Just returned from a trip to Chennai, where i attended the Villgro Unconvention 2010 (social entrepreneurship summit). I want to share my experience about this trip,hoping in the process to do some justice to the hospitality extended by Villgro and so many entrepreneurs.
First and foremost, i witnessed a new Chennai which is brimming with entrepreneurial energy. Met so many people who have left their high flying jobs to start something here. From education, technology, advertising to manufacturing..luckily got to meet startups from all walks.So if you want to set up shop, expand to Chennai then do give it a thought..its a place to be. Because i don’t believe in long posts (or rather can’t write one) let me share some interesting info.
Let me begin with a Sri Lankan Refugee Couple – K.Retna Raja Singam and his wife from OFERR (organisation for Eelam Refugees Rehabilitation), they are based out of Chennai for the last 20 years and have been relentlessly working towards economic independence of refugees and poor from India. The motto being from Refugees to Resource Persons. So what do they do? Provide vocational Spiriulina Cultivation training to everyone, produce and sell Spirulina products at the cheapest cost and volunteer for all social work - from Tusnamis to anything the Indian government wants man power help on. In the last few years they have trained 750 people and contributed in their own way to economic independence and entrepreneurship. Infact the success of their programme has reached far and wide, with individuals from all parts of India and middle east coming to learn spirulina cultivation. Their simplicity and dedication amazed me – self effacing and ready to help…now thats what i call social entrepreneurship. If anyone is looking at learning spirulina cultivation ( and yes it is a wonder drug,more so in our modern day stressful lives) please get in touch with them. Also i thank one of my close journalist friend from Hindu for making the introductions without which i couldn’t have met this enterprising couple.
Next met Ashutosh Kumar Sinha, a young man hailing from Dhanbad in Bihar, who quit his job and is now in Erode running the Villgro Stores, a B2B retail store for rural India.With 10 outlets and counting, the whole intent of this chain of stores is to make rural India self sufficient and create a market place for rural innovations. Quiz Ashutosh on how does he find his new role and pat comes the reply – “nothing can give this kind of satisfaction on a daily basis when you know you are creating opportunities for people where none existed”.
Met Basabjit Deshmukh, MD of Prantik International, Pondicherry, leading innovations in Bio rememdiation, agriculture and organic farming. Ofcourse what they do is very innovative and impactful (google on them) but what got my attention was the humility and drive of Basabjit and his invitation to come to Pondicherry and witness all the innovations. Now this is an offer i am planning to accept:)
There are many more such stories of inspiring social entrepreneurs, we will cover them all in our social entrepreneur section shortly.
To all those who want to start something in social space, please look at Villgro for support either for incubation (apparently they have a very flexible and hands on support programme) or shortly for funding.
For me this was also a fulfilling trip -YourStory, got awarded for social journalism and the work we do to showcase entrepreneurs. Its very rare that someone from online media gets this kind of recognition as still in India everyone is very much mainstream media driven and we are still given the step treatment..we cannnot thank Villgro enough..afterall such recognitions only motivate us to work harder.
Luckily the weather was cool and it rained on one of the days so can’t complain of Chennai heat either.
More insights on Chennai, please don’t forget to share