Courage leads to Curcumeal
Visually challenged Geetha Saleesh from Thrissur was not a good cook, but after marriage, she not only became an expert at cooking but also began a restaurant as well as her own food business. She accomplished this by never compromising on the quality of her products.
Her brand, Geetha’s Home to Home, sells quail egg pickles, ghee, virgin coconut oil, and an immunity booster potion called Manjal Varagiyathu, made primarily of turmeric, which can be consumed by anyone irrespective of their age. She learned how to make this potion from her husband’s sister years ago. Her husband too believed it had the potential to succeed, so she started this venture. She studied turmeric deeply and understood how beneficial it is in many areas, especially in boosting one’s immunity.
Geetha used to run a restaurant, ‘Flora’, which used to sell a line of healthy juices and foods. Since she knew that health was important for all, she stuck to this path as her life’s mission. Combining turmeric, dates, almond, coconut milk, jaggery, and spices, her product Curcumeal was developed after years of research. This ingenious product now has takers all across the country, with orders pouring in from states as far as Kashmir.
Her challenge involved getting pure turmeric, pepper, and cinnamon, which she and her husband solved with guidance from the Indian Institute of Spices Research (IISR) in Kerala. They now procure Prathibha turmeric (which provide 6.2 per cent curcumin) by travelling all around Kerala and are now in the process of growing Pratibha turmeric themselves as this would reduce their travel and ensure its quality. Due to their focus on quality, they may even get licensed by the IISR soon.
She wishes to make her brand a large-scale business and is working towards her goal. She also wishes to employ more differently-abled people to make them financially independent. “If you have an idea, do not wait for the ‘right time,’ ” she says, urging people not to delay pursuing their dreams. She is indeed an example of courage and determination.
Team Everest scales new heights
Many of us keep thinking about how to proceed to help others. However, some like Karthee Vidya just begin doing this, and the Universe comes to their aid.
Karthee was born and brought up in Arni, a small town in Tiruvannamalai district in Tamil Nadu, India. He did his 7th to 10th standard from a school in a rural area, where he came across many students from a financially poor background. He still recollects one of his friends who had struggled to get even a Rs.25 long-size notebook.
In the 10th standard, since he scored good marks, his mother borrowed money and put him in one of the top10 private schools in Chennai. He could see a stark difference between rural and urban areas there. He found that many of his new school friends were from well-to-do families, which was a complete contrast to the kind of people he met in his old rural school. Also, the quality of education he received in the new school was a100 times better than what he had obtained in his village. The fact that only privileged children can get the best education broke his heart. It made him think about what to do next.
In 2002, he joined Metallurgy Engineering in Salem. During his four years of college, he volunteered to help locally in old age homes and orphanages. In his final year in 2006, he was recruited on campus by Cognizant Technology Solutions (CTS), an IT company. He decided to give part of his salary to educate children. He also reached out to three of his friends and raised Rs 4000. They went to a village in Tamil Nadu together. There they identified children who came from financially poor backgrounds and gave them uniforms, notebooks, and dictionaries.
This is how Team Everest began. During the initial days, he managed both his office and Team Everest work. To balance both, he spent his before-and-after office hours and weekends volunteering. Precisely after 100 months, on December 31, 2014, he quit Cognizant to take up volunteering full-time.
He had joined Cognizant as a java developer, and after 15 months, he moved into Cognizant’s CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) team. His team, led by him, made nearly 40,000 employees volunteer.
As he could make that many employees volunteer in his company, he felt he could surely motivate many more people to volunteer in other companies as well. To follow his passion, he quit his corporate job and gradually started building a team.
Today, Team Everest has around 25 full-time employees and 25,000 active volunteers working towards the dream of making everyone volunteer. It is helping 40,000 children every year in Tamil Nadu, Pune, and Bangalore, with volunteers from all over the world.
Towards a greener, cleaner India
When Dr Francin Pinto, the chairperson of the NGO, Garbage Concern Welfare Society, began understanding that landfilling and lack of public and government participation was a major source of pollution in 2005, takers for waste management solutions were rare. However, as companies started aiming to adopt greener options and Corporate Social Responsibility policy was becoming mandatory, the NGO’s expertise in waste audits and their solutions began to gain traction.
These companies worked at the grassroots under the NGO, which made on-site innovation possible. They also looked at the problem holistically, which again became their USP. They were amongst the few companies and NGOs dedicated to waste management listed in Justdial and IndiaMART, with a pan-India presence, which gave them an advantage.
Finally, the Supreme Court verdict in 2017 regarding compulsory at-source segregation for those producing over 50 kg waste per day became a game changer, which created many inquiries for their expertise. They are providing Rent-a-Waste management, which has led them to give service to 10,000 plus flats in Mumbai and consultancy cum installation to over 45 corporates, diverting 85 per cent of waste from landfill, i.e., about 11 lakh tons, resulting in 1.1 lakh tons of compost since 2005 and livelihood for over 100 plus people.
Dr Francin completed her PhD in Sustainable Development in 2007, winning the Woman Entrepreneur Award three times in 2012, 2013, and 2015. Additionally, the graduation of their start-up business trainees on October 30, 2021, was extremely rewarding to her as they were working in an ethical area. When her Zero Waste Project for Mumbai was tabled at the Asian Development Waste management, zero discharge policy at source became mandatory at all levels of society, be it residential colonies, corporates, government infrastructure, SEZ, industrial zones, malls, airports, and so on, with minimum emphasis on landfilling. She was thrilled.
She and her team wish to train one lakh green entrepreneurs by 2030 under their start-up green business and create urban-rural linkages which ensure that urban waste converted into compost regenerates wastelands and drought-prone areas in rural India, with over 15000 sq. km of such land restored by 2025. They have partners across 17 states through various partner NGOs and CSRs. With such passion, they are sure to succeed in creating more green warriors working towards a greener world.
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