I come from a very small town called Bazpur in Uttarakhand. My upbringing as a child was in a society where people genuinely care for each other and their environment. Empathy and helping those in need is a way of life from where I come. My father who is a lawyer by profession, taught me the value of helping those in need and how important it is for us to always stand for the truth & do the right thing. So, right from my childhood my parents encouraged me to go out and help others. Be it a cloth collection drive for cyclone-hit areas or donating my used books to a library. And that is what has actually set a very strong foundation.
I started my corporate life with Infosys and have worked for 7 years in various sectors including Aerospace, Healthcare & Banking. In January 2019, I finally said goodbye to corporate industry and took a full time responsibility in Anuprayaas, after resigning as an Assistant Manager in Global Business Analysis with HSBC.
In September 2019, I got selected amongst top 10 Women Entrepreneurs in Impact in India, by Griffith University & Government of Queensland- Australia, and was invited to attend a 1-week boot camp on Global Entrepreneurship in Australia.
The Turning Point In Your Life:
When I started my corporate life with Infosys and had shifted to Mysore, it was then that I got an opportunity to interact with people with disability. Pancham, who is the founder of Anuprayaas, once introduced me to students in a blind school. Honestly, my heart really broke to see the struggles of these kids. A person who is blind fights a hundred battles every day, from the time he wakes up to the time his day ends. Anuprayaas means a small effort, our intention of starting it was to reduce such battles one at a time.
We had a very sympathetic attitude towards people with disability when we initially started visiting blind schools. But soon we realized that sympathy is not the answer to the problems that visually impaired people face. Hence we started to visit them regularly for counseling. We endeavored to understand their day to day problems and challenges that they faced. Soon, the students opened up with us and started sharing their challenges with us.
One day we received a call from one of the blind students, Diwakar. We went to the blind school to check on what had happened and found out that he had earlier gone to the railway station to catch a train as he was supposed to go to his home town on vacation. Being unfamiliar with the facility, he had enquired the passengers around about the platform on which his train was supposed to come. He somehow managed to reach to the platform and waited for his train. Being a shy person which most of the visually impaired students are, he didn't interact much with the people around. After waiting for a long time when his train didn't arrive at the station, he inquired around to find out if the train is delayed. Soon he realized that he was waiting at a wrong platform all this time. His train had already left. Feeling helpless and disheartened he came back to his hostel . This was one of the incidents that left a deep impact on us and we started to figure out how we could solve this problem.
An Alternate Career Path And Financial Security:
A. I suggest having a slow transaction. We started Anuprayaas in 2014. Pancham my husband and the founder of Anuprayaas, had quit his job and decided to work full time for the cause. On the other hand, I continued working till 2018 making sure that we were not just making the ends meet. This took a lot of pressure off from us and we could clearly think in the direction of growth. So planning your finances strategically is very important.
B. Build an alternate channel of revenue. We built a channel of revenue for us through Braillemate which is a braille based merchandise. Starting very young as an NGO and having no prior contacts in the sector, we did struggle to raise the funds. That is when we decided to pivot our model and be a social enterprise instead.
C. Leverage your support system, including your family and don't shy away in asking for help when required. When you are busy building an organization, having a support system to take on the added pressure is a boon.
D. Commit to being a student for life. This is very important especially when you are a first generation social entrepreneur. Grab all books that you can get, attend seminars, learn more about your field and learn about building organizations. For us learning has been a game-changer especially due to the mindset shift we have had.
On Accessibility & Inclusion:
I see a bright future for India in Accessibility and Inclusion. We are a developing nation and have a long way to go. Accessibility is comparatively a new concept in India; therefore, there is a lot of work and awareness required. But yes, things are changing. With the launch of Accessible India Campaign by the government, it has become a lot more accepted concept. We have always received a positive support from the government organizations including The Indian Railways, when it comes to our projects with Accessibility and Awareness programs. So we are very sure that the systems in our country are changing and moving in a positive direction.
We are the first organization to initiate accessibility for visually impaired in India. Starting our journey with Mysore as India's first railway station to introduce navigation facilities, we have successfully made 6 railway stations VI friendly. We are currently working in 6 states and 18 more railway stations.We also take pride in giving India its First Blind Friendly Train, Mysore-Varanasi Express. The project was very well received by The Indian Government, the braille signs have now been made mandatory in all railway trains in India. Inclusion is a key area of our work and till date, we have sensitized 8750 plus people through our disability etiquettes programs and campaigns.
Vision Or Agenda That You Have For Yourself And Others Around You:
Our vision is to make 7000 railway stations in India accessible for people with disability. So that no Diwakar has to ever miss his train again due to a lack of Braille signs.
My long term Vision for Anuprayaas is to create an organization that contributes to this nation, by making maximum no. of public places in this country accessible for people with disability. We want to build an Accessible and Inclusive India and we will keep working towards it.
Words Of Wisdom:
Be Humble, always. Be open to change and always keep learning. Be happy and hungry for growth. It can be growth in the organization, in personal life or in your relationship with yourself & your environment. Try to be a better version of yourself every day. And track your growth on a daily basis. I swear by planners and personal trackers.
Define your goals and criteria for happiness. You can find happiness in being a CEO of a company or settling in a small village having a simple life. And both are absolutely perfect. So it's very important to know what you are looking out for in your life.