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Tuesday, Dec 10, 2019

I saw poverty as a child. Now, I want to fight it

My aim was to work on the alleviation of poverty. After spending a considerable amount of time interacting with people living in slums, I identified unemployment and underemployment as big social challenges

analysis Updated: Oct 25, 2019 19:56 IST
Atul Satija
Atul Satija
It was my family’s financial situation that inspired me to make money, and my father’s approach to life that influenced me to help people
It was my family’s financial situation that inspired me to make money, and my father’s approach to life that influenced me to help people(HT)
         

I grew up in Chandigarh in a lower-middle-class family. My father was a government employee, and my mother, a school teacher. My uncles — one of them, an auto driver, and the other, a tea stall owner — barely made enough to give their children (my cousins) quality education and health care. So, my father stepped in to take care of them.

It was my family’s financial situation that inspired me to make money, and my father’s approach to life that influenced me to help people.

It also seemed like a practical idea to choose a corporate career, make money and then, when I retire, invest my time and money in non-profits. This, however, became a reality when I turned 38.

In my 40s, I took up #LivingMyPromise, committing myself to donating half my wealth to a charitable cause while I am alive or in my will.

My tryst with the social sector, however, began when I was 30. I started volunteering with a non-profit in Gurgaon (now, Gurugram) as a weekend pursuit.

About six months into it, I started to find more meaning in it than my day job, and was asked to chair that non-profit. At the time, I was heading the Mobile Business, Japan and Asia-Pacific, Google, and was being encouraged to consider roles based in the United States or Japan. But I had no such aspirations. I quit Google, moved to Bangalore, and joined InMobi. In 2015, I quit InMobi and started a non-profit: The/Nudge Foundation.

My aim was to work on the alleviation of poverty. After spending a considerable amount of time interacting with people living in slums, I identified unemployment and underemployment as big social challenges. The/Nudge Foundation provides skills training courses to the poor, unemployed youth, with another aim to nudge and nurture top talent to solve India’s most important problems.

GiveIndia happened to me by sheer chance. Venkat Krishnan, the founder of GiveIndia, and I were together at an event in Seattle in early 2017, and I discussed my desire to raise large-scale capital for non-profit and social work through a tech platform.

On realising that our vision and goals aligned quite well, I decided to come on board as “Founder 2.0”, board member and CEO. Our model of bridging the gap between donors and verified non-profits, and creating a community of every day giving brought me one step closer to my ultimate goal of poverty alleviation.

In early 2019, Venkat asked me if I would take up #LivingMyPromise, and I didn’t think twice to say yes. Coming to this decision and following through with it wouldn’t have been a reality without the support of my family. My wife has been a strong source of support through it all, despite our family being a single-income one. My daughter is invested in the social sector herself. As a family, we are a work-in-progress towards our design of living within our basic needs and serving our society.

Atul Satija, is Founder 2.0 of GiveIndia, founder of The/Nudge Foundation, and a #LivingMyPromise signatory, where he pledged 50 % of his wealth to a charitable cause while he is alive or in his will
The views expressed are personal