Prashant Sinha is a PGP1 student at the IIM Indore UAE Campus. His passion for social entrepreneurship is commendable and also inspiring for his batch-mates. The Media and Corporate Communications Committee of IIM Indore UAE had a very candid discussion with Prashant Sinha to know his views and thoughts on Social entrepreneurship. Here is the full interview:
Please share your background details.
I was born and brought up in Ranchi. I completed my Engineering from Vellore Institute of Technology in 2009. Post graduation, I started my career with TCS and later moved to the leading Investment banking firm, Bank of America Merrill Lynch. It was a great start as within a short span of 2 years, I was promoted to the Project Manager position. Meanwhile, I started “atmyshelf” as a platform for college students to exchange used materials and books, but it did not go well due to my existing job priorities. I always keep experimenting and challenging myself as it helps me a lot in learning.
What was the inspiration to start your NGO - Ulhaas Foundation?
During my tenure with Bank of America, I was actively involved in organising various social activities for the organisation. During this duration, I interacted with a local NGO and while working with them, I actually saw the other side of world which I would have never seen by sitting in an air-conditioned office. I visited the villages in the suburbs of Mumbai region and witnessed the pathetic living conditions there. I also visited some municipal schools and found that the students’ drop-out rate is very high due to lack of basic things such as notebooks to write.
In this context, I started a Non Profit Organisation, Ulhaas Foundation (www.ulhaasfoundation.org) in Mumbai to deal with these issues and bring a change in whatever capacity my team could bring about.
How did you balance managing Ulhaas foundation and your highly demanding Job?
Like almost all the MNC firms, Bank of America also had two days of holiday every week, i.e. Saturday and Sunday. I effectively utilized my weekends. Early morning, we used to visit various schools and taught the importance of education to the children there. During this interaction, I remember when I asked a child, ‘What are your future aspirations?’ He said, ’I want to sell ‘Panipuri’ and earn good money like my uncle who is the highest earning member in the family’. I found that there was a serious problem there as those kids were unaware of the outer world and their dreams were very limited. And this is quite obvious as how can one think of something which he/she has never seen or heard before. It is everybody’s responsibility to make them see the world in a different light. For an entire year, I conducted interactive sessions with them. I tried to make them realise the importance of education and other professions which they can pursue.
What does Ulhaas Foundation do?
Initially, we supported schools with a very basic need i.e. Library. A well-equipped library was missing in majority Government schools. Ulhaas Foundation realized that in order to cultivate a rich thought process among children, they should be exposed to a wide variety of books. We organised various book donation drives across the city. Based on the tremendous response, we established libraries in various schools across Mumbai.
We also created a portal to prepare a list of potential blood donors and supported Uttarakhand Flood victims with this initiative. We are working to address the blood demand-supply gap in a more structured way.
How do your parents and friends feel about your achievements?
Honestly, my parents are not fully aware about all my initiatives and projects as I have stayed away from them in Mumbai. But they always supported and believed in me that whatever I am doing is for the welfare and betterment of society. Many of my friends encouraged me; however whenever you start doing something out of box, one always runs into some critiques. But if you are determined, no one can stop you. One needs to be self-motivated which is the key.
What are your upcoming Projects?
We are now working on various initiatives to help the community through the technology route. Our very first project is Dharavi-CAN which is an initiative to give online presence to the small-medium scale enterprises of the Dharavi, Asia’s biggest slum and with this initiative we want to showcase the good part of this region which we ignore normally. We encourage everyone to get in touch with us to make the project a success and bring a change in the way people think about this place.
How does MBA at IIM Indore UAE Campus fit in the overall picture?
Definitely while working, I felt the need to gain management knowledge to make viable and sustainable decisions in various walks of life. This encouraged me to pursue MBA at Indian Institute of Management, Indore UAE Campus. Now, the world is getting global and this program has helped me to understand the UAE region well which will definitely help me to think and take wiser decisions.
What are your future plans?
In coming few years, I would like to work in different sectors to get better exposure about various industries and at the same time I would continue my social projects to serve the society with my education.
Any message for b-school students who are inclined towards social entrepreneurship?
Social entrepreneurship is a buzzword, however if you really feel responsible to bring a change in society, please take a step ahead. It is not mandatory that one should be involved full-time; one can do it easily while studying or during job by maintaining a balance between both. Apply your learning and education and think on the smaller issues or challenges around you and how you can change that.