To provide platform to marginalized students for higher education, with complete support, where they just need to prepare and appear for the entrance exams, “just like a parent”- is what Bharat Calling offers to the society.
In conversation with Abhilasha Dafria for YourStory.in, Sandeep Mehto – cofounder of Bharat Calling explains how he plans to tool his venture as a way to overcome poverty and its various dimensions.
Hi Bharat, Please tell us about yourself and your background?
My family hails from a village Pathrota amidst Satpuda forest, falls under tribal block Kesla. After convincing the society hard (not family, they encouraged a lot) because of poor percentage in 12th, to complete my higher education, I completed B.E Electrical engineering Honours from SATI Vidisha. I never found more than 2% of students from rural background in my college. In fact my friends far better than me in academics, dropped out due to lack of encouragement and poor education from schools.
In the final year of degree my father passed away due to a heart attack on the day of Diwali. The next day, there was the long queue of people to pay tribute to him. He remained in the heart of the people who still cry for him. I got my answer to the question I usually asked my father (who was questioned by many for working for the society without profit) and he used to smile.
This fateful day further strengthened me to choose what I wanted. I got selected for M.A in Social Entrepreneurship; the course that made me organized and provided me ways to prove to society, what my father did was actually the bigger goal – to make your life meaningful.
So how did you come up with this idea?
We were provided with the opportunity in the course of social entrepreneurship to start something of our own for internships. We grabbed it and went to explore our own area and unexpectedly as we went on exploring we were faced with the harsh realities such as a dropout rate of 86% and different socio-economic prejudice attached to the potential of the students. It cleared the picture in my mind that, ‘getting into higher education is by sheer opportunity because of the rich, social, cultural and economic capital a person gets and not intelligence’.
Things like no role models, online mode of application, prejudice and illusions (safety, fees, employment etc.) and no information attached to higher education made the access impossible for the rural students.
This research that amalgamated with my father’s experiences and exposure from TISS, laid the foundation of Bharat Calling.
What were the challenges you faced while starting up your venture?
Social – Many questioned us and asked us “Why are you working for these marginalized having brain in their knees? God has made them so by giving them birth in low caste society” Such were the societal arguments.
System – The system advised us to make practical and not ideal goals. Teachers told us that they were here since 30 years and were not able to do it, so how could a 24 year old?
Organization – Did all kind of jobs, from cleaning, filling of forms, taking students to exam centre, we were two – John Basumatary, my classmate and cofounder and me, taking care of all streams students.
Since when are you operational? How big is your team and are you looking at hiring?
We started in September 2009, and became registered on 13th July. We are two full time members, however there are 5 people working part time free of cost with incredible amount of work. We are looking forward to do innovation within the system rather than putting alien things around, this will draw the dimension of sustainability.