Around the world in 54 weeks
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. Neither did his town.
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.
He’s driven by his own experiences and works to convert reluctant parents who don’t see the point in kids reading beyond school books. For each library to break-even and sustain itself, he needs 150 students to enroll. The small fee charged is used for upkeep and running.
“The challenge is not about getting kids interested in books again, it’s about ensuring that the books reach them to begin with,” says Suman. He carefully selects the books to get the kids hooked. “A kid’s 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. He is a BITS Pilani alumnus who grew up in rural Rajasthan. As the president of the 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 who are “equipped to tackle our country’s problems with innovative and sustainable solutions.” In two years , NSEF has initiated Idea conferences, workshops, training programs and courses in over 40 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 saw first hand how how optimistic the students were in ideating sustainable solutions for country’s social problems. But the lack of mentoring and formal training was keeping them wary of starting up. NSEF created tailor made training modules, worked with universities to create incubation units and gave students the opportunity to learn 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. 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 barely in their twenties. They have drawn inspiration from their own life experiences and created opportunities out of obstacles. Even as they struggle to advocate and grow their individual causes, they have already become the change they wanted to see in the world.