You can watch the video and get the background to this interview here
What do u do?
I do a whole set of things, primarily I am a founder of an organization called blue ribbon movement.
The blue ribbon movement works at creating and nurturing leaders specially among the youth, apart from this social enterprise I also do some HR consulting to corporate theatre base training and I am doing my PhD from IIT Bombay with theme leaders .So right after my commerce I went into IIM Bangalore , I interned at an investment bank so I saw hard core credit derivative training and stuff and decided that’s not for me I opted out of placements , had a start-up. My start-up crashed, did a few corporate stints in the interim. So I worked with BCG and HAY group for some time then I got back to what I am doing which is pretty much blue ribbon movement today.
I guess that the social space is a very very challenging space in itself because you are facing problems which you don’t even know whether they will get solved in your life time. You are dealing with no profit motive, so you are completely driving people with lot of their soul force is so much ambiguity in terms of what our solutions. It’s so much tough to make social enterprises super profitable, not that we are intending but the economics of that is fairly difficult so a whole set of enterprenual challenges but at a personal level also challenges in terms of the fact that when people ask what do you do they accept a single answer, they want you to fit into a single box they want you to be doing only one thing so when you doing multiple things doesn’t kind of add up in their heads. So yeah but what also keeps me going is the fact that because I am doing something so socially relevant or something I so strongly believe in all these difficulties which are huge are also surmountable simply because of the passion keeps me going and at the end of the day whatever I do ultimately adds to making the world a better place.
Support of Family and Friends
Yes the support of family and also acceptance of the family I guess I mean my dad for example would have very strongly suggested that I take up some corporate experience. So when my venture crashed and then I went back to the corporate he was also his points validated in the way that you get some corporate experience. So I guess most important for the family is that they may disagree with me but they have accepted my choices throughout. I think that’s where is hard for families to go outright and support when you are doing something radical. But as long as they accept that as long as you are fine living with the disagreements you have with your family I think that what works. And I think that if you are chasing something you really love to do then no pros is too high including a little bit of discordialness with your family . I was fortunate that I never had that I had parents who supported me but I think it’s worth stretching your limits.
How did B.Com and MBA help?
So in NM nothing I studied in the class helped, in the sense that I feel that Bcom is course that can be taught in 1 or 2 years but it is stretched for 5 years but everything that I did in my extra-curricular that is my college festival UMANG to computer society to participating in competition all of that really helped ,all of that gave me the confidence gave me the exposure. In IIM BANGALORE the biggest, while what I am doing doesn’t directly it’s not a management activity I think it acts like a lovely safety net number one so when my venture crashed I had sought of an opportunity to take a few years off get my savings back and work in the corporate, even now I am able to take risks because I know there is a degree that I have. It also gave me phenomenal contacts, phenomenal networks, phenomenal exposure also I guess my exchange program took to me to back packing around Europe which opened up my mind a lot .IIM BANGALORE still continues to support my work, the first south Asian conference happened at iim Bangalore where 8 countries from south Asia came together, professors at iim Bangalore were also mentors, they are still in touch, they still advice on a lot of things like we do. So I think net net the gain for me is..Hasn’t been so much in the content I learnt but has been on the peripheries both in NM and IIM BANGALORE.
Message for the Socially Inclined
First the idea was being socially interested I think going ahead every single person every person doing MBA need to be socially interested because your workers gonna unionise ask for better time better pay customers are gonna question choices of your company. There is gonna be a greater shareholder activism the governments are gonna be more vigilant so society is fundamentally becoming more and more an important stake holder with the business so everybody needs to be but those of you who rare looking for making a career in social space I would suggest take a leap as soon as possible for two reasons one is that there is a lot of need for management talent there is a lot of need of people who are educated with management to get into this space and second there is also a lot of opportunities that when you look at the world out there you see immense number of problems on the day to day basis I mean you have traffic jams and then you have a bad school system or you have so many social problems which are waiting to be solved and we as management students have the ability to solve them so I would say if you are socially inclined this is the right time to go in our government is also supporting social enterprise and creating livelihoods it’s never been a better time than now to get into social enterprenuialship space if intend to get into I would suggest one fine mentors I think that makes a big difference as mentors not only in business mentors but people who have actually done social grassroots level works as they understand what kind of solutions work the best so I would say get mentors quickly see models around the world and see how they apply into India and third I guess do not expect a large scale venture fund to happen or reaching 1000 crore turnover as I think social enterprenualship I Indian or anywhere around the world has reached a level where you can make your big killing in a ipo in a social enterprise so I guess in terms of the needs and life plans you need to align it accordingly
United Nations Summit in Brazil
So in 1992 was when first time the governments of the world realized that something is wrong with the environment and some action needs to be taken. So all of them came together to Rio for the first earth summit from then on there have been multiple conventions, multiple summits and what happened in Rio was Rio plus 20 so these was after 20 years after the summit it was a gathering of all the heads of the states revisiting the questions on environment sustainability and essentially hopefully coming down to conclusions about what do we do next how do we accelerate pace in terms of changing the planet so that was Rio plus 20 along the sides of Rio there were a whole set of other things happening there was a peoples summit there was a huge chunk of civil society feels very disconnected with the un effort they feel it is too slow very bureaucratic so they formed a separate summit called a peoples summit which was happening in rio and there were whole set of other tiny events collectively happening so it was a collection of everybody from social changes happening.
