Meet R Balaji, a runner for rural development

By Alessio Pieroni|17th Sep 2013
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“To be an entrepreneur is like running 100 metre dash where everything depends on our effort and efficiency and there is no one to pass the buck,” says R Balaji, founder and managing director of Swaymbhu Biologics talking about his job. After listening to his story it is easy to understand what he’s saying. His story is a real running story. It is one of running against the tide and ignoring common sense. But before knowing more about his journey that brought him to found in 2010 Swaymbhu Biologics, a social enterprise that develops technologies for composting industrial bio-waste and extracting active ingredients from medicinal plants, prepare to wear his shoes for a while and relive his journey.

The early days

He had just finished his studies when he found his passion for the first time “I started my career as a technologist in Shri AMMMCRC in 1985 under a renowned scientist Dr C V Seshadri, a steadfast Gandhian, who inspired people like us to work for technologies relevant to rural development. I continued there till his demise in 1995, and became Vice President in a Bio-tech company to manufacture bio-pesticides and also manufacture of natural beta carotene from a saline algae”. He could have worked in a lot of fields, but he felt that his mission was more important. “Later in 1996 I joined a company as a corporate advisor to transfer technology on Spirulina cultivation. We developed a technology to extract lycopene from tomatoes. This also helped the tomato farmers by ensuring constant pricing throughout the year while manufacturing value-added lycopene as an industrial output”.

His mission

Talking with Balaji you can feel his passion about what his job and how purpose driven he is. “My interests have always been to address the issues faced by agriculture sector as I felt it is the neglected sector especially after the economic revolution came in to being. While the whole country was talking about organic farming concepts, there is no one who could really address the issue of basic input material. Bio-manure to replace the fertilizer which is the discouraging factor and hence I started to explore the avenues to fill the gap which motivated me to venture in to this research and succeed.

In the year 2000, I attended a seminar on organic farming, where a participant raised an important issue about the availability of bio-manure. This inspired me to turn to industrial wastes from the agro-processing industry for the raw material and started to develop a technology for it“.

Swayambhu Biologics

The company is focused on developing technologies relevant for agriculture related services, on management of agro process industrial wastes for exploitation of bioenergy, biofuel and bio-manure and promoting hi-tech agriculture. They identified the problem of waste management in different sectors, such as sugar industries, and they observed how it was affecting farmers. So they invented accelerated biological intervention technology (ARBIT) that helps to compost waste in 14 days instead of 120. This product, that revolutionized composting technology, helped the farmer to buy phosphate for the reduced cost Rs 80 instead of Rs 250.

Challenges and what the future holds

Obviously an R&D team working for rural development doesn’t have an easy job and they are facing some challenges. “The major challenge we always encountered in such ventures is the mindset of the farmers which is very apprehensive and aggressive against any novel interventions. But with our perseverance and patience we always ensured smooth transmittance and ensure the successful implementation of any project. Also, aligning the high profile scientists of this era to fall in line with my idea of working for this socially relevant technologies takes some effort but its success inspired them to follow the mandate of the company.”

Currently Swayambhu three facilities installed, but they have big plans for the future “In my opinion, a social entrepreneur should evolve and not become, for the benefit of himself and the society. We plan to establish at least 25 facilities in next 5 years and 100 facilities in 10 years time from now”.

Balaji maybe running a 100 metre dash now, but he’s preparing for a marathon.

Website: Swayambhu Biologics

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