Business for a cause: Mulund boy mentoring youngsters in Mumbai

Mulund boy Dhairya Pujara is mentoring youngsters in the city to make money and also do good as they pursue social entrepreneurship ventures

At 6:30 pm in room 520 of the Somaiya College New Engineering building, Vidyavihar there is a group of young people divided into smaller groups of threes and fours discussing something intensely. The atmosphere in the room is of extreme concentration and focus.

Dhairya Pujara talking to the young people he will mentor at Somaiya Engineering College, Vidyavihar. Pic/Sameer Markande
Dhairya Pujara talking to the young people he will mentor at Somaiya Engineering College, Vidyavihar. Pic/Sameer Markande

The room is known as the RiiDL (Research, Innovation, Incubation and Design Lab) headquarters. “In this facilitating centre at the Somaiya Campus, technology and startup incubation is encouraged.

The centre aims to create focused groups who work on solving real world problems, skill development projects and creating new ventures,” says Gaurang Shetty from RiiDL’s managing team.

Meet Dhairya
At 26, Dhairya Pujara is the founder and owner of Philadelphia-based company Y center, a higher education, social innovation enterprise working across three continents. The Mulund resident is in the city for the next two months to mentor students and working youth at the RiiDL centre.

Pujara says, “I want to help the young people in my city to make money and do good and so I am part of this six week training programme. I got in touch with various companies via social media and was in touch with Samir Somaiya too and that’s how I came here. So far 15 youth have enrolled; the cost of the programme is R15,000 for an individual or a group.”

Y centre run by Pujara works with American university students and aims to create community centered projects in Mozambique, Africa. Pujara started his company at the age of 19 in the city. He says, “I started bookwheelz.com an e-commerce company which sold books online.

It was a great feeling to be the owner of my own company at such a young age. I always talk of my own story and try to inspire others with it. I quit my first job on day one, because I wanted to be the guy who offered people a R75 lakh job rather than the one who took up the job.”

Story of his life
Speaking to his potential students as part of the social entrepreneurship programme, Pujara says, “My father doesn’t hold a degree, while my mother is a Gujarati medium municipal school teacher. I come from a middle-class family in the city.

But I chose to go to Mozambique in Africa, which at that time was either clever or foolish. I felt like Shah Rukh Khan in Swades. My relatives told my parents that I am the next Gandhi, since I was also Gujarati and in Africa trying to do good.”

While in a village in Mozambique, Pujara repaired various appliances in hospitals and taught the medical staff how they could repair incubators and other life support machines. It was there that he worked with the United Nations, too.

He says, “Working as an entrepreneur slashes your ego. I got the idea for my company during my time there. But the seeds of doing good via my business were sown here in Mumbai. I learnt from my parents and my time going to school with my mother and seeing her students; put that bent of mind in me, to want to help others.”

Pujara believes that a good business and good deeds go side by side. He says, “My favourite example is of Amul. The company is the market leader and yet they help the dairy farmers in the country. Varghese Kurien and his works have been my inspiration.

People ask me if I know about Flipkart one of the biggest Indian start ups and if I am related to Cheteshwar Pujara. One day, I hope they ask Cheteshwar Pujara if he is related to Dhairya Pujara and ask the Flipkart people if they know about me. That will be the day when I truly consider myself, a big success.”

Real problems
“The world has many problems, I want the young people I am mentoring to go out into society and see what is wrong and accordingly come up with solutions. Real companies solve real problems. I want to see all the 15 young people who have signed up making the journey like me. They need to think big and start,” says Pujara.

Madhur Palande, a second year BMS (Bachelor of Management Studies) student at Don Bosco, Vidyavihar says, “I have many ideas and want someone to guide me. It is really nice to talk to Dhairya and have his guidance. He has a lot of contacts and is always approachable. I am sure that by August I will be the next big startup’s founder and owner.”

Group of four Sachin Kelkar, Prasad Wellingkar, Yousuf Khan and Ramesh Tambe from Xavier Institute of Engineering, Mahim are hoping to also have their own start up by August. Kelkar says, “The city has many problems and a large number of people in need. We are brain storming on various issues and Dhariya is guiding us to come up with solutions and to move towards starting our own company.”

Khan adds, “Since we are a group of four, we have many new ideas and differences that come up. But Dhairya is very patient with us and pushing us to think and be more proactive. So far we are learning a lot about social entrepreneurship.” Simran Rao, a Somaiya student says, “I am really inspired by Dhairya’s story of how he started his venture.

He said you don’t need an MBA (Masters in Business Administration) to begin a start up. I am very excited and at the same time have some butterflies, too. I have a big idea and I hope to take it ahead and start my own venture soon.” “Many of them have amazing ideas. But they are unsure of what to do next. Execution is key. I want young people who are ready to take the plunge into the unknown.

If you can make it in Mumbai, then you can do it anywhere. That’s why I am encouraging young people here to become social entrepreneurs. Many international experts will also share ideas with these young people via Skype, so there will be international exposure, too. I am hoping to help to contribute to clean up some of the mess in the city,” ends Pujara.

Dhairya Pujara’s work
>> Invented an SMS app for patients who need treatment for malaria in Africa. Through this app, patients can send a text message saying they are unwell to a number connected to hospitals via cloud services. This is sent to different community health workers who can reach out to the patient.
>> The app now also helps the UN initiative that works towards reducing transmission of HIV/AIDS from mother to child.
>> To prevent HIV transmission, the app, gives women privacy to send an SMS detailing their condition only to healthcare facilities. 
>> The apps are called ‘Uber for Malaria and Pregnancy testing’.
>> He holds an O1 American visa. This visa is reserved for individuals of extraordinary abilities like prize winners and geniuses.

Programme details
>> Pujara will be using the design thinking model that uses ‘post its’ to stick new ideas on the board and then go on from there.
>> It will involve three weeks of problem searching where via technology as a medium, a solution has to be found.
>> Weeks 4-5 will be developing and finalising the app or medium as a finished product.
>> Week 6 will have the final pitch where investors will come to evaluate the social entrepreneurship ventures.

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