Varun Baranwal was born in Boisar, in Palghar district of Maharashtra, where his father owned a cycle repair shop. Despite being brought up in a household with four siblings and meagre means of support, he always dreamt of becoming a doctor. All his hopes were crushed when his father died of a heart attack when he was in Class X.
To deal with the insurmountable debt his family had fallen into, Varun let go of his dream and started working in his father's cycle repair shop. But as he scored second highest marks in his hometown in the board exams, his mother wanted him to continue his studies. In an interview with The Better India, he said,
It was decided that my mother would run the shop and I would study. So I got a form from the nearest college but the admission fees was Rs 10,000, which we did not have. So I dropped the plan again.
He resumed working in the cycle repair shop and one day the doctor who had treated his father stopped by accidentally. Varun did not know then that it was the day that would change his life forever. When the doctor came to know that Varun could not continue his studies because of financial constraints, he immediately gave him the money he needed for his school fees.
Varun was happy to resume schooling, but it still wasn’t easy for him. He had to give tuitions in the afternoon to pay his monthly fee. But, whenever there was a shortage of money, his teachers came together and helped him by paying the fee.
From his school days, Varun was well aware of the fact that education and hard work were his only means of getting out the vicious cycle of poverty and hardship. Thus, all through school, he also helped his mother with the cycle repair shop at night.
Varun joined MIT Pune and pursued engineering with a gold medal despite having to juggle between work and studies to pay the college fees.
As a reward for all his hard work, he got placed in an MNC in his final year. However, by then, he had become aware of the realities around him and the struggles faced by society at large. He happened to meet Anna Hazare and was influenced by his struggle for anti-corruption.
In an attempt to give back to the society, he studied for the UPSC. With an all India rank of 32, he came first in his state. Talking about all the hardship he had to face, in an interview with Daily Analysis and News, Varun said,
My mother really worked hard to keep the family going. This success is dedicated to her.