Photo courtesy : HarVa
The Story of a Citibanker Who is ‘Harnessing Value’ of Rural India By Alok Soni
jay Chaturvedi was doing it all right after graduating from Wharton & Penn Engineering, working at Citibank, and taking a hefty package home until one fine day when he decided to pack his bags and go to the Himalayas. It was a forced vacation as there was a two-week mandatory leave from his work. What came next can be called as the ‘answer to life’ for Ajay. He has since then spent over 6 months in the Himalayas. He was not really convinced with his job, but this introspection helped him to get the picture clearer in his mind. Ajay recalled, “I couldn’t work for more than 2 years at my first job after passing out from BITS Pilani. The markets were booming then(1990s) and I realized my capitalistic side in trading. Though after the crash, I went to Penn Engineering and Wharton where my real journey began. It was here that I got answers to few of the questions in my mind.” After his journey to the Himalayas (Kedarnath) and going through life changing experiences, finally Ajay put down his papers in 2010 and went ahead with his plans to empower rural India and
also made his deep seeded realisation, the purpose of his life. It was the time when the foundation for HarVa was laid.
now more welcoming and supportive in participating in the developmental processes implemented by HarVa.
One of Ajay’s underlying beliefs is that the government is building capacity without creating enough opportunities. Programmes like The National Skill Development Corporation train candidates but due to the lack of options they end up being ABCD or Aya (Nanny), Bai (Maid), Chowkidar (Guard), Driver (Chauffeur) only. He further said, “Unless you don’t participate, you do not have the right to criticize. The problems in rural India need some intellectual people getting to the grassroots. We have to work towards value creation which is more sustainable.”
Microfinance has always been a part of the plan but given the current state of the industry, Ajay and his team have put their project HarVa Employee Loan Program (HELP) on the side now. HarVa Suraksha is a recent addition to the HarVa services which is basically a quasi savings product backed by Bajaj Allianz providing micro insurance to the rural people. Throwing some light on the current state of organisation, Ajay mentioned “Currently, HarVa operates 20 HarVa Digital Huts or XPOs (BPO, KPO, LPO) of which 5 are owned by HarVa and rest on a franchise model. They are spread across 14 states in India employing over 70% women and each XPO caters to three to four villages in the vicinity. We have been supporting over 1000 households and the employees are making anything from INR 1500 to INR 14000 based on their contributions towards other projects like farming, student helpdesks and selling insurance.” In the quest to expand faster, HarVa is
HarVa stands for ‘Harnessing Value’ of rural India and works towards skill development, BPO, community-based farming and micro-insurance in villages. In the past 3 years, HarVa has evolved considerably in terms of its vision and impact. They have added a not-for-profit arm which focuses on skill development. Though beginnings are always tough at the grassroots level, people are
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