On a day when the heat is scorching, and the shade of the big Banyan tree is the only respite, you realise how grateful you are for trees. Then your mind will start to wander how once a tiny seed is now a big tree that not only gives you shade but is also a critical component in keeping the planet alive. You decide to do the obvious – plant a tree and then you fail. Why? Because you have no idea of the ‘where’ and ‘how’.
Be it a corporate or an individual, these good intentions don’t convert to fruitful action because we’re clueless. But not anymore.
SankalpTaru not only helps you plant trees but also provides rural Indians employment opportunities.
SankalpTaru stands for a pledge to not only plant a sapling but also nurture it into a tree by bringing livelihood to rural beneficiaries. It also derives its name from ‘Kalptaru’, the wish-fulfilling divine tree in the earliest Sanskrit scriptures in Hindu mythology. In essence, SankalpTaru aims to go beyond fulfilling wishes and taking a pledge to conserve the environment.
SankalpTaru was founded by Apurva Bhandari in 2013. Apurva, an MBA in Oil and Gas Management, started his career working with Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd. Born and brought up in the lap of nature in Uttarakhand Himalayas, moving to the concrete jungles of a big city was a downer. The pressing environmental problem and the desire to bring about a change got Apurva thinking. Sitting across the cafeteria, Apurva and his friend Bhalchandra Bhat bounced the idea of creating an online platform to plant trees from anywhere across the world. Bhalchandra, an alumnus of IIM Ahmedabad, echoed Apurva’s sentiments and the duo got working on the proof of concept that very evening. Within a week, a working prototype was ready! Bhalchandra is the Chief Technology Officer at SankalpTaru.
A typical tree plantation in India lacks transparency, visibility and also observes a very low survival percentage of the trees planted. SankalpTaru is a socially innovative, technology-enabled NGO, which provides a comprehensive solution to meet these challenges. Sites for plantation are chosen after a due diligence, which ensures that plantation activities create maximum socio-environmental impact. SankalpTaru’s plantation site in drought affected area of Anantpur not only creates greenery in the arid region but also provides livelihood support to tribal villagers in the form of mango orchards. In Uttarakhand and Leh Ladakh, SankalpTaru is planting saplings to check soil erosion in landslide affected areas.
The NGO works with panchayats, farmers, and school community in order to plant and nurture saplings.
The target audience is anyone who wants to do their bit to make the planet greener, be it an individuals and or large corporates.
Operations, impact, revenue model
The process is fairly simple. All you have to do is log onto their portal from anywhere in the world. The portal falls on GPS integrated with Google Earth and Mapping, and hence the portal enables the user to track and record the progress of the sapling making the entire process transparent. The application also gives planters the opportunity to calculate their carbon footprint and neutralise it.
When YourStory met Apurva in 2013, SankalpTaru was an idea in its nascent stages. Today, the NGO has planted trees in regions spread across 12 states – Leh ladakh, Uttarakhand, Thar Desert (Rajasthan), Sangli (Maharashtra), Talupula (Andhra Pradesh), Pallipattu (Tamil Nadu), Bankura (West Bengal), etc.
SankalpTaru has consciously focussed on planting trees in regions that tend to be arid and our home to the economically backward. The social impact created has been immense with beneficiaries receiving employment opportunities, extra income, and also supporting the education system by planting trees in village schools.
Apurva gives us the numbers, “We have created over 100 direct and 500 indirect employment opportunities, over 25,000 beneficiaries, 500 green shcools, and over 10,000 students engaged in planting these saplings.” On the environmental impact, he says, “3, 45,000 trees belonging to 35 different categories have been planted, 300 acres of land made green, and 40,000 tonnes carbon emission of offset per year.” SankalpTaru has also been successful in building forests in arid and barren geographies – their first Pomegranate plantation in the Thar Desert has recently borne first harvest. “We were amazed to see sign of prosperity coming to the farmers which earlier had limited options due to barren land,” adds Apurva.
They have partnered with more than 30 corporates to make them green and also engage with the employees in tree plantation activities. The NGO also works with various forestry related research organisations. SankalpTaru is one of the partner of United Nations Decade on Bio-diversity (UNDoB) programme.
The NGO has a hybrid funding model. Part of the revenue comes from the individuals who register on the portal and plant trees through them. Another chunk of the revenue comes from the corporates who list SankalpTaru for their green and CSR initiatives.
Speaking of challenges in social entrepreneurship, Apurva says that the social sector still has a long way to go and needs to maintain transparency with the donors while making impact on ground. He adds,
While you may lure investors easily for for-profit ventures, it’s a herculean task to establish a non-profit venture and make it self-sustainable.
Apurva tells us that scalability has remained a challenge when it comes to SankapTaru.
While SankalpTaru plans to plant large number of trees, we have always strived to grow every planted sapling into a tree. On-ground excellence has helped us to maintain a healthy survival rate of trees even in the arid regions ( more than 95 per cent); technology has helped us to scale our operations and also engage green enthusiasts,
Despite challenges, SankalpTaru is surging ahead. They were the winner at Action For India’s 2015 edition, mBillionth South Asia Mobile Innovation Award 2014, eNGO Challenge 2014, Manthan Award 2015 to name a few. They’ve also been awarded by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs.
Apurva is a staunch believer in the theory that there are no competitors in social sector. Anyone who is doing their bit to mitigate grave challenges like climate change and global warming is a peer to them.
One million trees
Our very own missile man, Late Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, was the first person to plant a tree online in a remote school in Uttarakhand Himalayas and is an inspiration for team SankalTaru.
Apurva tells us that they are striving to plant and survive one million trees in next three years. They also plan to replicate their model in the world, especially in regions where afforestation and rural livelihood is an acute need.