10 Social Entrepreneurs Who Made 2018 A Little Better For All Of Us

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Ranging from socio-political turnarounds to religious rhetorics, 2018 has been a remarkable year for India for all the wrong reasons that grabbed headlines. However, even amidst the chaos and controversies, there were some men and women whose incredible humanitarian efforts shone brightly. Hailing from different parts of India, these individuals started entrepreneurship ventures which promoted environmental awareness, inclusiveness, equality and above all, harmony.

With 2018 coming to an end, Efforts For Good has enlisted the stories of the social good businesses that made 2018 a special year.

Cafe Positive, Kolkata

Started in July 2018, Cafe Positive in Kolkata is Asia’s first coffee shop run entirely by a team of HIV-positive youngsters. Founder Kallol Ghosh insists that their main aim is to dispel the age-old stigma among people about HIV-Aids.

The founding team, comprising Ghosh and a group of young adults, struggled for more than six months to find a suitable place for their cafe. Most people closed doors on them learning about their HIV-positive status until a gentleman lent his 12 feet X 10 feet garage space.

All the employees at Cafe Positive were erstwhile residents of the orphanage ‘Anondoghor’, which is home to over 75 HIV-positive children and teenagers. The Cafe Positive team is well-trained in baking and managing the restaurant, with most of them possessing professional certificates. Already featured in international media platforms like BBC and CNN, Cafe Positive is becoming a favourite hotspot for the residents of Kolkata. 

Social Good Businesses 2018
Kallol Ghosh started Cafe Positive in Kolkata

Bamboo House India, Hyderabad

Though they started way back in 2006, their unique concept of making sustainable bamboo houses and upcycled furniture failed to attract the public eye until recently. Founder couple Prashant Lingam and Aruna Kappagantula underwent severe struggles to make a mark in the market. From selling their assets to repay a debt of 60 lakh rupees to starving and contemplating suicide, their woes knew no bounds. But their determination never faltered.

Presently, Bamboo House India has gained considerable popularity by building bamboo houses in and around Hyderabad and also making furniture from recycled plastic, rubber and metal scraps. All their bamboo is sourced from villages in North-East India. They are providing better livelihood opportunities to tribal communities who were earlier surviving on paltry earnings of Rs 20-30 per day from selling bamboo baskets.

Social Good Businesses 2018
Prashant and Aruna started Bamboo House

GiftAbled Foundation, Bengaluru

Census statistics reveal that among two crores differently-abled Indians, hardly 1% are meaningfully employed. “Post rehabilitation therapy, no one is thinking about including them in any productive activities,” shares Prarthana, who started GiftAbled Foundation with her husband, Prateek. This amazing non-profit organisation has created employment opportunities for more than 500 differently-abled persons so far.

GiftAbled provides skill-based vocational training to specially-abled adults, who are involved in designing beautiful handicrafts and household items. In coordination with over 40 other NGOs, these exquisite handicrafts are then marketed among corporates as well as the public. “We are trying to create opportunities for them not out of sympathy, but empathy,” smiles Prarthana.

This year, GiftAbled has launched a rehabilitation centre for special kids from low-income families and is also raising funds for a mobile therapy van.

Social Good Businesses 2018
GiftAbled Foundation

Help Us Green, Kanpur

Every day, tonnes of flower waste from temples across India end up in rivers, landfills or dump yards, spiking the already alarming pollution levels. Ankit Agarwal, an ex-techie from Kanpur found a creative solution. With his friend Karan Rastogi, he co-founded Help Us Green – where temple flower waste from all over Uttar Pradesh are converted into all-natural incense sticks, vermicompost and ‘Florafoam’ (first organic thermocol in the world).

All their employees are underprivileged women, who were victims of vehement caste discrimination and social atrocities. Previously working as manual scavengers, hospital cleaners or ragpickers, these 78 women fail to hide their happiness after being offered fair wages, employee benefits and immense respect at Help Us Green.

Social Good Businesses 2018
Ankit Agarwal (left) and Karan Rastogi (right) at Help Us Green

Founder Ankit Agarwal was awarded the prestigious United Nations Young Leaders Award in 2018.

Even Cargo, Delhi

In the national capital city, now notorious for sexual violence, young women from low-income families were battling a tough scenario. Out of safety concerns and already existing patriarchal bias, families were compelling them to curtail their career aspirations. Yogesh Kumar, a women empowerment crusader from the city, stepped in as a saviour with a first-of-its-kind venture – Even Cargo – India’s first logistics company exclusively employing women.

“I did not want to train women in tailoring or handicrafts, which has been the traditional norm. My wish was to establish women at par with men, breaking the stereotypes,” shares Yogesh.

