandemic is not over.

Nisha Bhagat — The superwoman from Ranchi

This tribal woman running her own cafe in Ranchi decided to convert her business into service for the families suffering from COVID-19. She offers breakfast and meals to needy and COVID-19 patients for free.

These are some of the less known heroes who are fighting the pandemic and offering free meals to needy and COVID-19 patients!
© Provided by DNA

It all began when Nisha got a call from a woman asking for home-cooked and deliverable ‘khichdi’. “She was ready to pay whatever…I was a bit surprised because people generally don’t order that simple food over the phone. Then the caller told me the sad part; everyone in that family had turned COVID-19 positive, and none of them was physically fit enough to cook food. I took the order and sent it out. That set me thinking why not provide free food to such families,” she said.

Nisha takes extra care of nutrition and cleanliness while preparing the meals and ensures that no one is denied food by her.

‘Covid Meals For India’ by Chef Saransh Goila

When the Goila Butter Chicken (GBC) founder received a DM on Instagram to help a girl with organising her meals who had lost her immediate family to Covid-19, it struck him hard.

These are some of the less known heroes who are fighting the pandemic and offering free meals to needy and COVID-19 patients!
© Provided by Forbes India

“It’s heartbreaking. When you are stressed about finding hospital beds or oxygen for your near and dear ones or even grieving deaths in families, the last thing you want to worry about is what am I going to eat. There was a big gap here, and I knew I had to step in,” said Goila.

Along with the co-founder of Fastor, Karan Sood, he launched covidmealsforindia.com on April 25, 2021, to ensure that none of the affected or needy families sleeps empty stomach. The portal connects COVID-19 affected individuals with those willing to cook a meal for them for either free or nominal costs.

‘Feed The Poor’ by D Surender Babu

“We often neglect the people who live in rural areas during the time of crisis. The fact is that they are the ones who are most affected. People affected by coronavirus in villages do not have enough financial support, so I decided to provide them with minimal facilities. People can check out feedthepoor.in and then fill in their details as to what they want to donate,” said the Hyderabad man.

These are some of the less known heroes who are fighting the pandemic and offering free meals to needy and COVID-19 patients!
© Provided by Indiatimes

He runs the web portal, ‘Feed The Poor’, to aid people in the rural areas by providing food and medicines. He and his team often rely on donations to fight the crisis.

The superwomen of Patna

Anupama Singh and her sister Neelima, along with their mother, Kundan Devi, are becoming the messiahs for those infected in the city. While Anupama and her mother cook at home, sister Neelima ensures safe delivery to COVID-19 affected families. 

These are some of the less known heroes who are fighting the pandemic and offering free meals to needy and COVID-19 patients!
© Provided by TNIE

“Recently, a member of my family tested positive for the virus. We realised how it is difficult for virus-infected people to get meals while living in self-isolation. Hence, we started serving free food packets to the homes of coronavirus-infected patients living in self-isolation as a service to humanity at our own cost,” said Anupama. “We have dedicated all our savings, which were kept for marriage, anniversaries, birthday functions, purchasing clothes and doing other household work for the next one year, to continue serving free foods to the COVID-19 patients.”

Yes, the fight is long, but people are fighting — and ensuring that no one faces it alone. NextBigWhat salutes these less known heroes! #CovidWarriors

How are you doing your bit? Share with us, and we will share it with the world — because every story deserves to be heard!

ALSO Read: Triplet siblings raises over $280,000 for medical supplies in India!

#COVID19: Several States Declare Journalists As Frontline Workers For Vaccination Drive!

The role of media, which is considered as the fourth pillar of Indian democracy, has finally been acknowledged by several state governments.

Apart from the healthcare unit and departments like police, sanitation and hygiene, several state governments have decided to declare media personnel and journalists as frontline COVID-19 warriors, citing their services to the nation.

Like the other frontline workers of the nation, Indian media is also playing a major role in fighting the COVID-19 crisis by providing real-time vital information and details related to the pandemic, making people aware and updated.

By declaring journalists as frontline workers, it will also make them eligible for getting priority in the COVID-19 vaccination programme.

