Published: 01st October 2018
This Bengaluru-based start-up is teaching the youth to 'reap benefits' in their mission to save the environment
Started by Gautam Prakash and Kuldeep Dantewadia in 2012, Reap Benefit is a social enterprise that empowers the youth to solve local issues
Thanks to the lengthy lectures during our school and college days about saving the environment, we all have theoretical 'gyaan' but when it comes to practical application, we all lack the urge to do something that would actually 'reap benefits'. These two young entrepreneurs from Bengaluru had decided to walk the extra mile. Gautam Prakash and Kuldeep Dantewadia started Reap Benefit, a social enterprise which solves local issues (environmental and civic) with young people in 2012.
Kuldeep speaks to us about how his start-up is showing the 'green signal' and paving the way for a better future. Excerpts from an interesting conversation:
Being India's first portal to grade environmental activities is definitely some feat you have achieved. Tell us about the idea behind setting up Reap Benefits?
I had just finished college and was involved in a project on environmental issues — trying to understand problems at the grassroots level, collecting garbage from 150 households. My co-founder Gautam was working for a not-for-profit organisation. Being born and brought up in Bengaluru, we both had an association with the city. Gautam had also conducted an experiment in his house. For years he measured outdoor temperature and found out that it kept on increasing every year. He also noticed an increasing amount of garbage being thrown on the roadsides, lakes and public spaces in general. I was also a part of a lot of small initiatives while I was in college.
I guess our love for the city combined with the realisation about the power of youth, we believed there was a huge potential in initiating something like this. We thought if we make them aware at an early stage then there's a high probability that it will have more impact and the ideas will stay with them.
So what does Reap Benefit do?
I would say Reap Benefit is a platform to “educate, empower and reward” students of various institutions like schools and universities for taking up day-to-day green actions through partnerships with municipalities, NGOs and corporates. Our organisation aims to empower these young people to make a collective impact on the environment by increasing recycling, reducing energy consumption, waste generation and water usage and also assist their own and other institutions to act in a sustainable manner. We mainly deal with problems on a local level such as water, sanitation, garbage and how can we solve it with the help of these young people. Our target age group is 12 to 28 years.
A green way of life: Reap Benefit is a platform to “educate, empower and reward” students of various institutions like schools and universities for taking up day-to-day green actions
What difficulties did you face while starting up in your initial days?
The most alarming hurdle was that we were not sure how to execute what we had planned. People told us we won't survive, we should take up jobs and that ideas like this don't last long. We managed to overcome that stage and then it became hard as the team started growing and we couldn't figure out how to manage them. The hardest challenge for them was to make others believe that what we are doing is necessary and convince them that our work is important and sustainable. We have a 35 to 40 member team currently and we are based in Bengaluru but also have operations in Chennai and Hubli.
What would you say is your USP? How are you different from other organisations in the country doing similar things?
This is a difficult question to answer. There are hundreds of organisations like ours. Our USP is a good understanding of grassroots mobilisation and the knowledge about how to use technology. We don't preach, we try to solve the problems ourselves. We get funds through grants and also have acquired revenues on the basis of our consulting assignments.
Teaching youngsters to reap benefits: The organisation aims to empower young people to make a collective impact on the environment also assist their own and other institutions to act in a sustainable manner
How has the feedback been so far?
We have been able to work with almost 25,000 students, that's a good number, right? Our work was recognised by former US President Barack Obama in 2017. We have received the young entrepreneur award from Cambridge and Unilever. The Ministry of Water and Sanitation has also recognised and lauded our work in this area.
What are your plans for the next five years?
We have a target of roping in one lakh people and try to solve local issues in the next three to five years. We would like to make green actions a permanent habit among people and thus help everyone adapt to a green way of life.