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“Rural India has so much to teach”

Community Schools, Edupreneurship

From an engineer to a social entrepreneur, Srikrishna Mamidipudi was able to track this change after being a Grassroutes Fellow. Social entrepreneurship is for people with great ideas who can make an impact in the developmental sector. An engineer can bring in a lot of innovations in terms of technology and his analytical skills, he says. Mamidipudi sought the Grassroutes Fellowship when a friend recommended he apply for one. I am an engineer only by qualification, but Ive always been passionate about business and consulting. Social entrepreneurship is exciting because there are a lot of challenges that entrepreneurs face in the rural sector. The fellowship mapped me to work with Vayali Folklore Group.

Vayali Folklore Group based in Arangottukara, Kerala, aims to preserve the traditional knowledge prevalent in the banks of river Nila by encouraging the youth to learn traditional art forms and craft. What did the one month fellowship entail for Mamidipudi? I had been assigned to the Eco Bazaar marketing project. The idea was to expand the market and not limit the products to just exhibitions. My role was to identify eco-stores around India who has similar beliefs to that of Vayalis and connect the two of them. The artisans need to be aware of new trends in the market and be thoroughly trained for the testing conditions of the competitive world.

So while firmly putting one foot on the rural ground, Mamidipudi had to seek fertile urban grounds with the other free foot. I spent the first fifteen days in Vayali interacting with the artisans and observing the operations of Eco Bazaar. The key here was to understand how the handicraft sector in India works despite all the challenges. I came up with a list of potential clients and began engagement with a couple of eco-shops across India. While working in specific roles the fellows are also cajoled into capturing the village life. We were made to understand the essence of the rural living through writing human stories and photo essays. This gave me an opportunity to travel along the banks of river Nila where I interacted with a lot of village folks and gained an in-depth knowledge of the ground reality. I was also involved in community based activities like the green plantation drive and the plastic-free drive.

Started in 2008, Grassroutes is a Fellowship Program that enables outstanding and passionate youth to travel across rural India on a 30 day road trip. They discover and work with changemakers, do their bit to change the world and inspire more youth into social action.

Does a rural setting have any scope for learning? I thought rural India was poor, uneducated and backward in their outlook. This has completely changed and I have a lot of respect for the rural community who are far more advanced in ways well ever know. While urban setting is a place to exchange Indian culture around the world, the rural setting preserves the culture. Rural setting allows a person to be in touch with the rawness of a culture which he is then able to effectively share it with people across boundaries. I guess this is what truly means to be local, think global

Did Mamidipudis efforts make a contribution to the Vayalis community? I may not have greatly impacted the project due to time constraints. I was however able to make a few changes in my capacity. With my interaction with the youth I was able to inspire them to dream big and work towards their goals. Im still in touch with most of them and recently one guy phoned saying he had given up smoking and started computer classes.

The Times of India, 24 December 2011

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