These are the states that declared their media personnel as frontline workers:

Bihar

The Bihar government declared all journalists accredited with the Information and Public Relations Department as frontline workers. 

“Corona vaccine will be given to journalists on a priority basis in the state. Journalists have been performing their roles in a good way during the pandemic. They are making people aware of the dangers of corona infection,” CM Nitish Kumar tweeted.

Odisha

Odisha CM, Naveen Patnaik, declared journalists as COVID-19 warriors and announced an ex gratia of INR 15 lakh for the next of kin of journalists who lose their lives to COVID-19 while on duty.

“As many as 6,944 working journalists of the state have been covered under the Gopabandhu Sambadika Swasthya Bima Yojana. They are getting health insurance cover of INR 2 lakh each,” the state government said in a statement.

Uttarakhand

“Since the time the lockdown started and the country eased it gradually, even officers and employees of the information department have been constantly involved in communication and spreading awareness about correct information in tasks related to fighting COVID-19,” the Uttarakhand government said in a statement and declared its journalists as frontline workers.

Madhya Pradesh

“Therefore, we have decided to declare all accredited journalists as frontline workers in Madhya Pradesh. They will be taken care of,” CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan said in a statement while declaring all journalists as frontline workers.

Punjab

The state government of Punjab said that all accredited and yellow card journalists in Punjab would be considered as COVID-19 frontline warriors.

Uttar Pradesh

CM Yogi Adityanath led government announced that all the media professionals and their families would be given priority in the vaccination drive.

Apart from these states, West Bengal’ CM Mamata Banerjee and Tamil Nadu’s next CM MK Stalin have also declared all the media personnel as the COVID-19 frontline workers in their respective states. 

Though I am writing this from home, there is a sense of relief and happiness for those journalists and media workers who have been on the frontline, reporting since day one. Thank you for your service to the nation!

ALSO Read: Triplet siblings raises over $280,000 for medical supplies in India!

Triplet Siblings Raises Over $280,000 For Medical Supplies In India!

With the COVID-19 cases rising every day, we are seeing more and more people coming forward to help each other — to assist and offer help in every possible way. From children to senior citizens, everyone is doing their part — to ensure that we win this fight soon.

Recently, three Indian-American siblings joined this fight. Founders of a non for profit organisation, Little Mentors, the trio managed to raise more than USD280,000 to send essentials and oxygen supplies for COVID-19 patients in India.

The 15-year-old triplet siblings reached out to their families, school friends and relatives to raise funds. The amount raised will be used for arranging essential equipment like oxygen concentrators and ventilators for the hospitals and needy patients in and around Delhi.

“Our only request is to return it (the equipment) when it’s not further needed as the next patient can use it. This is important as supply of these equipment is very scarce, and the affected population is enormous,” said the trio, Karina, Gia and Armaan. “We need everybody’s help in this as such an enormous task can only be accomplished by teamwork. We are very fortunate to work with an excellent team of physicians, both in the US and India. Although we hope and pray that this second wave of the coronavirus will go away soon, we are getting ready for the worst and asking people to be careful and help each other in this major crisis.”

The Gupta triplets have also been applauded earlier in December 2020 for creating an app, Apollo, which assists young entrepreneurs on a digital platform. Their non for profit organisation, Little Mentors, was founded more than two years ago.

“When you create any venture, be it a nonprofit, a for-profit business or something else, you have to make sure there is a base,” said Armaan.”Our network is children and students, but we wanted to have adults and advisors also on board to guide and help us.”

They are also planning to maintain a database of the people so that they can direct the supply properly. Besides, they plan to open distribution centres in major cities.

In a time when many people are selfishly stocking up essential medical equipment at their home, without thinking how the needy ones would manage — samaritans like these siblings are proving that there is still hope and light left between us! Kudos to these super teens!

ALSO READ: Re-imagining networking in post-covid world: Force yourself out of echo chambers

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

God’s Own Hope: Meet These Covid-19 Warriors

India recorded nearly two lakh covid-19 cases in the last 24 hours, and who knows how far the numbers would go in future!

