Beating all odds
Krishna Thiruvengadam or KT, as he is popularly known, has carved a an entirely different niche for himself
Not being good at a c a d e m i c s and getting bullied at school can tax anyone’s selfconfidence. Add to that a prominent dark patch of pigmentation across the right eye and an occasional stutter. Plus, throw in great precedents like a business owner father, an IAS mother, and a sister with a well set career in the civil services. The recipe has enough ingredients to cook the broth of failure, right? Wrong. Young Krishna Thiruvengadam, all of twentyfour, is as much an inspiration as an inspirer. This Chennai-born Mechanical Engineering (SRM University) graduate, known as KT to his friends, had always been fired to tread the unbeaten path. While in college he did an internship with National Innovation Foundation (NIF) in its R&D wing. “The internship was aimed at developing grassroots innovations and preparing them for manufacturing,” he recalls. Inundated with innovative ideas submitted by children from across the country as entries to IGNITE National Innovation Awards he came to realize the extent to which children are capable of resolving complex issues with simple solutions being divested of mental conditioning and unnecessary baggage.
Upon graduating KT was awarded the State Bank of India’s prestigious Youth for India (YFI) fellowship, a remarkable achievement given the latter’s less than two percent acceptance rate. The fellowship set him on the path to becoming a change-maker in rural India. “Of course, that meant forgoing the dream job I had landed in Holland in a design firm,” he smiles.
His family, predictably, was a little loath to let him tread a path so unknown and risky. But his persistence paid off as his project started showing signs of success and earned publicity in newspapers and magazines. His parents were now convinced that he was doing some good work. “My friends remained a constant source of support, next to my family, through my social service trajectory filled with highs and lows,” he recalls with a grateful sigh.
Fresh from his NIF experience he was inspired to float his d-Hive Rural Design Studio in Lobhi, a Gond dominated village in the Tumsar taluka of Bhandara district in Maharashtra. The objective was to enable rural children and the youth to generate ideas (à la NIF) while designing solutions tailored to their local issues.
The results, needless to say, have been inspiring. Included among several innovations are a hybrid smokeless chulha, a fire wood carrier and a pedalpowered washing machine, with many more in the pipeline. The air in this hitherto sleepy village is buzzing with optimism and energy. Evidence exists with attendance having soared at the ZP School in Lobhi.
So, what’s next?
Taking one step at a time KT is now looking to pursuing a Masters degree abroad in the area of product design to develop products and enrich the lives of the underprivileged. His dream is to become a social entrepreneur who, in his words, “designs solutions for social impact as opposed to serving a consumerist society…”
His d-Hive Rural Design Studio in Lobhi has inspired quite a few takers. Already, one school in Nagapattinam, a few schools in Chennai, and officials of Jawhar block (in the Nashik district of Maharashtra) have expressed interest in his project.
Deeply motivated KT now wants to replicate the model country-wide. It is a bold idea alright. But then, haven’t all bold and “mad” ideas initiated in the head of some maverick?
By: Meher Gadekar (PRM 6)
Director, Social Audit Unit of the Government of Chhattisgarh