[Year in Review 2019] 10 stories that inspired us and our readers

From India's visually impaired chess champ to changemakers and social entrepreneurs who are making the world a better place, here are 10 stories that inspired us in 2019.
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Being a socially responsible citizen starts with the desire to make a change, not just for yourself but also for society.

It’s often small individual efforts that when put together result in a long-lasting social impact.

From 24-year-old Darpan Inani, a visually impaired chess player with an Elo rating of 2,053, who has represented India four times at the World Blind Chess Championship, to Saurabh Narang, who gave up his lucrative job in British multinational investment bank Barclays to become a social entrepreneur, SocialStory brings you 10 stories that inspired us and our readers in 2019.

From a small village in Tamil Nadu to the US: how a pottery-making group of women became global sellers

Shanthi started a self-help group to revive the traditional art of pottery making and market it better to generate more income. She and her husband, also a potter, used to earn a mere Rs 50,000 per annum, which was insufficient to sustain their family of two sons and her husband's parents.

Low demand that was bankrupting the family pushed Shanthi to explore other ways of expanding the business. She knew that she had to go beyond their tradition to cater to a new market with trendy designs while maintaining the original craft form.

In 2016, she contacted Srinivasan Services Trust, the social arm of TVS motor company and Sundaram Clayton, set up by TV Sundaram Iyengar for the welfare of his native village, to get loans for raw materials and labour.

They set up a village self-help group called ‘Narmada’ to train the local women in pottery. The Trust also taught them about government welfare schemes that aided the growth of cottage industry.

Within two years, Shanthi’s business not only grew but she also managed to export her handmade pots to the US through her nephew. Initially, her nephew gave the pots to a few friends as gifts. In the process, she has been successful in providing employment to over 20 women in her village while earning Rs 2.5 lakh per annum.

In the US, the products gained popularity due to their environment-friendly nature. So far, they have shipped 15,000 pots to the US in three shipments

Hyderabad startup Inde' Loom champions handloom sarees by weaving a brighter future for artisans

Indian women reignited their love affair with sarees after two Bengaluru-based women started the #100SareePact in 2015. Since then, the spotlight has been shining particularly bright on the six-yard piece of apparel, particularly handloom sarees.

However, the artisans who make these gorgeous sarees often end up being exploited by middlemen, and underpaid at least 50 percent lesser than standard living wages.

It was to solve this problem and ensure that artisans get their due that Sandhya Tholi and Suren Chowdhary started Hyderabad-based Inde’ Loom, a “maker-to-market” handloom collective.

Keen to help “local go global”, the startup works with artisans and weavers across India to offer better, handcrafted products to women shoppers globally Along the way, they ensure that the makers earn a fair share in “safe working conditions”.

Founded in 2018, the startup sells both online and offline artisan-made sarees in natural fibres and soft cotton. Apart from its own website, the startup also lists its products on online marketplace Etsy. Offline, it sells via home-based resellers, rack spaces in boutiques, and display pop-ups at trunk shows. 

Visually impaired chess player Darpan Inani shows his opponents he is no pawn to be shuffled around

Twenty-four-year-old Darpan is the highest-rated visually impaired chess player in India with an Elo rating of 2,053, and has represented the country four times in the World Blind Chess Championship.

Vadodara-based Darpan was diagnosed with Stevens-Johnson syndrome, a severe skin reaction when he was just three years old.

“I started playing chess at the age of 13 and, since then, there has been no looking back. I was inclined towards the game mainly because it gave me an opportunity to play against a sighted person,” Darpan told SocialStory

Darpan’s love for chess is such that he is always ready for a game. His goal is to be the first visually impaired Indian to attain the title of ‘International Master’.

What young India wants from its next Prime Minister

The 2019 elections were more than just the NDA and UPA making promises and campaigning across the country. Young India is looking for a change as a result of the 16th Lok Sabha elections.

Scratch that – young India was looking for a revolution.

YourStory spoke to youngsters across the country to understand what they were expecting from their next Prime Minister. With the 16th General Elections fast approaching, young Indians told us what they are looking for in their next leader.

This banker gave up his lucrative job at Barclays to become a social entrepreneur

Meet Saurabh Narang, who had everything life could offer. A lucrative job in British multinational investment bank Barclays, a beautiful house in Delhi, and a bustling social life to top it all. But, the 33-year-old decided to take the path less travelled.

In 2017, Saurabh started his journey around the world. In one year, he ended up visiting more 26 Indian states, four Union Territories, and 10 countries. A life-altering experience at Spiti Valley led him to conduct a photo tour in collaboration with Spiti Ecosphere, a social enterprise run by the local community to create sustainable livelihoods.

