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TBI Blogs: From IIT to UC Berkeley, and Back – All to Make Agriculture More Efficient & Profitable

From Hyderabad to Berkeley, and back, social entrepreneur Ashwin Mahavadi has combined his technical knowledge and expertise with effective mentorship to help India’s farmers.

TBI Blogs: From IIT to UC Berkeley, and Back – All to Make Agriculture More Efficient & Profitable

Most Indian youth do not look beyond a corporate or government job when they are charting out their career path. The security offered by salaried jobs is perceived to be irreplaceable. A job in the social sector is seen as the domain of social workers who sacrifice everything for the greater good. But increasingly, working in the social sector requires a balance between having a “business” mind and a “social” heart. Most social entrepreneurs lead financially secure lives, with the added satisfaction of doing something good and transforming lives. Yet, not many have the courage to take this less taken path.

One such path-breaker is Ashwin Mahavadi, a social entrepreneur. Having studied Civil Engineering at IIT Guwahati, Ashwin’s interest in education that could be put to practical use led him to join UC Berkeley for Masters In Structural Engineering. His experience at UC Berkeley provided him with a diverse perspective about the engineering space and the world beyond engineering. He also volunteered at the Association for India’s Development (AID) at UC Berkeley to understand the landscape of India’s diverse cultural, economic, and social sectors, soon realizing that they provide huge potential for development.

On completing his post-graduation, Ashwin worked for five-and-a-half years as an earthquake engineer on dams and nuclear plants. His experience there helped him understand how simple concepts in engineering could be connected to real-world applications.

Having always felt deeply connected to India and its development, Ashwin moved back to India in 2016. He aimed to empower and help the rural poor leverage their existing talent using his knowledge and experience.

With a clear goal of providing the same opportunities to marginalised producers in rural India that are available to people in urban areas, he decided to first focus on the biggest demographic that he could impact – farmers.

He soon realized that the current agriculture supply-chain has several inefficiencies that decrease the parity between farmer income and consumer prices. In addition to various other socio-economic factors, the current model of input-intensive farming leaves the farmer perpetually indebted. Connecting this to his knowledge on supply-chain inefficiency, he started Advaita Organics.

Interested in applying for the Transforming India Initiative (TII) Fellowship? Applications close 31st of August.

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Advaita Organics works towards creating a more efficient and sustainable agricultural supply chain that increases farmer incomes. They solve problems using technology, and make agriculture more sustainable, even as they make organically grown, pesticide-free agricultural produce, an inherent part of the daily urban lifestyle through easy access.

Exploring the agricultural sector, he also started Krishi Yog, a platform connecting all the major players of the agriculture ecosystem. It focusses on empowering farmers by providing end-to-end support in input procurement, crop management, and marketing activities using the intervention of technology.

Ashwin’s vision is to reach out to a million farmers by 2025, providing opportunities equal to that of an urban employee.

Ashwin is funding both Advaita Organics and Krishi Yog with his own savings, and working on building them into sustainable social enterprises. As he looks to scale up Krishi Yog, he is being mentored by Krishnagopal, CEO, Access Livelihoods Consulting India Ltd. (ALC India). A 12-year-old social enterprise, ALC India is based out of Hyderabad. One of six organisations NITI Aayog’s Atal Innovation Mission recognises as an established incubation centre, it receives scale-up support.

ALC India wants to help more youngsters become social entrepreneurs like Ashwin. Hence, it is launching a two-year social entrepreneurship fellowship, Transforming India Initiative (TII). The TII fellowship is a one-of-its-kind programme. It will enable fellows to discover, dream, design, and develop their own enterprises. Along the way, they will work directly with the founders towards accelerating existing social enterprises.

ALC India will provide complete ecosystem support to TII fellows to enable them to establish their own enterprises. In two years, the fellows will move from being job seekers to job creators with a cause. They will be imbibed with all the skills and mindsets required to be successful entrepreneurs during the two years. Also, for the ensuing six years after the fellowship, they will continue to receive support. This will include incubation support, funds, resources, and mentoring required for them to launch and grow their enterprise.

To know more and apply, visit the TII website

Interested in applying for the Transforming India Initiative (TII) Fellowship? Applications close 31st of August.

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