In the age of thriving e-commerce, the ‘delivery girls’ of Delhi are turning many heads. Criss-crossing the city in their two-wheelers and delivering parcels with a smile, these ‘delivery girls’ are scripting history and inspiring many women.

Have you ever heard of #DeliveryGal? How does it feel to see a female delivery personnel delivering your goods at your doorstep? Do you feel safe?Here one of our #HappyCustomer sharing her experience!Share with us your experiences too! #Comment_Below#EqualityDelivered #WomenSafety #Assurance #Safety #WomenEmpowerment #WomenRights #Rights #Women #GirlPOwer

Posted by Even Cargo on Thursday, July 6, 2017

Paalaguttapalle Bags, Andhra Pradesh

When recurring droughts for five years dwindled their crop production, farmers from Paalaguttapalle village in Andhra Pradesh’s Chittoor were at wit’s end imagining a grim future for their families. That is when the village housewives stepped up to handle the finances. After a meeting at the local temple premises, they finalised on starting to stitch cloth bags. Aparna Krishnan, who moved to the village twenty years ago, helped them out with the marketing. Lavanya Lakshmanan and Vigneshwaran Karthikeyan joined her. Arun Kombai then brought his fabulous design skills which took their screen printing efforts to new heights. Thus began the journey of Paalaguttapalle Bags in 2015, with a simple order for 100 bags for Aparna’s friend’s shop. At present, the all-women team is doing a fantastic job in managing the business, and even delivering their bags to USA, UK, Canada and Hong Kong. You can also order these bags for yourself through their Facebook page.  

Social Good Businesses 2018
Team Paalaguttapalle

Nurpu Handlooms, Erode, Tamil Nadu

In the old lanes of 1010 Weaver’s Colony in Erode, Tamil Nadu, which once buzzed with the clickety-clack of handloom spindles, former IT employee Sivagurunathan has sprouted a small revolution. To revive the lost art of handloom-weaving, he started his sustainable venture Nurpu Handlooms.

The talented artisans of 1010 Colony were wearing out their lives as mere labourers at textile mills, making coarse towels or doormats. Sivagurunathan aimed to restore their lost honour and take their brilliant craftsmanship to the urban consumers.

At Nurpu, the weavers are now producing beautiful sarees, dhotis, shirts and stoles, all made from local yarns and organic dyes. “My ultimate aim is to be a weaving teacher. I wish to teach this noble art to our future citizens,” shares Sivagurunathan. 

Social Good Businesses 2018
Sivagurunathan left his high-paying IT job to start Nurpu Handlooms

Lantana Furnitures, Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu

How to put a forest-killing weed to use? Ask Dr Maya Mahajan. This Coimbatore-based researcher started making eco-friendly furniture from Lantana camara, a wild weed which was threatening the biodiversity in the forests of Nilgiris. Women from the aboriginal tribal communities are making elegant and sturdy furniture from the Lantana stems, and thus earning their financial independence in turn. With an ongoing inclination towards sustainable home decor, Lantana furniture has gained considerable popularity.

Social Good Businesses 2018
Maya Mahajan (centre, seated) with the Lantana furniture and the makers

Sisters of The People, Delhi

A small second-hand bookshop in a quaint corner of Delhi is making a big difference. Sisters of The People is a zero-waste bookshop selling pre-owned books of diverse literary genres at unbelievably discounted rates. The best part? All their profits are contributed entirely to support 18 balwadis (pre-schools for underprivileged children) in Delhi. Housing around 1000 children between three to six years of age, these balwadis take care of the education, food and medical expenses of these little ones.

Social Good Businesses 2018
The bookshop and a balwadi it supports

“Alongside the social work, we are also reviving the habit of reading, which is waning among the youngsters in the surge of digital wave,” declares Manisha, a volunteer at the sixteen-year-old bookshop. 

Pirai, Tamil Nadu

Founder Abhirami Prakash was facing a lot of unpleasant experiences with commercial sanitary napkins. Aside from the nuisance of harmful superabsorbent chemicals, the widely-used commercial pads pose a  serious threat to the environment on disposal, as they take 500-800 years to decompose. “I learnt that a woman produces around 130 kg of menstrual waste in her lifetime,” she informs.

Prakash started her own cloth pad range ‘Pirai‘ in July 2018 which makes high-quality, handmade and cost-effective cloth pads. She is also a champion of sustainable menstruation, spreading awareness among teenagers and village women through widespread campaigns and workshops.

Social Good Businesses 2018
Abhirami Prakash with Pirai cloth pads

All these changemakers have proved how far-reaching impact a simple small act can generate. They are changing the lives of the marginalised, who are overlooked by society, more often than not. Efforts For Good salutes the undying spirit and goodwill of these social entrepreneurs and wish them more success in the years to come. 

Also Read: Andhra Pradesh: This Man Is Building A Self Sustainable Village In India’s Second Driest District

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