This encouraged him to start his own social enterprise, Create4 Cause in 2018, to enable people to support unnoticed causes through art. The platform brings together creative professionals who want to contribute their project fees towards a social cause, and brands willing to fund a project by an artist.

For instance, if a professional photographer is interested to do a product shoot for a brand and is ready to donate his project fee towards an environmental cause, say planting trees, he can register on the platform.

Create4Cause will then help the artist identify and connect with a brand looking for a photographer. Once the project guidelines are set and mutually discussed between the two parties, the enterprise helps them narrow down on the social cause they wish to support.

From recycling to reusing: how this Mumbai startup is going green by turning plastic into wearable fabric

A report published by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) in 2017 estimates that a massive 25,940 tonnes of plastic waste are generated in India every day.

This translates to a per capita consumption of 11 kg of plastic on an average. A large part of this waste can be attributed to single-use or disposable applications in the form of bottles, bags, wrappers, and sachets - the most fatal of them all being the plastic bottles.

In a bid to create environmental consciousness, Raw Pressery, a health food and beverage startup, is transforming plastic waste into fashionable clothing.

The startup collected 1.2 million bottles from customers and recycled them into clothing and has launched a collection of 1,500 T-shirts in the market this year.

This YouTube star quit his IT job to promote Kashmiri culture and heritage through music

Yawar Abdal, a Kashmiri musician, wants to spread the message of love, harmony and peace through the words of famous poets. Armed with just a guitar and a song playing on his lips, this 24-year-old Kashmiri man is on a mission.

In a Valley that has seen turbulent and tumultuous times, often marred by hate and intolerance, Yawar Abdal wants to spread the message of peace, love, and harmony, through the words of legendary poets Mirza Ghalib, Mahjoor, and Amir Khusrow, through Kashmiri music.

The computer science graduate from Srinagar takes refuge in Sufi music to spread the message of peace and instil hope. He does this through the common man’s medium, by having his own voice on YouTube.

Yawar’s journey is unique for he is, perhaps, the first Kashmiri who has stepped outside the valley and is spreading its culture by blending modern music and technology with native Kashmiri poetry.

Meet this ‘77-year-young’ retired professional who is instilling a love for mathematics among school children

For the past five decades, Narayanaswami Iyer has been teaching Mathematics to students of all ages and disciplines, even while being a full-time working professional. He believes age is just a number and everyone must do whatever they can, to make a difference.

After completing his BTech in electrical engineering, he landed a job at Binny Mills in 1966. This was also the time when his tryst with mathematics and teaching began.

“As a bachelor, I had a lot of free time after I returned from work in the evenings. A lot of staff in the company was struggling to complete their AMIE, as they found engineering-related mathematics tough. I started taking classes for free,” he recounts.

While staying at the ITI colony, he started taking classes at the Science and Technology Association for the company employees.

Later, Narayanaswami joined as faculty at BMS College of Engineering, then the ICWAI, the Institute of Engineers, Bengaluru Chapter, and the Institute of Telecommunication Engineers, to teach mathematics and related subjects. This continued until he left his job in 2000.

Today, after retirement, he continues to take mathematics classes at the nearby Maruti Vidya Mandir School, Bangalore. This is an honorary job that he took up after his retirement to continue indulging in his love for teaching mathematics. Apart from this, he conducts classes for rural children at the Maruthi Educational Trust.

This startup helps farmers in India save money (and the planet) by converting animal poop into energy

Mexico- and India-based Sistema.bio uses a biodigester to convert agricultural waste to generate biogas, across Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Bihar. It has impacted over 1,000 households so far. Although India is the third-largest producer of electricity in the world, 300 million Indians have no access to energy.

Poor pipeline connectivity, insufficient production of energy despite availability of resources, and inefficient revenue systems are only a few of the several reasons contributing to inefficiencies in the Indian energy sector.

The global chain started their India office in Pune in 2018 and, over the past year, has installed over 200 units of bio digesters, a hybrid reactor digester system that converts agricultural waste to generate biogas, across Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Bihar, impacting over 1,000 households.

This 60-year-old man is building e-bikes from scrap and recycled materials for people with disabilities

Born with polio, and having a hearing impairment, Vishnu Patel has been building two- and three-wheelers for people with disabilities since 2018. Being a green vehicle enthusiast, he has built nine electric bikes from scrap materials like remotes and circuit boards.

In an area spread over 2,000 square feet, Vishnu builds and designs the e-vehicles from scrap on his own, with a little help.

Vishnu works with the ultimate aim of providing customised and cost-effective vehicles for people with disabilities. He hopes that his initiative would inspire people to reduce their carbon footprint by opting for green transport alternatives.

(Edited by Evelyn Ratnakumar)


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