There comes a time in everyone’s life when you think about giving back to the society and making a real impact in the lives of people. Anand Deshpande, founder and CEO of Persistent Systems, is known to everyone for the huge success that he has created through Persistent Systems. After scaling great heights in the field of business, the need to give something back to the society has led Mr Deshpande to create the deAsra Foundation. The foundation is working at the grass roots to help entrepreneurs start and scale their businesses and plans to help create 25,000 new businesses by the end of 2020.
In this interview with Techstory, the CEO of deAsra Foundation, Pradnya Godbole, talks to us about the vision, work currently being done and future plans of deAsra.
What is the vision and mission of deAsra ?
deAsra s a brainchild of Mr Anand Deshpande. deAsra’s vision is to support entrepreneurship to the extent possible and to minimize the risks that entrepreneurs face every step of the way. Our mission is to help create 25,000 new businesses (250 business types with 100 businesses of each type) and, through these, 1 lakh new jobs by year 2020.
What inspired you to start deAsra ?
The organization was officially formed in July, 2013 – registered under the section 8 (now section 25) of the Companies Act, a not-for-profit association with a primary aim of contributing to social welfare by enabling entrepreneurship, which would also create employment opportunities. deAsra Foundation was, however, officially launched on 7th Feb, 2015 and has begun its operations since.
The idea of deAsra came into being after one of the conversations Mr Anand Deshpande had with his friend. Anand’s friend Sridhar Jagannathan was visiting them and during one of their conversations gave the wise advice of dividing life into three parts – LEARN, EARN and RETURN. The itch to do something more and to move beyond coffee conversations to real action led to conceptualization of deAsra Foundation with a mission to find and solve some hard problem in India that would benefit large numbers of people. Something that would make a difference.
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation was something that has always inspired us. The Gates Foundation website quotes Warren Buffett’s great advice about philanthropy: “Don’t just go for safe projects, take on the really tough problems.” deAsra Foundation was, thus, conceptualised with a mission to find and solve some hard problem in India that would benefit the masses. deAsra’s primary focus is to tackle the tough problem of ‘job creation’ with entrepreneurship.
Who are the customers for whom deAsra is driving value. Can you give us some examples of how the organization has created value till now ?
Any and every person who wants to start his or her own small to medium level business. It’s been a year since we started our operations and till date we have worked with around 1600 budding entrepreneurs. Currently, we are actively engaged with close to 700 entrepreneurs in various stages of business, and have helped make a difference to 26 enterprises so far. We are engaged with candidates from all over India as well, through telephonic meetings and email exchanges. There are again close to 12000 registered users on our website who at some point have taken help of the various business guides that have been made available on deasra.in
What are some of the challenges that you have come across and how did you deal with them ? What are some of the learnings along the way ?
Entrepreneurship, at least in the areas we have currently piloted in, is not the first go to choice for livelihood. The mindset is more to go in for employment, rather than get into business. The notion that many people have in their minds is that business is risky, difficult and some unattainable goal to achieve. deAsra Foundation tries to demystify the whole entrepreneurial process, and provide guidance and help by helping entrepreneurs to think about business in a more structured manner, before jumping into execution. This enables more businesses to be successful, which in turn becomes motivation and inspiration for others. We hope this will start a change in the mindset of people towards entrepreneurship. Also, Since we are dealing with the very sensitive topic of livelihood of our customers, we try to be emotionally connected with them to understand their perspective and provide appropriate guidance and counselling. Bringing all these attributes together is a challenge that our organization finds different ways to solve on a daily basis.
Everyday is a learning process for us and we try to adapt ourselves quickly according to these new learnings
What are your plans for the near future ?
As mentioned above we strive to help more and more aspiring entrepreneurs in realizing their dream. Our target is clear- to help set up 25000 business, so we make sure that every month we are touching and making a difference in more and more peoples’ lives. The graph definitely should be upward and we will continue our efforts to enable more budding entrepreneurs and help them. We, also, would want to accelerate the research on those 250 business ideas and have them ready on the website. Currently we have more than 60 on the website.
How big is the team ? Tell us a little more about the founders and the management team. What drives them towards this cause ?
We are a team of 50. Working in different functions related to research & consulting. This includes a senior experts’ panel and all the Udyog Mitras (A deAsra concept) who are the friend, philosopher and guide to the entrepreneur. The core team is of 25. In addition, we work with various partners who form our extended team, in the areas of legal, compliances, accounting, marketing who provide the required expertise and guidance to our candidates. So, all in all, we are a team of 50 all focused on entrepreneur enablement.
The deAsra office is a melting pot! We have employees and advisors of various age groups, experiences and professions. The youngsters are inspired by the knowledge of the senior experts and the energy that the youth brings keeps the seniors also motivated.
As mentioned above, the founders are Dr. Anand Deshpande and his family. All are fully onboard this mission.
An interesting story that you can tell us about your deAsra journey.
It’s been quite a journey and we have met so many people on the way. Everyone has a unique story of their own and we are glad that we are being able to make a difference in their lives.
One example which quickly comes to our mind is that of our candidate Rahul Kawade who now owns a photo printing press. deAsra played a major role in Rahul’s success story: we visited his home and workplace to help him prepare a Project Report, accompanied him to the bank and guided him in getting a loan without furnishing any guarantor or collateral, had his case included under the Loan Repayment Scheme, got him a 25% government subsidy, as well as helped him get a Shop Act License and other legal documents. We continue to monitor his business, especially the timely repayment of loan instalments. We are proud that Rahul has a substantial monthly turnover, with photo printing jobs from 35 other photo studios in Pune. Such examples make us feel good about the kind of work we are doing.
We are grateful to the many organizations, banks, institutions who believe in us and have willingly partnered with us and now share the same dream of enabling entrepreneurship for the common man.