Abhishek Thakore and BRM at the Summit
so what happens at such summits the un summits is the declarations are adopted resolutions are adopted the text of the declaration that is gonna be adapted is called the zero draft continues to make changes it promises that all the country in the world together have made this the process is through 100% consensuses all the countries have to agree on what they have signed on the entire summit is on that document all kind agreeing on the zero draft which lists down what countries will do what is important to them and what will they focus on. How we were there that was because we have been working with the youth and we have been working beyond India so we applied for a recognition to the UN , we were credited by the UNITED NATIONS as a valid NGO. The un has a very active process of engaging the civil society in terms of major groups, we were a part of the major group for children and youth so that how we were credited and we were allowed to participate in all types of negotiations , the actual discussions ,participation in the main assembly where the heads of the state sit is restricted but there are passes that are exchanged and shared so u get a chance to sit with the heads of state also and attend the main assembly as well
The entire summit was filled by lots of interesting events but when I think about the highlights one was obviously seeing our prime minister seeing him personal seeing him talk and manage to attend the main session when the prime minister was there to speak , its really amazing to see your prime minister I guess but I think one big victory for the youth and the world was when we were pushing for including non formal education in the text so the idea in the text was that they were talking about education to built a sustainable world but they were excluding non formal education and all youngsters lobbied ,pushed for having that word curate in the text , Switzerland introduced a certain proposal for and all the other countries agreed to support. Finally agreed to make to the final text so that youngsters are able to make modifications to the final text that the countries agree upon that’s a huge achievement so lobbying you meet the diplomats so you meet so meeting Indian delegation itself is also really very interesting and understood a lot about why India has chances that is kind of have , we took a lot of direct actions on the spot like mock award ceremony called the fossil of the day which we would to the country which would blocked the negotiations , we also had space where we would practise silence there was silence meditation space that we created every morning half an hour before you get into the negotiations you sit in silence . so doing all these kinds of actions within the UN required permission and stuff which we did engage with but ya we did a whole set of different action , we put tapes on our mouth when countries were doing high level youth representation so yea direct actions were memorable also the entire man wit of experiences in the terms of having the summit on one end where people are talking about the whole new system to the UN and within the UN and also there is a whole range of country heads where there also night event NGO’S so the entire breadth was something that really kind of give me a high
Projects in the City of Rio
Yaa because I was there attending one the event I was attending was the world youth congress and one of the activities that we took up was to go to the favelas (the basti) there the slums , we went right into the slums which have immense drug problems then still infested with lot of crime. We went there through a local NGO which is set up a community centre there and has tried to create an entirely positive movement using that centre so when they interacted with locals who didn’t know English so through translators.
Engagement with Locals
What we were doing there were action projects, the idea behind the action project is to go through the local communities and understand issues in that city. So we were in groups different groups who did different things some of us did wall paintings and graffiti with them where we painted socially responsible messages , others set up a nursery so plant and trees to off set the carbon footprint of all us flying down to rio others did photography , theatre with locals. So it was us mingling with the community, the idea was not what much we did as much as us actually having a chance to interact and understand the dynamic of the youth there and what they face .
What Happens post-Rio Summit?
Okay so whatever is agreed on at the summit which most us are very unhappy with because it’s a very light text, countries haven’t really made commitments but it gets agreed on one soft law which s is default in agreement that is they rather not agree on something rather than not implementing . so now what happens these texts go to the countries , various ministers and start getting the factor on the policy making of the countries , similarly UN and UN bodies is also the way they direct their way , their funding ,also determined by the kind of declaration the countries have agreed on.
Blue Ribbon’s role post Summit
so what next for us as youth is to literally go back to the government go to various ministries and show them them this is what they have signed on what is it ultimately what are the schemes which you are actually implementing make this happen implementing is actually holding your government accountable for what they have signed on going forward blue ribbon what we are already doing which was non formal education which we are going to continue are going to focus on sustainability education we have a program called social leaders program where we provide leadership training and youngsters take up social projects which are related to sustainability so what we are essentially gonna do is continue driving this at the south Asian level we are gonna arrange arrange a youth conference which is gonna take place in Islamabad next year rather this year not next year and are discussions will feed into the next climate meeting COP which is the conference of party which is happening in Qatar in Doha so a lot of projects and a lot of sub projects and policy inputs.