No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path – Buddha.
This is the story of Santosh Kaveri- a boy who carved his own road out of a remote village in Karnataka, to one day find himself being rewarded by Ratan Tata for his invention. Read on to know how he turned his problems into opportunities.
Santosh was born in a poor family in Shedbal village. He used to walk 10 kilometers every day just to attend school. In order to support his family, he also had to assist them on the farm.
However, Santosh knew that education was important for his future and he could not drop out of school. So, he attempted to create a balance: he worked on his family’s farm in the early morning, starting at 5 AM, and then he would continue the farm work immediately after classes every day. His continued to struggle like this to further his education. His hard work paid off when he managed to obtain admission to pursue his BBA in the city of Belgaum.
However life wasn’t all rosy for Santosh after he moved to the city. He spent the first six months of his college life sleeping in college classrooms as he wasn’t able to afford the cost of staying in a hostel. The government eventually agreed to cover the expenses of his accommodation, and it was at this point that Santosh’s life seemed to gain some normalcy.
During his first year in college, Santosh joined the Deshpande Foundation’s LEaders Accelerating Development (LEAD) program. The LEAD program provides funding assistance and guidance for college students to implement their own community improvement projects, thereby allowing them to practice their entrepreneurial, leadership, and innovative thinking.
Santosh started working on his first project that was aimed at improving the life of farmers. He reflected on the struggles that he and his family faced as farmers, and identified a specific problem in carrot cleaning. Before farmers can sell their carrots at the local markets, the carrots must be cleaned to make them appealing to customers. However, carrot cleaning is a lengthy and demanding process; cleaning one quintal of carrots requires usually the labor of 12 people.
Santosh pondered and searched determinedly for a solution to this problem. His epiphany came at last one day after observing a washing machine, and he realized that he could apply the same concept to devise a machine that could quickly, and efficiently, clean carrots.
Being a Business student and having no prior experience with engineering, Santosh struggled to develop a technology that could effectively and affordably clean carrots. He persevered, and after developing 11 unsuccessful machines, he finally devised the Carrot Cleaning Machine.
Santosh’s Carrot Cleaning Machine can clean a quintal of carrots in just 15 minutes and requires the labor of only two people. What’s more, the Carrot Cleaning Machine uses no electricity, and very little water. The Carrot Cleaning Machine is now helping farmers throughout 10 villages.
Santosh was presented an award by Ratan Tata during the Deshpande Foundation’s 2013 Yuva Summit for the entrepreneurial and innovative nature of his project. Since developing the Carrot Cleaning Machine, Santosh has undertaken other entrepreneurial initiatives. One product that he is currently promoting is the Eco Water Coil, a stovetop device that simultaneously boils water for cooking and collects hot water for bathing. “In India”, Santosh says, “gas is costly, and no one seems to be concerned about that.” Santosh’s Eco-Water Coil, though, can perform two functions at once, thereby helping people conserve gas.
In addition to the Carrot Cleaning Machine and the Eco Water Coil, Santosh has recently begun purchasing locally produced products from rural micro-entrepreneurs, such as banana snacks and kadi dress material, and is selling these products to large outlets like Big Bazaar.
About the author: Annie is Global Exchange Fellow at Deshpande Center for Social Entrepreneurship . She has been working in India since January.