Published:  12:00 AM, 10 January 2017

Odisha's 'Vat Vrikshya': An iconic social enterprise model

Odisha's 'Vat Vrikshya': An iconic social enterprise model Vat Vrikshya helps tribals in Odisha adopt a sustainable livelihood.
People can do whatever they like to do if they have the determination. Through dedication of doing something, mind can boost up to touch the top of the gold peak. A buzz example could be what 'Vat Vrikshya' ((Banyan tree in Sanskrit) is doing for empowering indigenous people's sustainable livelihood in Odisha. Vikash Das is credited for working with about 368 families across three villages of the forest belt of the eastern Indian state without compromising their tribal culture. Vikash, a software engineering graduate and IBM's IT consultant, left his catchy job to do something for the ultimate betterment of the indigenous people where he was born and brought up. He took the challenge and he won.

 Let's face the successive social venture story. To ensure the basic needs of marginalized women, from the beginning, Vat Vrikshya  tries to focus on the income sources in an alternative method. In relation to this, they initiated to finance 2000 INR as seed money for the village women. It also ensures to add sufficient investment within the female tribes capacity. According to Vikash, the seed capital is not too much nevertheless, due to their experiences and skills the tribe women are capable of adding generating the revenue, which is higher three to four times than previous.

The venture arranges vocational training, expert advice and development of a market hub to sustain the alternative sources of income, shared Vikash in various interviews. There is also a space to meet and greet the women such a venue where they also exchange their views with others and to perform various cultural activities. In his effort, the first target was given to agriculture. Vat Vrikshya makes the bridge between farmers and agriculture experts to find out the feasible ways to reintroduce polyculture. Whenever crop fails, they keep alternative options for farmers. There is information technology based knowledge centers to spread the knowledge sharing among women's groups on a weekend basis meeting especially cultivation of vegetable and preservation techniques of seed and grain.

The second priority is given to the crafts and traditional local items to produce and manufacture and sell them in the township area. In a Media interview, Vikash said that Vat Vrikshya is not an NGO rather it is a social enterprise. The 40 % of profit is allocated for children and adult education in their communities. The milestone initiator Vikash being a startup founder has made some advice to upcoming entrepreneurs. He said there are so many lessons that he has learned over the years and he still continues to make mistakes and learn from them. Vikash thinks there is a key learning point in it! Here are a few: a) 'No one's going to do it for you.' - 'no one says it has to be that way.' One will be all by himself/herself when they intend to start a startup. He/she might have a good family, a good life partner but at the end of the day, one has to do it all alone. b) Be very clear on what you want and focus on that. Focus on one thing at a time and don't take hasty decisions out of hurry. c) Willing to learn and seek more information. It may be already known a great deal but now we realised that no one knows everything and we can learn valuable information from others. d) Do what you love.

 It's inevitable that one would come across people who would scare and bring one's morale down. But one should stay committed to what he/she is doing. If one is not passionate about his or her own work then how can he be an expected people to believe in his work? Vikash always thinks about this popular business saying, if your mind can conceive it, and your heart can believe it, then you can achieve. Alike Vikash who sacrifices his high-paid dream jobs due to the feelings of his natives which he has been staunched from his childhood. He worked for bringing social change to the livelihood of the forest women by thinking their sufferings, spending time and determination. A change agent Vikash could be an idol for Bangladeshi as a scarce example in developing startup ecosystem of Bangladesh.

The Writer is a freelance Journalist, CEO of NewsfeedPR and a fellow alumnus of International Exchange Alumni of US Department of State

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