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Suvankar Mishra of eKutir (INTERVIEW)

Agricultural Social Business in India

— July 25, 2014 — Social Good got to talk with Suvankar Mishra of the innovative enterprise eKutir. He discusses his work in agricultural social business and technology in India.

Four Questions with Suvankar Mishra

1. How did the idea for the business come about?

Suvankar Mishra: I studied engineering and social business was a leap of faith, primarily inspired by the work of my father, a prominent social entrepreneur and Ashoka Fellow in India and Asia. Through his work with farmers in rural India, I saw both the challenges and opportunities that rural development presents and thought technology would be a great enabler to effectively harness this sector and improve the lives of the less privileged (circa 120 million rural households in India alone). I ventured into designing and executing new ideas to positively benefit rural farming communities via digital technologies, from software and mobile-based services to crowdfunding and e-commerce platforms.

2. How did you decide to join this sector?

Suvankar Mishra: Straight after completing my bachelors in engineering, I became a stakeholder in a start-up social business based in India. With my initial experience in setting up a micro-savings platform to promote micro-savings through mobile banking in rural communities, I learnt the basics of how financial behavior, savings, and credit is perceived by people and households that are at the threshold of poverty. With two years of extensively working in the field and managing small to medium-sized projects, I realized that finance alone would not suffice to bridge the gap between sustainable livelihoods and poverty.

I therefore established a social business that would provide digital solutions for social impact via eKutir and BoP Connect. Technologies and digital platforms are a great facilitator to support, connect and empower the multiple field institutions, non-profits and public sector organizations working in rural development alongside the 4 billion people at the bottom of the pyramid (BoP). However technology and digital empowerment also need to be combined with human engagement, trust and strong relationships to engender a lasting positive impact.

3. How do you get your inspiration?

Suvankar Mishra: Empathy with the people I meet and serve through the social businesses is a great driver for my inspiration. Empathy creates optimism that a change is inevitable and will happen if you consider the people less fortunate than you, to be contributors rather than just recipients. This two way flow helps to action the empathy and design solutions for long-term impact.

Also, I firmly believe that if an educated mind is not put in service to others for a broader, positive impact to society, then the mind and soul will not be at peace.

4. How do you reset yourself to be creative? Do you have any rituals?

Suvankar Mishra: For me, creativity relates to the slightest thing that could ignite a thought of change. It does not necessarily have to be innovation, but a mere improvement of the existing equipoise. I firmly believe in consistency and thrive to be steady in my endeavors through my daily work. This trickles the creativity in me. At a personal level, I am an ambivert, limiting towards the introvert side. Reading an enthralling biography or stories of changemakers or a dialogue with a friend ignites creativity in me and keeps me at the brink of excitement to learn something novel.

My ritual is to read the Thought of the Day, a practice I have strictly followed since I was 12.