Paul’s Call

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CHATLINE Social entrepreneur Paul Basil talks to ANUSHA PARTHASARATHY on how his initiative Villgro has helped touch the lives of the rural poor

There is only one question that keeps popping up as the answer to Paul Basil’s many achievements. He founded Villgro, which encourages enterprises that can solve rural problems, has incubated 64 innovations, organised unconventions, offers fellowships and courses on social entrepreneurship and has helped touch five million lives. As he explains, Paul asks that question one more time; “Why are people poor?”

Sadness, concern, worry, hope, happiness, pain, frustration — Paul feels a gamut of emotions at a time, especially as a social entrepreneur. “I didn’t like that some people could grow and create a life while others couldn’t,” he says. And so, as he grew up in Kerala, he couldn’t make up his mind on what he wanted to become. “It was always there at the back of my mind. I studied mechanical engineering but didn’t like it. I had met some people in college who introduced me to the term ‘rural management’ and I was absolutely fascinated.”

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 then in a village near Kolar, Paul learnt the problems of the poor.

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