But this ain’t gonna stop so soon!! 

And while people are bucking up against this deadly virus who’s reproducing new mutants every other day, they are forgetting how privileged and able they are to find so many alternatives and options to survive.

Think about those who are fighting every day to make their ends meet — from daily wage labourers to low-paying workers, more than half the country doesn’t have enough to eat every day!

Fortunately, we are blessed with some good samaritans who did not think twice and went out of their way to help these less fortunate beings and proved that you don’t need to be a trust or a foundation or Sonu Sood to help people. All you need to have is that ‘self awareness’ and a zeal to bring a difference.

Here is a quick random compilation of some of those wonderful souls who I bet would also leave a smile on your face. 

Lalit Meena

Jaipur-based Lalit was stuck in Delhi when the lockdown happened. Though he has always been helping people, he knew that the lockdown was going to be cruel. He pooled up all his savings, which by the way he saved from his freelance work, got some financial help from families/ friends and started distributing cooked food during the entire lockdown.

He eventually helped more than eight lakh people and managed to continue until he got symptoms. Even when he was quarantined, he was constantly on the phone — assisting the needy ones in every possible way.

A UPSC aspirant, Lalit never dreamed of anything else but serving society. He believes in giving back without expecting anything in return.

Ramu Dosapati

When Hyderabad-based Ramu saw a watchman, who earns hardly INR 5-6k monthly, helping migrant workers during the first phase of lockdown, it hit him hard!

He sold some of his lands, pooled money from his savings and PF and set up a Rice ATM. Since cooking was not really feasible, he decided to donate dry rations and other essential commodities which could help a family sustain for at least four to five days.

He reached more than 20,000 families so far and is still reaching out to as many needy families as he can. “I don’t intend to stop until we feed every hungry soul out there,” is what he says!

Manisha Krishnasamy

Tamil Nadu based Manisha Krishnasamy has been serving people much before the lockdown, but the pandemic made her realize what worth her acts were carrying around.

From rehabilitating the homeless to rescuing beggars, drug addicts, destitute and those afflicted with terrible diseases, Manisha never stopped even for a day. She believes that despite the financial or economic status, every human deserves a chance to live life well — and have the basics at least.

“We collect the required data on their current status and histories and chalk out a pragmatic plan to rehabilitate them as per their wishes and needs. If they are old, we admit them to home care for senior citizens. If they are intellectually disabled, we help them get admitted to a hospital for treatment. If they have a family and wish to rejoin them, we help them there as well. We do the same if they want a job. We categorize abandoned people and admit them into various types of homes, but only with prior permission from the police,” Manisha shared.

Neha Chawla

Neha was in Jamshedpur when the lockdown happened. Like everyone, she was also understanding the seriousness and severity of the situation. 

Though a lot of NGOs, trusts and philanthropists were coming out to help people, small and local NGOs and communities were struggling to help. When Neha encountered one such NGO, she came up with the idea of launching NGOStory — to help them share their stories, talk about their initiatives and fundraising challenges.

So far, she has collaborated with more than 200 NGOs and aims to reach out to 1000+ in the next two years. She is also on a mission to empower 100,000 underprivileged children and youth through her one-of-a-kind education initiative, ‘TechJr’. Knowing that she is able to make a difference in every possible way makes her content!

Lynette D’Souza

When the Borivali-based wildlife rescuer started living in her hometown, Palghar, during the 2020 lockdown, she also started supporting the local daily wage workers. She took special permission from the Superintendent of Police to feed the strays and started delivering food kits to the needy ones. The food kit included rice, dal, oil and basic cooking spices.

Vineet Saraiwala

It would not be wrong to say that the middle class and people with different abilities suffered a lot. While the upper class were super sustained, the lower class managed to get enough help from society and government. But the people in between were stuck in jeopardy — where their ‘self respect’ didn’t allow them to ask for help from people, nor were they eligible for any government assistance.

