Often after tasting success, we forget our roots and become avaricious to acquire more and more. Our greed to possess materialistic things enters a vicious cycle and we are never happy for what we have till the day we die. However, few among us are intelligent enough to realize that happiness is derived not from gaining, but from giving back to the society. To help the ones who are in dire need of the basic amenities required to sustain life.
Arun Nagpal, an IIM Calcutta graduate, was leading the life of a top executive for more than ten years. His life of luxury was consolidated as much as his executive positions were. But his roots made him ditch that life and start a new as a social entrepreneur, right from the scratch.
Walking on his father’s footsteps
Arun’s father was a horticulturist who was extremely passionate about rural development.As a child, Arun would go with him to remote villages and spend time with the farmers, getting a feel of what actually was going on. He was deeply moved by their miseries and he promised to himself to make a difference in their lives.
“While it was many years ago, somewhere in my mind it left a mark and became the reason for me to start a social business venture like Mrida,” says Arun in an interview with KenFolios.
Along with two like-minded ex-colleagues, Manoj Khanna and Gurveen Kaur Sood, Arun started Mrida in February 2014 as a social business venture. It aimed to build sustainable and financially viable business models, focusing on holistic rural development. “We went to the rural areas of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand and were shocked to witness the poverty that was still existent there. These areas needed interventions as they have a lot of opportunities, “says Arun. With the visionary statement that small interventions will lead to big developments, Mrida started as a self-funded venture.
Mrida works in providing energy access to remote rural villages not connected to the electricity grid and also supports cultivation and collection of high value crops, plants and herbs. It also promotes healthy products and traditional Indian medicine to the consumer. Earthspired is one of Mrida’s subsidiary business entities working with farmers of Uttarakhand. It encourages them to cultivate grains of the ancient and rural India. These all-round efforts of Mrida have helped in creating employment in these remote rural establishments and act as a much-required means of earning livelihood.
“When the corporates saw Mrida’s work, quite a few of them were interested in deploying their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) funds into the effort,” Arun says.Using these CSR funds, Mrida has already implemented solar micro-grids in over 30 villages. This has amounted to saving nearly 10,000 litres of kerosene, originally used by the rural masses to meet their lighting requirements at night.
In the past four years, Mrida’s work has impacted 9 states and 39 villages. It has helped 20,000 people uplift their presence by contributing to the national production of India, with turnover of around 7-8 crores. For a social business like Mrida, the core focus is the impact that they create. But in order to make it sustainable, they had to build it in a manner that reaped in profits as well.
“There is nothing wrong in making profits as long as we are not exploiting somebody. We do not exist to make profits but we make profits so that we can exist,” added Arun.
There are never problems, only challenges
With a corporate experience of 27 years and an entrepreneurial journey of 4 years, Arun has always believed in following dreams with passion, commitment and perseverance. The work culture at Mrida believes in addressing a problem as a challenge. “We at Mrida always use the word challenge instead of the word problem. The moment you look at it as a challenge, there is an inbuilt tendency to address that challenge and overcome it.”
Arun’s journey has shown us that creating a radical change is very much possible even in the most inaccessible areas. Above all, it is morally rewarding and helps every section of the society live a happy and sustainable life.