Leading Rural India to a Brighter Future
Paritosh Sharma , founder of UntilROI and member of the NEN Experts community, spoke to Prateik Pothuneedi of the Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership at the Birla Institute of Technology, Pilani, about CEL’s rural entrepreneurship development initiatives.
Q. How do you see students’ interest towards rural India and low-income segments of the society?
A. I certainly see that the students are more interested in social entrepreneurship. Beyond just starting a business and earning money, they are looking to create a lasting impact on the society and right now one of the most popular trends on campus is creating “for-profit” social ventures for which we have the RED (Rural Entrepreneurship Development).
Q. There are various interesting ideas shared by the RED in your CEL newsletter. How are the students motivated to come up with such ideas?
A. We brainstorm ideas, which go through a feasibility analysis. Once done, we choose one and work on developing it.
Q. What measures are you taking to make sure that more students get involved?
A. Students are certainly very socially conscious and with us, the advantage is that we are based in very much a rural area. There are also quite a few social organizations on campus eg: Nirman, National service scheme, which have a large followership. We collaborate with them through RED.
Q. Regarding raising money what have been the challenges faced?
A. The biggest challenge for us always is raising money. As in case of our Bio-Gas project, we did an exhaustive analysis and had the plans ready, but where it did not pick up was when we were trying to raise capital from the villagers themselves. Even with established organizations, it takes a lot of time to convince them to invest in such a proposition.
Q. Share with us one crucial learning which you have learnt over a period of time?
A. One of the most crucial things we have learnt over a period of time is about trust. To make the villagers understand something, or even to talk to them, it takes a lot of trust. For example, y you even have to have a woman in your group while going to these villages, as you are not allowed to talk to women in these villages directly if you are a man.
Q. Talking about innovation, what have been the most interesting ideas by students till date?
A. At one point of time we were contemplating dust-less chalk and also did mushroom farming for sometime, which took a hit due to erratic water supply in the area.
Q. As the President of CEL, what are your expectations from external agencies?
A. Well, raising funds is surely one thing. Other than that, we require platforms to showcase to the world our capability and what we can deliver. This will also go a long way in creating the trust with our prospective investors. Mentors are the third expectation – we require their support towards learning from their failures and successes.
Q. What more can we see from CEL in the coming months?
A. We have our annual tech festival coming up and also I personally invite you to TEDx, which we are holding for the first time, with highly interesting stories in March this year.