So, when Jamshedpur-based Vineet Saraiwala realized this, he came up with the idea of launching Atypical, an online job portal that helps people with disabilities find jobs. The portal also helps PWDs in selling products made by them.

Being a partially visually impaired man, Vineet understands how hard it is for people with different abilities to come out and work — especially in the times of covid-19.

He has more than 60 volunteers from worldwide to help him, and his venture has helped many people so far.

Lokesh Sharan

This 61-year-old Bihar-based teacher started teaching underprivileged kids back in the 80s. And he never charged for more than INR 1 for every student. The ‘ek rupiya’ was also to develop accountability and a sense of responsibility in parents — so that they could be aware of what their kids were up to.

When the school he was teaching in was shut down permanently, he made the porch of his house into a makeshift classroom and continued educating children there.

When the entire world was locked down, he turned to smartphones and learned technology to keep teaching his kids without any hurdle. “I always carry my chalk, duster and pen. Even If I see a child studying along the road, I stop and try to help him in his studies,” the hero teacher says.

And the list doesn’t stop here. I and my laptop might get exhausted, but the list wouldn’t!!

I’m privileged enough to write this post from the comfort of my home, but not many people are. These are the faces that inspire me to wake up every day and reach out to at least one creature in need — oh, it could be a dog or a bird too!

Helping and impacting is not really limited to human beings. If you are changing even one life, write to us and share your experience. Inspire the world and let them know that there is much more than economy, business, funding and exits!! 🙂 #TowardsABetterWorld

With 1000+ Farmers, This Bengaluru-Based Startup Brings You Food Directly From The Farm!

Globally, 70% of the world’s food is produced by small-holder farmers using only 30% of the agricultural land. This implies that small farmers are actually more efficient in their use of resources. However, small farmers have their backs against the wall – and a key reason for this is the lack of market access that rewards a farmer for adopting sustainable and responsible farming practices.

While there are several inefficiencies in the agricultural industry, especially in India across production, distribution, risk management, financing etc., the market linkage piece is the most broken – there is demand, and there is supply – it’s just that they are completely mismatched. It’s a pity that there are hungry folks across the world, while at the same time such a huge percentage of our produced food gets wasted.

One aspect that does not get talked about much, which is critical, is that we as consumers are also responsible for the agriculture space problems. We ask for out of season produce all throughout the year, we ask for good-looking produce instead of nutritionally rich produce, we baulk at the first sign of imperfect produce, we are way too sensitive to food prices and like keeping it artificially low – our preferences play an important role in creating the inefficiencies in the agricultural market.

Inception

When Bengaluru-based Gitanjali Rajamani, Shameek Chakravarty & Sudaakeran Balasubramaian realised this fallback, they decided to come back with their agritech venture, Farmizen.

Farmizen is trying to build an alternative food system, where consumers eat locally grown nutritious food on soil that is tended well by farmers who make a fair living out of that. At the same time, it has also built a platform that lets small organic farmers sell directly to consumers without having to worry about demand generation and logistics.

Interesting isn’t it?!

With 1000+ Farmers, This Bengaluru-Based Startup Brings You Food Directly From The Farm!

So how exactly the entire idea kicked off?

“We saw that the food system is broken – for all three stakeholders – consumers, farmers and the planet. This is because all aspects of the food system are geared to optimising towards economies of scale. The current food supply chain demands goods transported to multiple distribution centres, via multiple aggregators, before they arrive at stores where they are presented to shoppers as anonymous produce that sit on shelves for days and weeks, and in the process, causes wastage of up to 40%. This food is mass-produced, giving us terrible food in terms of both taste and nutrition, and has a significant environmental impact in terms of soil and water health. It’s a lose-lose-lose system with farmers making less than 20% of what the food is sold for, consumers getting unhealthy food that is not fresh and does not taste great, and the planet suffering. We started Farmizen to fix this,” says Shameek, co-founder, Farmizen.

With Farmizen, Gitanjali & Shameek wanted to bring the much-needed change and the opportunities which small and poor farmers were losing.

