So, he went on to study at the Indian Institute of Forest Management in Bhopal, where he interacted with rural life and learnt about agri-business and so on.
“But I didn’t like that either,” he smiles, “I did work with the National Dairy Development Board and did a project with the European Union and the Kerala Government, where I got to spend time in rural Kerala.”
And in a village near Kolar, Paul learnt the problems of the poor. Vulnerable cash flow, indebtedness, problems with traders,
“Rural financing wasn’t introduced effectively. So, banks and financial institutions couldn’t find a way to fund the people. I learnt how rural people invest on education because they think we are where we are because we went to school. So they aspire to send their children to convents,” Paul explains.
While the experience was enriching, Paul wanted to build something of his own. “And I had only two things in mind; that it must benefit rural people and have enterprise.”
In 2001, Paul came to Chennai and began Rural Innovations Network (RIN) at a time when social entrepreneurship was scarce. It later came to be called Villgro. “Why are people poor?” he wonders, “The solutions are not fundamentally different.
When I came to Chennai, there was no water. But the Government took an existing solution, rainwater harvesting, and executed it so well, we don’t buy water by the tankers anymore. There is a need for innovation, for old ideas to be executed in other ways with strength. The poor will remain poor if you don’t do things differently.”— Paul’s call - The Hindu
Shiv Nadar often says that he is a product of education. Through his philanthropic arm, the founder and chairman of the $6.2 billion, 100,000 people-strong HCL Group is doing what he believes is closest to his heart—to build future leaders from rural India via free high quality school education.
A unique social experiment, under the direct supervision of his daughter Roshni, is presently underway at two schools in Bulandshahr and Sitapur in UP, that addresses social imbalances and envisions nurturing and creating leaders who would be the inspiration and role models for their families, communities and society at large.
A ground report from the rural heartland— INNOVATION @ GRASSROOTS