A mechanical engineering degree holder from a prestigious engineering college in Bengaluru, Sushant Jha had dreams of a successful career when he was in the final year of his engineering. However, none of the companies who came for placement interview selected him. Reason? Sushant says it was because of his cleft lip, which has left him speech-impaired.
“I kept trying even after the campus placements. But all the companies rejected me only on the basis of my speech. They won’t even ask me any technical questions. Just first few general questions and I was rejected,” Sushant claims.
After one year of rigorous job search Sushant decided to improve his skills by doing a post-graduation, which again turned difficult — while he scored well in MAT, he would not get through the interviews for the good B-schools. Finally after much effort, Sushant was offered a seat in one of the prestigious colleges in Delhi.
Sushant did well in MBA, too; however, this did not change anything for him. According to him, he faced rejections from almost 40 companies.
“It was 2 years after I did MBA and I was just sitting idle at home. We belong to a middle class family and had to earn. I never thought I’ll have to face this even after being a post graduate,” says Sushant.
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It was at this moment that Sushant thought of doing something on his own. But the idea was not just to earn money but to do something for the society and the environment as well. Sushant discussed this with his brother Prashant. Being ardent readers the brothers thought of starting something that would include books. They thought of their engineering days where students would buy many books just before the exams and would give them away to scrap dealers at throwaway prices.
They registered their company Bodhi Tree Knowledge services and initiated Padhega India Initiative in 2014.
While Sushant narrates that while there were many who didn’t believe him, a few friends –Yogesh, Punit, Piyush, Charusmita, Shailesh, Rohit, Piyush, Amit and Gautam– were a constant support system to make him successful.
Padhega India Initiative (PII) started as a pilot project in South Delhi to circulate second-hand books to people who otherwise had no access to high-priced academic books or rare novels.
“In our childhood, during summer vacations, we would set up a library for underprivileged kids in our society. In this library we’d have books like Reader’s Digest, Comics & other story books. Doing something related to books was like getting our childhood back,” says Sushant.
The duo also realised that India consumes 10 kg of paper per person per year — encouraging the sale of second-hand books and increasing their availability would significantly reduce this demand for paper in the country, which in turn would reduce the burden on trees. Therefore in order to measure success of the stated goal of reducing the demand of paper production and hence reduce the need for cutting trees, the duo devised a measuring scale called Green Count (GC) on their website.
“Since per capita per year usage of paper in India is 10 kg, if we earn 250 green count (GC) it means we have catered the paper need of one person per year by promoting book reusability practices. This means every 250 GC earned by us reduces demand for paper production in our economy by 10 kg. Green Count measures our success in reducing the demand of new books through our scheme of second hand/used book sales and renting of books. It also takes into account the amount of paper that we save by avoiding the packaging process. One Green Count is credited if 40 gm of paper is made reusable due to sale of second hand books or renting of books as well as by eliminating the packaging process,” says Prashant.
PII, which started in a two-bedroom house of the brothers, has now shifted to a proper office in South Delhi, giving them good returns with zero investment.
In the initial phase, the duo recognized all the second hand book markets in Delhi and tied up with 40-50 vendors. The books are bought from these vendors according to demand.Whenever a new client orders a book, Sushant makes it a point to deliver the books by himself so as to promote the company and build customers. The consumer can pay only if they are satisfied with the quality of the books.
While working remotely with the second hand book dealers and the customers, Sushant and Prashant realized that there were many books, especially novels, which customers don’t want to sell and hence the option of buying these books become difficult. Hence they also started renting out new books on their website.
One can also sell or donate their books once they do not have any use of them like the books needed for competitive exams. The books to be sold or donated are picked up from the sellers’ homes without any charge.
“You can’t buy happiness but you can buy books and that’s kind of the same thing. This is the path on which this organization is working. I feel proud to be a customer of Padhega India. Be it their service or books,” says Yogita Gandhi, a regular customer of PII.
PII is currently available only in Delhi and NCR. However, the duo wants to spread the initiative across India. The two are coming up with their next outlet at Bengaluru soon. The initiative has also been recognized as a startup by department of Industrial Promotion and Policy recently and it’s now looking for an investor.
Sushant now believes that everything happens for the best, and says,“I am grateful this happened to me as there is only one life and you have to give back something to society in this life. I am glad that people rejected me and I got a chance to do that. For anyone who is looked down upon by society for any reason, I want to tell them that you need to work hard, you need to be humble, not compromise with your integrity and be determined to achieve what you want. If you are consistent there is always a happy ending waiting for you.”