From giving up a six figure salary in an MNC bank to helping the rural poor: Rustam Sengupta's journeyMarianne Heinisch
Boond is a Sanskrit word for “drop”. But it also represents the assembly of continuous efforts put together by an ex-finance manager from an MNC bank in Singapore who left his job and six figure annual salary behind in order to start a small company and provide clean energy access to rural India. “A few of us in India are privileged to have a wide range of services at our disposal, but the majority of people living in rural areas do not have access to the basic. I could do something which is lasting, as well as satisfying, than just sit down and make rich people richer,” says Rustam Sengupta, founder of Boond.
Gupta created Boond aiming to provide clean energy access to rural India. The idea was to get products like solar lamps, water filters and mosquito nets designed, developed and shipped to the poor in remote Indian villages. The products also needed to be affordable, of high quality and with service support guaranteed. In the beginning of the Boond adventure, Rustam himself tried to deliver the products, reaching dangerous areas of India, as Jharkhand and Bengal, notorious for the presence of Maoist insurgents.
However, it is not just about financing the manufacture and transportation of these products, it is also an effort to unite people in a cause and bring about a change in their mindset. “We want to make people believe that they can be instruments of change in whatever amounts or ways that is within their capacity”, says Sengupta.
Since its inception in 2009, Boond has impacted over 50 thousand individuals and through more than six thousand energy systems. They are addressing three different segments in the states of Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh: the rural under-served, with daily income between $4 to $10 a day; micro-sized business enterprises that need power for better production and the ultra poor, who earn under $4 a day and often irregularly. Boond provides 10W solar home systems to these ultra poor communities, allowing them to light two bulbs and charge their mobile phones for a low monthly payment of $4, financed by philanthropic donors and grants.
Boond’s vision is to be present in at least 5 to 6 Indian states, working with 100 districts and impacting one million individuals with lighting, clean water and pest control solutions. Sengupta wants to not only not only improve the lives of numerous villagers, but also create a sustainable profit-making enterprise while doing so. “I cannot only see my work happening, but I have also the opportunity to connect with people and see their lives improving in a short span of time, which is the most satisfying experience as compared to working in a bank or as a consultant. All our services and products are something that the community desperately needs and we create our models like that”, says Sengupta.
The final challenge, according to him, is how to create a model which works not only for the sake of glamor, but actually makes a real and substantial impact. “I’m tired of listening to people talking about macro-living projects. There is a saying in Hindi: small drops integrated become a sea. This is the philosophy we follow, small collective efforts can also go a long way and resolve major development issues. One small drop of water at a time can create an ocean,” affirms Sengupta
Boond also runs development projects in the villages it is present in. In West Bengal, Boond has financed a number of shrimp fisheries at a very low rate of interest (6 per cent for six months) and has also provided education scholarships to meritorious students living under the poverty line. In Manipur, Boond commissions help to support the tribal school in Litan and have also provided basic educational aids when required.
“My energy comes from the fact that I know I’m working with some of the biggest challenges that the world has ever faced and every minute that I put into Boond helps to make a social impact. A social entrepreneur has to be available to success and failure. You will have the worse days of your life but you can also have the best”, Sengupta concludes.
To know more about Boond’s model and products click here