Making dreams come true

Shobha Warrier

(From left) Ajit Narayanan, E Sarathbabu, ‘Ma Foi’ K Pandiarajan, Dr Srinivasan, Shobha Warrier and AG Padmanaban.

Writer and journalist Shobha Warrier’s recently released book profiles 28 social entrepreneurs

According to writer and journalist Shobha Warrier, entrepreneurs are no less creative than artists. What starts as a wiggle of an idea at the back of their minds transforms into something more tangible and changes those who come in contact with it.

She has a soft corner for social entrepreneurs; those that work for the benefit of society rather than profits. When she, many years ago, saw this “human spirit” turn into concrete solutions to help others, she decided to write about it. Over the years her interactions with numerous social entrepreneurs has culminated in her latest book — Dreamchasers - Entrepreneurs from the South of the Vindhyas.

Shobha, in the book, details the lives and journey of 28 social entrepreneurs, many of whom started their business even before the word ‘entrepreneur’ became popular in India. Using a simple timeline to narrate their stories, she includes people from different generations. Those who set up enterprises in the 1970s and 1980s are termed ‘Trendsetters’, as they faced economic and social hurdles, and are considered pioneers for the current generations. Start-ups from 1990s to 2010 are the ‘Next wave’ and the ‘New generation’ includes today’s youngsters.

Working as a team

Just out of engineering college, 23-year-old AG Padmanaban is the youngest in the book. When he noticed how much food we waste on a daily basis he decided to collect it and serve it to the underprivileged. Weddings halls were his frequent haunt and his first collection was completed with a budget of ₹12. Even as he studied for his exams he set up ventures like ‘No Food Waste’ and ‘Edudharma’. He says the secret to his success is three Cs and three Ts: Corporation, corporate and community; teamwork, technology and transparency.

The Minister for School Education, Sports and Youth Welfare, Tamil Nadu, ‘Ma Foi’ K Pandiarajan was the chief guest at the book release. The former HR professional and entrepreneur said that entrepreneurs should not let their dream define them. “Treat your dream as a playmate and not a noose.” He added, “Leadership is a process and not about a person. There are only moments of leadership; everyone has their downside.”

Dr Srinivasan, Founder, Jeevan Blood Bank, had a similar message to pass on to the younger generation, “The four pillars of a successful entrepreneur are: Start up, scale up, procure funds and know when to exit. It’s important to quit at the right time. You can be passionate but also be smart. Use that energy to focus on something else.”

Dream to reality

The other two speakers, who also feature in the book, were E Sarathbabu, Founder, FoodKing, and Ajit Narayanan, Founder, Avaz. Sarathbabu’s story is one that is well-known: raised by a mother who sold idlis from a cart to educate her children, he went on to graduate from BITS and IIM Ahmedabad, and started his food venture to help others. Avaz is an app that assists speech therapy and develops communication skills in autistic children. “It’s a thrill to be an entrepreneur; we are like new-born babies. We don’t have contacts, credibility, customers, money… just a dream. Slowly, we accumulate everything and strengthen the dream,” said Ajit.

Apart from being social entrepreneurs, the other thread that connected the 28 was this: they all struggled to make their dream a reality.

M Mahadevan of Hot Breads, Dilip Kapur of Hidesign, CK Ranganathan of CavinKare, Arun Jain of Polaris and Siddharth Mohan Nair of DesiTude are some of the others featured in the book.

(This article was first published in BusinessLine on Campus).

Published on January 11, 2017
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