Ravi Chandra, Founder, Bihar Development Trust

By Team YS|20th Feb 2009
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A state stigmatized for the lack of development and dirty politics, Bihar finds few takers among the younger generation. One man has a dream which will change all that - to restore the 'samman' or pride if Bihar, to propel the state and its people towards sustainability, self-reliance and prosperity. In 2007, Ravi Chandra founded the Bihar Development Trust - an enterprise which incubates a diverse range of medium, small and household businesses to promote products native to Bihar. Chandra is shooting for a 20 billion dollar enterprise by 2020 - an enterprise where ownership remains with the producers and users only.  

Bihar Development Trust incubates businesses across verticals, some of them being microfinance, Madhubani paitings, Makhana,

handicrafts, sattu (a delicious gram flour very popular in Bihar), tourism, rural electricity, sugar, carbon trading and much more. With a seed capital of Rs. 10 lakh, Chandra's Bihar Development Trust is set to turn around the economy of the state and restore to its people faith in their own land.


Why an entrepreneur? Why didn't you pursue a regular job?

I don't think I could ever fit in a regular job. Besides, Bihar needs young, qualified, professionals like us who have a vision to make it a developed state.

 

Can you tell our reader something about the starting years? What were some of the challenges you faced as an amateur entrepreneur?

Bihar Development Trust did not have the most flying start. My family did not support my endeavours and the society felt that I had found a scheme to embezzle people. My friends from IRMA, Manipal and Bihar supported me completely though. Several times, when I did not have money, I have slept on platforms.Even today, my meals are often sponsored by my friends. Unfortunately, Bihar Development Trust is not sustainable yet.


What was the turning point in your business?

There have been so many turning points in the development of the Bihar Development Trust. We got our first loan in Oct 2007 and our first funding in December 2007. Crossing the Rs.1,00,000 disbursement milestone, and the 100th and 500th borrowers' milestones have all been turning points as we inch toward our goal.


Did at any point you felt like giving up and getting back to taking a regular job? 

In September 2008, I was very sick for an extended period of time. In October, I became financially bankrupt and began to seek part time assignments. Yet, I never thought of giving up. I knew BDT was going to survive the storm - I kept it going albeit slowly while I recovered physically and financially. Soon after, I managed to raise Rs.400000 in loan and new projects fell in place.

 

What drives you?

For years, the desire to restore the pride of Bihar among the people of the world has driven me to set higher goals and exceed them. I want to create a TATA-like enterprise owned by the people of Bihar. I am hurt and enraged when someone uses 'Bihari' as a swear word. There is neither any knowledge nor any appreciation in India for Bihar's contribution in the development of the country.


Who is your inspirationand role model?

Dhirubhai Ambani, and the protagonists of Ayn Rand's classic novels - Atlas Shrugged and Fountainhead- are my inspiration and role model.


Can you explain your business model - the differentiators of your business, the business model, how do you plan to scale-up?

There is really no differentiator. Many other people across the country, and in other countries are doing the same thing we are. The Grameen model has been replicated across 150 countries. The AMUL model has been replicated across different Indian states. We think there is space for another AMUL and Grameen in Bihar, and the onus lies on us to make it happen. I believe that successful execution of the proven model is the key differentiator. In fact, Bihar needs many more similar projects to lend a hand in its upliftment. 

 

What is your vision for Bihar Development Trust?

My vision is to see BDT grow into a 20 billion dollar enterprise by 2020 and change the landscape of the presently impoverished state.


What are the major requirements for the growth of Bihar Development Trust?

We need 30 leaders to drive our programs, 10000 committed partners and loans for various verticals such as microfinance, silk, dairy and other enterprises.


Do you have sterling tips to share with budding entrepreneurs?

As an entrepreneur, one has to fight not just against the pessimists of the world and people who try to pull you down, but also the doubts and fears within oneself. With faith in yourself and undying perseverance, the smart entrepreneur can overcome all difficulties.

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