None of them had an Agri background – so it was not an easy road to walk on. They learned hard lessons on how much effort is needed while growing food and then the amount of effort needed to get it to our plates. “We spent a bit longer than we should have, in the original model we had launched with – we should have pivoted to our current farm to fork model earlier,” Shameek shares. There were hurdles, fallbacks and a steep learning curve. But eventually, it paid off well!

“We don’t stop and think about it – but that 20 rupee bunch of palak we ate for lunch today – had a farmer preparing the soil, sowing seeds, harvesting, cleaning, bunching, dispatching it – and then someone did a quality check on it and figured out how to get it to you before it wilted. The chain is complex and requires close coordination across all pieces – it’s not easy,” Shameek further added.

Farmizen believes that the future of food is in helping small farmers succeed and letting them shepherd our soil and natural resources in a climate-friendly way.

It’s their hard work, dedication and undoubtedly the passion to bring a positive change that kept them going.

As of this writing, Farmizen is working with ~1000 farmers with an annual run rate of about 15 crores INR. In fact, the pandemic brought them 3x revenue!!

“Since ours is a localised supply chain – we did not see any disruptions and were able to keep operating all through the lockdown – smaller supply chains are more resilient. We were in business even while larger players like BigBasket were struggling to get going,” says Gitanjali.

Learnings & fallbacks

The government gives so many schemes for the welfare of farmers, yet the farming industry is still so down, and so many people are giving up on farming. According to Shameek, the following could be the possible reasons behind this:

“1.  Many of the subsidies are ill-thought-out – and distort the market – for example, the urea subsidy is hugely problematic because it incentives modes of farming which destroy soil and pollute our water bodies. Free water for farming incentivises bad cropping practices, for example.

2.  Several schemes are on paper – and very difficult to get benefits of, by farmers, at the ground level. Farmers need to deal with corruption and bribery at the local executive level to avail of some of these schemes.

3.  Most of the schemes take a myopic view of the system – does not consider all costs involved – for example, does not consider long term costs that all of us pay in terms of environmental health and our health, in the pursuit of producing cheap food, which is important for political reasons.

4.  There is a wrong narrative which is being set by Big Ag – fertiliser, pesticide, seed company lobbies – we need to understand that all of them are in business to extract profits pools from the agricultural value chain – and they need to be regulated far better – and the narratives they set need to be examined and questioned. Unfortunately, a lot of what is taught in our agricultural universities is designed to further the narrative, which makes profits for Big Ag – at the expense of the small farmer and our planet.

5.  In a nutshell, the reason the small farmer today is giving up on farming is simple – they are not able to sell their produce at a fair price which allows them to live a dignified life.”

So, though it seems all shiny and abundant, there are enough potholes to fix!!

But it is also true that organic farming/ handmade/ sustainable living being the latest facades, it, indeed, is boosting the farmers’ economy as well. “Though it is helpful, more farmers need to take action – and build their own brands. We are seeing a D2C (direct to consumer) revolution in the country in other industries currently, and farmers must build their own brands – be it for their products or for value-added products they make out of their own produce,” Sudaakeran adds.

The modern agritech industry is slowly taking up, and it will continue to flourish in the coming years. As estimated by FAO, by 2050, the world will need 60% more food to feed the population. So yes, there is DEMAND!!

#FutureOfWork

Talking about the future plans, Farmizen will soon be rolling across the country. “Our zero-inventory, cap-ex light and tech-enabled model make it easier to launch in multiple places without needing massive outlays. Now that we have fine-tuned our playbook, we plan to play on a bigger canvas in multiple locations,” Gitanjali shares.

“Get a small patch of land. Grow your own vegetables for 3-4 months. Try to sell it to your neighbours in your apartment complex. You will learn a bunch of stuff in the process!”

Gitanjali encourages newcomers to get their hands a little dirty on the soil.

With the pandemic at our doorstep, consumers have become more mindful about their food. They are trying to learn more about food, the benefits and the correct way to consume it. Farmizen helps its customers learn more about their food and how it is grown, thus helping them make better choices!

With almost 8.1K+ startups working in the agritech sector, the future is disruptive, competitive, yet demanding!

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!