When Problems Become Opportunities: The Story Of A Student Social Entrepreneur With A Dream To Help Farmers

Posted on September 9, 2013 in Inspiration

By Annie Fraser:

Santosh Kaveri, a second year student of Samiiti BBA College, Belgaum, Karnataka, is a budding social entrepreneur with a deep story infused with disappointment, but also hope. He has led a life tainted by strife, but has managed to emerge from these obstacles and create a life opportunity for himself and others. Santosh says, “The way I see it, all problems give me an opportunity to enter into business and provide products which are helpful for Indians”.

This is his story:

Santosh grew up in a poor family, and his hopes of overcoming poverty were dimmed as access to education became more and more difficult. Due to the remoteness of his village, Shedbal, and lack of proper transportation, Santosh had to walk 10 kilometers every day just to attend school.

santosh kaveri

Santosh’s family gained their livelihood from their farm. When Santosh was in high school, members of his family faced different health and economic issues. In order to feed his family, Santosh had to work on the farm himself. Realizing the importance of education for his future, Santosh knew that he could not drop out of school. Instead, he attempted to create a balance; he worked on his family’s farm in the early morning, starting at 5 AM, and then he would continue the farm work immediately after classes every day.

Conditions worsened once Santosh reached PUC. The growing demands of his family became too strained. His absence from his classes increased, and his available study time decreased. Fortunately, Santosh still performed well enough in his classes to be able to obtain admission to pursue his BBA in the city of Belgaum.

But just because Santosh moved away from his village to a city does not mean that life got any easier for him. Not being able to afford the cost of staying in a hostel, Santosh spent the first six months of his college life sleeping in college classrooms.

The government eventually agreed to cover the expenses of his accommodation, and it was at this point that Santosh’s life seemed to gain some normalcy. During his first year in college, Santosh joined the Deshpande Foundation’s Leaders Accelerating Development (LEAD) program. The LEAD program provides funding assistance and guidance for college students to implement their own community improvement projects, thereby allowing them to practice their entrepreneurial, leadership, and innovative thinking. Having always wanted to become an entrepreneur, Santosh utilized LEAD as a platform to execute his ideas.

Having grown up in an agricultural, rural background, Santosh knew that an entrepreneurial initiative aimed at improving the lives of farmers would be meaningful and successful. So, Santosh started working on his first project. He reflected on the struggles that he and his family faced as farmers, and identified a specific problem in carrot cleaning. Before farmers can sell their carrots at the local markets, the carrots must be cleaned to make them appealing to customers. However, carrot cleaning is a lengthy and demanding process, cleaning one quintal of carrots  usually requires the labor of 12 people.

Santosh pondered and searched determinedly for a solution to this problem. His epiphany came one day after observing a washing machine, and he realized that he could apply the same concept to devise a machine that could quickly and efficiently clean carrots.

Being a Business student and having no prior experience with engineering, Santosh struggled to develop a technology that could effectively and afford-ably clean carrots. He persevered, and after developing 11 unsuccessful machines, he finally devised the Carrot Cleaning Machine.

Santosh’s Carrot Cleaning Machine can clean a quintal of carrots in just 15 minutes and requires the labor of only two people. What’s more, the Carrot Cleaning Machine uses no electricity and very little water. The Carrot Cleaning Machine is now helping farmers throughout 10 villages.

Since developing the Carrot Cleaning Machine, Santosh has undertaken other entrepreneurial initiatives. One product that he is currently promoting is the Eco Water Coil, a stove-top device that simultaneously boils water for cooking and collects hot water for bathing. “In India”, Santosh says, “gas is costly, and no one seems to be concerned about that.” Santosh’s Eco-Water Coil, though, can perform two functions at once, thereby helping people conserve gas.

In addition to the Carrot Cleaning Machine and the Eco Water Coil, Santosh has recently begun purchasing locally produced products from rural micro-entrepreneurs, such as banana snacks and kadhi dress material, and is selling these products to large outlets like Big Bazaar.