Goonj.. in india perspective


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GOONJ.. is featured in India Perspectives, the magazine of Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Govt. of India.

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Goonj.. in india perspective

  1. 1. INDIA TOMORROW ‹SOCIAL ENTREPRENEUR ANSHU GUPTAThe MaterialManTEXT: SWATI BHASINA social innovator takes on the charge a streamlined movement. Gupta, a strapping forty year- old with the build of a basketball player, is at the hubof clothing the needy of a collection centre-cum-office-cum-recycling unit in Delhi’s trendy Sarita Vihar. In a very functional officeI t was while Anshu Gupta was on a freelance where the walls are decorated with precious awards, assignment with the Deccan Chronicle on a bitterly charts showing schedules, goals, Gupta and a team of cold winter night in Old Delhi that he realised how five, along with 300 volunteers, collects, coordinates PHOTO: PUNEET SINGH extremely privileged he was. He stumbled upon a and dispatches clothes. From the 67 items that Guptabarely clad man trying to keep the cold away with liquor. initially picked out of his own wardrobe Goonj presentlyIt was a troubling narrative. But for the twentysomething provides 70,000 kgs of clothes, utencils, schoolGupta those images gave an insight into the importance material and old furniture every month to various partsof clothing: the lack of which could lead to death; the of India. Helped by 250 partner groups Goonj’spresence of which was a road to dignity. Not long collection centres operate in seven cities distributing to I never followed any conventions; I didn’tafterwards, leaving a job with a blue chip company, Gupta 21 states. Looking back, Gupta says: “I never followedset up Goonj (literally echo) devoting his life to collecting any conventions. I didn’t know anybody who could know anybody who could guide me. I madeclothes contributed by the advantaged and distributingthem to those in need. guide me. I made my own rules for approaching people, giving presentations and fundraising.” my own rules for approaching people, From a niggling idea that thought has now become It was unchartered territory for this powerful giving presentations and fundraising.46 INDIA PERSPECTIVES u JULYAUGUST 2011 JULYAUGUST 2011 u INDIA PERSPECTIVES 47
  2. 2. ‹ entrepreneur but the results have been satisfying. The collectively construct bore wells, bridges and repair size and the scope of the operation have grown damaged roads in exchange for value-added clothes. dramatically. Contributed clothes are divided according Similar guidelines are also developed when toys and to gender, age, size and other demographic and books are being distributed to children. geographic needs. And the art of giving has extended The core philosophy of Goonj lies in not wasting beyond clothes to toys, books for children, electronic anything that is contributed. If it is not worthy of gadgets and office furniture. A separate unit is distribution it is all transformed creatively by untrained dedicated to making sanitary napkins for rural hands: audio tapes are used to decorate handbags, women from sun-dried cotton cloth filled with unused colourful stress balls are made from swatches, mats and material donated by export houses. Five units are mattresses from waste material are some of the items packed together and sold from `1 to ` 5 depending on sold in fund-raising camps or distributed in villages. the spending capacity of the women in the Innovation and strategising has been a key element PHOTO: PUNEET SINGH villages. Presently, Goonj produces around 200,000 of Gupta’s thinking. From an empty till, Goonj today napkins every month for distribution to the rural has a turnover of around ` 40 million: around 50 hinterland. Additionally, meetings are held to educate percent comes from individual contributions, the village women on hygiene and destroy myths rest from the sale of products. “People invest their about menstruation. money and they get happiness in return, he says. Gupta never intended Goonj to be an organisation It’s a trade-off which that has worked well which is that pitied the deprived. Respecting the dignity of the why Gupta prefers to call himself a social entrepreneur I really do not believe in charity. That is needy has been his mantra. That’s the reason why the instead of a social worker because he knows he has to projects and schemes being put in place ehance the generate enough money in order to meet the basic why we have to change our thinking from receiver’s self-worth. The organisation’s Cloth for Work requirements of logistics — staffing and transportation. donor’s pride to receiver’s dignity. initiative, for instance, ensures that clothes collected for “I really do not believe in charity. That is why,” says this villagers are not distributed gratis. The villagers need to iconic entrepreneur-activist, “we have to change our ‘earn’ the clothes just like wages. In the remote areas thinking from donor’s pride to receiver’s dignity.” n of Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Orissa typically villagers More on Anshu Gupta at www.goonj.org48 INDIA PERSPECTIVES u JULYAUGUST 2011 JULYAUGUST 2011 u INDIA PERSPECTIVES 49