This visually impaired man has empowered over 4,000 persons with disability through financial literacy workshops
In the first-ever world disability report of 2011, renowned theoretical physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking said, “Disability need not be an obstacle to success.”
And, 38-year-old Rahul Kelapure is proof that Hawking was right.
Despite being diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder, Rahul never gave up on his aspirations. From pursuing a degree in law, giving legal counsel to the Securities and Exchange Board (SEBI), to boosting financial literacy among persons with disabilities – he has done it all.
The initial days
Born and brought up in Chandrapur, about 153 kilometres from Nagpur, Rahul hails from a modest family. He tells SocialStory that he had always been a confident, cheery and curious child.
At birth, he was diagnosed with a degenerative eye disease called retinitis pigmentosa which claimed his peripheral vision. Unfortunately, he had to deal with the challenges of being visually impaired from infancy itself.
Despite putting up with a string of hardships, he completed his schooling from Anandwan Middle School and Bhavanji Bhai High School in Chandrapur.
“I still remember those days vividly. My mother used to read out all the lessons to me aloud until I managed to learn braille. There was hardly any support infrastructure or facilities to move around the campus. I did not have many friends and a lot of my schoolmates acted like as if I was non-existent. There were various points where I felt depressed and discouraged. Nevertheless, I picked myself up,” Rahul recalls.
After his schooling, Rahul moved to Mumbai in search of better opportunities and exposure. Intending to lay the foundation for an intellectually challenging and personally fulfilling career, he took up a degree in law from the Government Law College in the city and emerged as a gold medalist.
Living by himself in a new environment and learning English from scratch opened the doors for both knowledge and opportunities.
Subsequent to his graduation, Rahul took up jobs at legal and compliance firms in Mumbai, Delhi, and Gurugram. In 2015, he enrolled himself with the National Institute of Securities Markets (NISM) to do a course in Securities Law. From there on, his interest in finance only grew. So, he decided to share his knowledge with others.
“I found my way of giving back to the society when I figured that a lot of people out there had no awareness about basic aspects like opening a bank or a DEMAT account, types of investments available, and financial instruments that are easily accessible,” notes Rahul.
Along with working full-time as an Assistant Legal Advisor in SEBI, Rahul is currently pursuing an MBA in Finance and also preparing for the Company Secretaries course.
Empowering PwDs with financial knowledge
In 2018, when Rahul was at the peak of his career, he realised that the rate of financial literacy in India was very poor when compared to many other countries. According to a survey by the American credit rating agency Standard and Poor, more than 76 percent of adults in the country could not understand the basics of financial planning or make informed decisions to manage their money.
Such figures rattled Rahul. But, instead of being passive and ignoring the issue, he decided to bring about a positive change. He began conducting workshops on money management and financial investments.
“Financial know-how not only helps people create multiple income streams, but also enables them to plan for emergencies and understand the value of money. More importantly, it provides a sense of economic empowerment and independence. However, financial literacy is below par among most of the population, especially when it comes to the disabled. So, I wanted to do my bit to improve the situation,” says Rahul.
Since he is usually busy with his job during weekdays, he started by organising free interactive training sessions, focusing on financial proficiency and investment decisions on weekends.
All his workshops are specifically designed for persons with disabilities.
“I try to present the concepts in a simple and lucid manner so that they can grasp it without much effort. Besides, since most of the PwDs either earn low incomes or are unemployed, I make sure to touch upon investment options that do not require a large amount of money,” he explains.
The 38-year-old covers a slew of significant topics to enable individuals to save as well as grow their money. He trains them to set financial goals, determine their risk appetite, explore investment avenues like equity, mutual funds, and commodities, as well as monitor their progress.
So far, Rahul has spearheaded over 35 workshops benefiting around 4,000 persons with disabilities.
He generally collaborates with several non-governmental organisations working in the area of inclusion to conduct the workshops and bring together young and bright minds. Some them include National Association for the Blind in Bengaluru, Atmadeepam Society in Nagpur, Snehankit Helpline for Visually Challenged and SBI Foundation in Mumbai, as well as Rajasthan Netraheen Kalyan Sangh in Jaipur.
Dhawal Bhawsar, a 34-year-old visually challenged pianist based in Mumbai, attended Rahul’s webinar in June 2020 and found it to be informative and useful.
“I used to invest in a few avenues earlier, but, after listening to Rahul, I figured out ways to channelise my investments. His advice and tips helped me gain a deeper understanding of how to take calculated financial decisions for a secure future,” he says.
Out of the 4,000 people who have attended his workshops, Rahul says more than 1,500 are actively investing their money in fixed deposits, mutual funds and stock markets, at present.
“I am so glad to have been able to induce these transformations. I intend to continue my endeavour in future and empower as many PwDs as possible,” Rahul adds.
Edited by Kanishk Singh