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Becoming The Change

The first time Suman Chennamaneni had access to books outside of his school curriculum, he was half way through his teens. The school he attended in small town Andhra Pradesh had no library. In fact there was no library in his town, or in all the small towns next to it.

After moving to Hyderabad to finish his education, he made the most of his new-found access. Escaping into a different world with the turn of every page; discovering treasures, heroes and grand adventures.

Upon finishing his degree in law, he chose to do an internship with Green Mango- an organisation that supports Social Entrepreneurs with various services. A chance meeting with some successful social entrepreneurs gave Suman the confidence he needed to take the plunge and ‘just start’.

Suman and his brother Suneel, started Wisdombox- a for profit venture that they call ‘The last mile Library’. They intend to start small but well stocked libraries in places where people have long forgotten the importance of reading and indulging in a good book.

He’s driven by his own experiences and works to convert reluctant parents who “don’t see the point in their kids reading books beyond the ones being taught at school”. For each library to break-even and sustain itself, he needs 150 students to enroll. The small fee charged is used to keep the library well stocked and pay for a librarian who manages the unit.

In Suman’s words, “The challenge is not about getting kids interested in books again, it’s about ensuring that the books reach them to begin with.” He carefully selects pop up books, graphic novels and classics to get the kids hooked. “A kids first book usually determines if he or she will ever pick up another one”.

At the other end of the Social Entrepreneurship spectrum is Yashveer Singh.

Yashveer is a BITS Pilani alumnus who grew up rural Rajasthan. As the president of the University’s students union, he started small projects by engaging the neighbouring community and students to work together.

His early successes encouraged him to set up the National Social Entrepreneurship Forum in Bangalore. NSEF works to promote Social Entrepreneurship among university students by inspiring, educating and supporting the next generation of socially conscious entrepreneurs who are “equipped to tackle our country’s problems with innovative and sustainable solutions”, he explains.

In two years NSEF has initiated activities like Idea conferences, workshops, training programs and courses in over forty universities across India. “ We want to create an entire ecosystem to nurture people and ideas in environment sustainability, technology, vocational training, clean energy etc.”

Yashveer experienced first hand how aware and tuned in the students were to our countries social problems and also how optimistic they were in ideating sustainable solutions. But the lack of exposure, mentoring and formal training was keeping them vary of starting up.

NSEF set out to address this problem. They created tailor made training modules, worked with universities to create incubation units and gave students the opportunity to learn from successful social entrepreneurs through conferences and internships.

Their work has reached out to hundreds of students by engaging them in Social Business Plan competitions that encourage unconventional ideas. Through theme based Ideas Sessions where groups of students brainstorm to experiment and create solutions for various global problems and each year they facilitate a hundred internships for the brightest students.

“Very few not for profit organisations are able to sustain once their donors or funders back out. This makes it critical for us to encourage a new generation of Social entrepreneurs in India”, says Yashveer.

Both Suman and Yashveer are in barely in their twenties. They have drawn inspiration from their own life experiences and created opportunities out of obstacles. Their vision and work are brilliant examples of the untapped originality and energy of India’s educated youth.

Even as they struggle to advocate and grow their individual causes, they have already become the change they wanted to see in the world.

19 Responses to “Becoming The Change”

  1. Neeyathi Ray says:

    I’m also trying to establish a small social business unit. it’s very hard to get any seed money, people assume that you’re setting up yet another NGO that will fade away soon. i’m into vocational training in Delhi slums, the response from the community has been great and it helps me survive the tough days

  2. Noora Ali says:

    how are you finding these people each week. kudos!

  3. Joey Ramon says:

    there aren’t enough people taking up socially conscious business ideas. and the fact remains that if you’re going to bust your chops to start a business, it might as well be one that rakes in the moolah… the bottom of the pyramid approach is long, painful and not most rewarding

  4. Aditya Prakash says:

    Suman, advise you to start a book donation drive. Each family discards books or ‘raddi’ every year. They would come handy, after proper filtering of course. I would surely drop off many if it was close to where i live. very good idea, best of luck

  5. Yashpal Jadhav says:

    I have attended seminar by NSEF, they are effective and helpful. most universities dont have capacity to sustain. proper budgets need to be given for long term. best of luck

  6. Prateek Nirula says:

    I would also like to donate books for suman. i have a big colection of books from my childhood. comics, classics, encyclopedias and 5 years of National Geographic magazines.

  7. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by 100 Heroes Project, Tithiya. Tithiya said: Becoming The Change « 100 Heroes Project: http://tinyurl.com/5uzjujb Featuring @NSEFIndia & http://www.mambo.co.in [...]

  8. Dr Jashan Shergill says:

    I love stories of self made people. gives one hope for our country. keep it up tithiya, suman and yashveer

  9. Manna Bandhopadhay says:

    social entrepreneurship is the key. each of the two focused on problems endured in their own lives and created solutions. this is the mindset we need to solving our country’s problems. very inspiring indeed. read your column in HT. there is no link from HT’s site to your blog. i had to goolge it. not hard to find but you will lose many not so motivated seekers :) best regards

  10. Shobha Bains Klair says:

    thanks for sharing

  11. Divanshu Malik says:

    How can i get some financial help for starting a rent-a-bike in slums, small towns and rural areas? cycles are the only mode of personal transport for many ppl and most cant afford one. will people be willing to donate cycles for this cause?

  12. Jharna Sambhav says:

    a good read again tithiya, love the stories ur digging up. weekly dose of inspiration for sure. keep going

  13. Nitin Suri says:

    Hi, my brother sent me your site’s link. I’m based in the US. If/when you reach here, you will have a family home in Seattle and i can hook you up in other cities too. well done!

  14. Emily Canter says:

    Green Mango does some interesting work. great bunch of women are the core team

  15. Dhawal Chaurasiya says:

    great diversity in stories. good representation of India

  16. MK Anand says:

    we must promote enterprising spirit of young indians. for many, business appears as inheritance. need to encourage self starters

  17. Kimayani Das says:

    Khudi ko kar buland itna…. very nice story. esp the wisdombox initiative.

  18. Durga Vashisht says:

    only when one has experienced first hand the hardships of a region, it’s unique challenges and limitations can they devise a solution. no outsider would be able to do so.

  19. neema gurung says:

    nice post. have you been to the north east ever? some great work going on there

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