This question bothered Sandeep Mehto. It inspired him to create a platform- Bharat Calling that facilitated the easy transition of rural students to well known educational institutions. Founded in 2009, Bharat Calling has started with 1 school and 0 role models, now the organization has spread to 27 schools with more than 100 role models in higher education. We chat with Sandeep about his venture.
An Excerpt from the Interview:
• What made you start your venture?
I was inspired by my father’s commitment to social change and helping others and I noticed that friends who were extremely good at school found it difficult to carry on their education. I discovered that there was a whopping 90% drop out rate from 12th standard in schools. From the time of my college internship, I have worked to create Bharat Calling to stem this tide and create a level playing field for all.
• What has been the key to your business’s success?
I feel the following factors have made the difference • Starting small and thinking big- we started with small pilot • Collaborations- We collaborated with government system thus rapidly scaling up • Maintaining a stand and brand image- committed toward only one cause of increasing enrolment in higher education • Passionate efforts with research and professionalism- We employed all techniques like business in the course and function like a business • What are the major challenges in your line of business and how did/do you overcome them?
Working among the rural community, you have to very patient and simple otherwise you cannot survive. When we were starting and still when we visit villages we are mocked in many cases, resisted and sometimes even abused.
People suspect your motives. Even a single word or step can adversely affect your work. You have to make a balance between working in non-profit domain where you see lot of problems around but you have to be focused.
• Do you have a mentor who guides/advices you on matters of the business?
Our Board of Advisors act as our mentors. The board consists of Dr. Satyajit Majumdar, Dr. Lalitha Iyer, Dr. Bino Paul, Vinayak Lohani, Dr. Sushma Pare, Pramod Kulkarni and Vinay Dabohlkar.
• Have you benefitted from the use of any specific technology for your regular operations?
Collaborating with the government allowed up to scale up our functions.
• What strategy do you follow for Customer Satisfaction & Expansion?
Our strategy is 4 pronged, we look to
Advocate -Coming out with the book on 20 inspirational stories of Bharat Calling alumni. -Setting up rural counseling centres at 5 universities of India to reduce the post admission drop out – 20 essay on coping up mechanism by rural students in prestigious colleges
Facilitate Helping the Banswada govt. and TISS Tuljapur to take up our model
Undertake 10 small chapters of Bharat Calling with the help of youths/ fellows who want to do something for their home town.
Replicate Continue to run our program in Gujarat and Rajasthan
• What, according to you, are the top 3 skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
The three essential skills are Acknowledgement: Acknowledge each and every efforts Ethics: You should not get involved in any illegal practices Commitment: Stand by what you have promised