Rikin Gandhi, 29, CEO, Digital Green
An aerospace engineer from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a licenced private pilot, who was accepted to the US Air Force, he now finds himself a hero among the farmers in India. Moved to see that most of them have little access to better farming techniques, Gandhi, who is based in Delhi, decided to use his handycam as a tool for social networking. The method was simple: the farmers record their problems, solutions and success stories and the Bangalore-based Digital Green, an NGO headed by Gandhi, ensures these videos reach those who need them most. Although video has been tried many times in agriculture extension before, the Digital Green system differs from previous work by using cost-realistic technologies, like pocket video cameras and pico projectors. “We keep the videos localised in terms of language, socio-economic background of the audience,” Gandhi says. Digital Green, which received a $3-million grant for three years from the Gates Foundation, has covered over 300 villages and aided over 17,000 farmers in Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
The Journey: Born and raised in the US, he “reverse-migrated” to India to help start a bio-diesel venture in Maharashtra, which later failed. “He is a rare person who is using his knowledge and skill to improve the human condition,” says Magsaysay Award-winner Deep Joshi.
The Mission: To expand to 200 villages in the next six months, 400 additional villages in a year, and 600 more in the next 18 months.
The Challenge: To ensure that extension officers and field staff are visiting remote locations.
The Muse: Astronauts “who are the perfect blend of brains and brawn.”
The Mentors: Farmers in India. “They do the hard work to give India the second highest farm output in the world.”
Ajjay Agarwal, 33, Chairman and Managing Director, Maxx Mobiles
He dropped out of Class IX from Mumbai’s Children’s Academy and joined his father’s electronics trading business. The boy who took pride in being quick at calculations, delved deep into duties, taxes, commissions and profit margins in no time. Today, Ajjay Agarwal heads the country’s fifth largest mobile phone brand. From a Rs 5-lakh start-up in 2004, it is now a staggering Rs 920-crore company, selling four lakh mobile phones per month. Over the next two years, the company will invest Rs 2,500 crore to boost manufacturing. This year, he got a $20-million investment from Singapore-based Star Holdings (Asia).
|The Mission: To become the No. 1 Indian mobile phone brand in the country in the next 18 months.|
The Journey: He set up his own import business in 1992. In 1997, he switched to importing mobile accessories from China and then started manufacturing them in India in 2004. Four years later, he entered the market of mobile phone manufacturing.
The Mentor: “I learn from what I do and see. I am my own mentor.”
|“Agarwal is an aggressive man who can work round the clock and cares more about product quality than the price. He has successfully built up a local distribution network.”
Lee Chak Lau, Director, Star Holdings
|Gyanesh Pandey, 33, CEO and Co-founder, Husk Power System
It was the desire to work in the village that brought Gyanesh Pandey, an electrical engineer from Banaras Hindu University (BHU), to Bihar from Los Angeles where he was working as a senior yield enhancement engineer with a company called International Rectifier. Pandey established Husk Power System (HPS), which uses rice husk to generate electricity, with Manoj Sinha and Ratnesh Yadav who were looking for a technology to fit their model for six years. Sinha is an electronics engineer, who is now based in the US while Yadav is involved at the ground level with Pandey. Today, HPS supplies eight to 10 hours of power to 18,500 households in some of the off-grid villages, where the state-run electricity board doesn’t reach. Over 1.5 lakh rural Indians benefit from this and around 250 people are employed. Sudhir K. Singh, director, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, says, “He is a rare mix of commitment, vision and management skills.”
The Mission To make villages in India livable. Their NGO, Samta Samriddhi Foundation, supports the education of over 250 children at Tamkuha. They also employ women to make incense sticks using plant byproduct.The Challenge To find sustainable technology to achieve rural growth. “Managing people at ground level is tough. We have created a paradigm. We have to now sustain it.”
Rujuta Diwekar, 32, Sports Nutritionist
She’s the sports nutritionist behind Kareena Kapoor’s size zero figure. She’s also the fitness specialist who made books fashionable for those who can’t read without moving their lips. Rujuta Diwekar helps the rich and famous lose weight and gain confidence. Her first book, Don’t Lose Your Mind, Lose Your Weight, sold over two lakh copies and earned her a loyal following beyond the celebrity stratosphere. “Slimming is not about cutting calories, but improving nourishment, body composition and taking a holistic approach to health. Weight loss is a byproduct, not the goal,” says Diwekar. As fitness expert Leena Mogre says, she always knew what she wanted. “That’s the reason behind her success.”
The Journey: Born to an engineer father and a professor mother, Diwekar chose to go against the grain, unlike her sister who is an IIM graduate. After post-graduation in sports science and nutrition from SNDT College in Mumbai, she set up her own gym in 1999. She’s all set to expand the Diwekar franchise with her second book on women and weight loss.
The Chill Out Zone: Spends two months every year in the Himalayas or the US. Also did a teacher course from the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Academy, Uttarkashi.
The Muse: Her grandmother and mother for their healthy lifestyles. Anil Ambani for his discipline and Kareena for her work ethic.