In 1997, Apple created an amazing advertisement in which they were championed the people who see things differently. They called them the ‘crazy ones’ and, as example, they brought people who changed the world: Gandhi, Einstein, Martin Luther King, Picasso etc. Every time that I’m talking with a social entrepreneur I think back about that Apple ad. A common characteristic that I found in every social entrepreneur I spoke to is the ability to look forward, to be able to see not just the problem, but also the solution, and to work for it. Each one of us sees thousands of issues in the world we are living in, but only a few of us bring out the solutions.
Today I’m glad to tell you the story of Sulax, a person who was able to see things differently and founded Akashganga, a tech company which is revolutionizing the entire milk collection industry in India, helping farmers all over India to have fair prices.
In the early 90s, Sulax was working for a private limited company that gave him the chance to travel to different rural areas. One day, while he was in Gujarat, he saw a milk collection point for the first time in his life and was shocked by what he witnessed. There was a huge queue and farmers were shouting numbers. It was too difficult to understand what was happening. So he got nearer and observed the milk collection process carefully, and that turned to be a very important and different moment. Most of the people would have seen this and gone away, but Sulax is different: he is an engineer who wanted to help the society, so behind this problem he saw an opportunity to create technical machines to automatize this process.
Sulax decided to come back home and designed his first prototype, but he had a job and he couldn’t spend all the time that he wanted in creating it. Moreover he didn’t have enough knowledge regarding the sector and all the processes. But he is not the person who would stop at the first hurdle. So he started to work on it as a side project every evening after work. After 2 years, he finally created his first prototype. He took his product to many milk collection points, one after the other. When he saw farmers’ reactions, he was sure he had done something great.Sulax had finally automated the whole milk collection process for ensuring transparency and error free operations by integrating electronics weigh scale with a kind of quality testing equipment and data processors which meant fair measuring of milk quantity and hence fair prices for the farmers.
One of the key success factor of Akashganga is the customer focus and Sulax had it clear in his mind right from the beginning. “Most of the users of my product are illiterate farmers and they are not confident with technology so it needed to be a simple product. That’s why, when they saw the first prototype, they were happy to understand how technology could improve their lives,” says Sulax. Through this automatic system which measured the milk collection in a precise way, nobody could speculate them and fair prices needed to be applied. This was an important step forward for the entire sector.
20 years later, Akashganga matured and has a lot of experience in the sector and they kept developing better and better products. “To be great in this sector you need to be a fast learner and implementer. The development time needed to create a technology has to be as fast as possible to be competitive,” says Sulax.
Akashganga is currently present in 4534 rural villages across the country, is working with 4,50,000 families. This success has not come very easy. “India is a vast country with people with a lot of competencies, but very few of them are ready to experience the rural part of our country. And this means that we do not have enough manpower sometimes: that’s why we are trying to build local manpower to overcome this problem.”
Sulax is a social entrepreneur and he is absolutely proud of it. He could have chosen another job in the corporate sector that would help him to get richer than now, but he doesn’t regret it at all. “I’m earning doing my business and I’m a social entrepreneur who is helping the community. I do believe that when we have some skills we should use them to serve the entire community,” says Sulax.
For him, being a social entrepreneur, is not a job, is a vision, a mission and is completely aligned to his values. “Be as ethical as possible while delivering the social benefit to the society. A social entrepreneur should have his/her primary focus as giving it back to the community. Initially this should be even more important than growing your business”.
Visit Akashganga here