Why Radiowalla's Anil Srivatsa is setting out to drive across 15 countries in the next 90 days

30th Mar 2016
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Most people are unaware of the intriguing stories of people behind a startup. For someone who is plugged into the startup world, the success of five year-old-niche startup, Radiowalla, is a story they’ve come to hear. Radiowalla, the country’s largest digital audio player, was founded by Anil Srivatsa (CEO) and Harvinderjit Bhatia (Director) in 2011.

This April, Anil, his family and friends are flagging a 90-day, 20,000-kilometre overland trip from Bengaluru to the northern tip of Scotland, crossing over two continents and 15 counties, to spread awareness about living organ donation.

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Anil Srivatsa (centre), flanked by his family and friends, all part of the GOLA trip

The backstory

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

― Allen Saunders

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Little did Anil know that an unanticipated turn that life took would bring about an adventure of a lifetime, that too, with a cause. Last year, Anil donated one of his kidneys to his brother, a neurosurgeon. Soon after the surgery, a friend visited Anil at the hospital. 48 year old Anil recalls, “My friend told me that a bunch of them had planned an overland drive from Bengaluru to the UK in the year 2016. I was totally sold on the idea from that moment.”Anil named the trip ‘Gift of Life Adventure’ (GOLA). Through this trip, they plan to spread awareness about organ donation. After the trip, GOLA will also be creating a documentary, encouraging people and sponsor company employees to sign up as organ donors. He says,

The idea is to get people to notice us and our work, and get people talking about organ donation. The main reason many people don’t opt in for becoming an organ donor is misinformation. Through our social media posts and interactions with people along the way, we want to be able to get rid of the common misconceptions associated with organ donation.

Anil hits the nail on its head about the misconceptions regarding living organ donation. Living organ donation, as the name suggests, is donating an organ while a person is alive. Kidney is one the few organs that can be successfully donated without compromising on any of the functions of the donor. The donor can continue to lead a healthy life. Even though the first successful transplant dates back to 1954, involving twin brothers, people are still sceptical of donating organs primarily due to misinformation.

GOLA’s hopeful outcome

It’s not just live donation that has an unfortunate state of affairs, pledging organs after demise doesn’t seem to be in healthy state as well. Reports show the ever-widening gap between the need for donors and recipients worldwide. According to WHO, only about 0.01 per cent of Indians donate their organs after death compared to their counterparts abroad, where 70–80 per cent commit to donating their organs. Did you know that one organ donor could save eight lives?

With this trip, Anil wants to make a point that post donation, with adequate care, he’s not only leading a healthy life, but hasn’t given up on his passions either. He says, “Everyone has their own way of giving back or contributing to society. Exploring the planet is something that I am passionate about and I’m glad I can attach a worthy cause to it.”

Speaking on the outcome he hopes for, Anil says, “I’m hoping that after this, more people are better informed about organ donation. This in itself would increase the number of potential organ donors – something that we are in desperate need of.”

Prepping for the massive trip and other details

GOLA

A trip of this magnitude obviously needs genie like management skills and having managed a startup, Anil was no stranger to the work cut out for him. They have been planning for this trip for over a year now. Anil says, “From entry permits and visas to getting the cars journey ready and of course, getting sponsors on board. It’s really a big production that requires a lot of planning.”

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Nothing worthwhile comes easy. The visa process, the old-fashioned ‘Carnet process’ for private vehicles is extremely expensive for the common man was the biggest challenge for Anil. Anil elucidates,

This old fashioned and expensive visa process needs each car to have a passport just like a person does. On one front, the governments are encouraging inter country highways, but what’s the point if no one can use these roadways. It costs 200 percent the cost of the car to be put as deposit. Assume that you’re driving a basic SUV, you need to put Rs. 60 lakh as deposit. Who has that kind of money lying around?

To meet this financial demand, Anil had to sell his apartment in Bengaluru.

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Also accompanying Anil on GOLA are his 17-year-old daughter, Kavya, and 15-year-old son, Soorya. Anil says that it is perennial that his children understand that need for creating impact even with personal leisure and adventure activities. He adds,

There is absolutely nothing that educates you better than travel and the experiences surrounding it. They will learn to love the environment, hone leadership skills, and also gain compassion for those who need help and act with a feasible action.

Anil hopes that he and his fellow travellers will spark many conversations, erase misconceptions, and start a chain reaction of people signing up to save lives.

With April around the corner, and team GOLA raring to go, we wish for the very best outcome for this one of a kind trip with a purpose.

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