I am just a 23-year-old person pursuing my master's in business management from IIM Kozhikode. I still have a year left before I can call myself an MBA. Till now, I haven't worked in a corporate environment for even a single year. So there are millions and trillions of things left for me to see and experience in the coming years. But, the one thing I can tell you today is how these last 23 years of my life have been and how I came to found my social enterprise, CodeBinary Initiatives.
I would like to start with a question: Have you at any point in time felt that maybe if you had done a small act of kindness, you could have saved a life or saved a person from going into the well of darkness?
The reason I am asking this question is that, from what I have seen in this world, I have realised that each one of us has some regrets. We still think that at some point in time we could have done something different or better but didn't. It might be possible that the situation was not in our hands. But when things got better, did we act on it?
If the answer is yes, then congratulations! You have been socially responsible at some point in your life. But I know that for a majority of people, the answer would be "no". If most of us had answered "yes," then the world would have been a better place – comparatively, a better place than what we see today.
My topic is "Individual Social Responsibility" (ISR). This term is quite different from the term "corporate social responsibility" (CSR). In ISR, we deal with things like doing an act of kindness for those close to us – our fathers, mothers, daughters, sons, grandparents, teachers, professors, anyone. If you have done something for them, then you are socially responsible.
But if you haven't and you seek to learn, then let me tell
you that I cannot teach you.
I cannot teach you how to be responsible. To be very honest, no one can. Even your parents, grandparents, teachers, or professors can only tell you what it is that you must do. But acting upon these things depends on you. So I am not going to teach you to be individually socially responsible. I am not going to tell you what to do because I cannot force responsibility on you. For me, responsibility is something you voluntarily take up as a commitment or as a mission and you fulfil it. It is something that becomes the objective of your life at some point.
Today, I am going to give you several instances from my life where others showed social responsibility towards me. I also want to tell you how, when I got some sort of independence, I decided to reflect upon that and help people in the same way.
First, a little information on my background. I was born in the foothills of Nepal. I started my pre-elementary education at a boarding school in Nepal, and then I moved to Delhi with my parents in 2004 and completed the rest of my schooling in Delhi. I completed my Bachelor's degree from Jammu and Kashmir and I am currently doing my post-graduation from Kerala. I've been to many places. I have seen 23 states in India and a few other countries as well. But the question is, what did I gain from all this travel?
Sometimes, when we talk about a problem, we say, "India mai to aise hi hota hai." But problems happen all over the world. Crimes like sexual harassment, acid attacks, rape, human trafficking, robbery, etc. happen everywhere. Even in India, we can't just pick one state where safety or crime is an issue. Incidents may be on a larger scale in most cases, but they still occur everywhere. The world is unsafe because I feel that people might not have considered their social responsibility at some point in time.
The first time someone showed social responsibility towards me was when I was in Standard 11. The school was in Dwarka, Sector 9. I have two older brothers, and both took computer science as an extra subject during their 11th and 12th. I followed in their footsteps, but I never scored well. The tests used to be of 30-40 marks, and I used to score only one-digit scores, like 7 or 8. It caused me to feel pathetic for not understanding the dynamics of a computer and computer languages like C and C++. After completing half of standard 11, I decided to drop the subject and take up physical education instead. There was this notion that people scored well in physical education. My computer science teacher, Mrs. Neelam, came to know from someone that I was going to quit her subject.
One day, I was walking to the principal's office to talk about the subject change, and when I entered the office, I saw Mrs Neelam sitting there. She let me enter and told me, in front of the principal, "If you can't understand this subject, it doesn't mean that you have to run from it. Today, you have the option to quit the subject and take up something else. But, life is not going to give you the option to quit. What that teacher did to me was social responsibility – a responsibility towards a student to guide him, to mentor him, and to show him the correct path. Today, I am a Computer Science graduate, and I can confidently say I am good at it because I worked with several startups, institutions, and NGOs across the world on web-based projects. To this day, I still remember Mrs Neelam's life-changing words.
The second instance is something quite personal. There are problems in every household, but how you deal with those problems is your decision. When my family separated, I chose to live with my Dad. Why I chose to live with my father and fulfil his dreams is a different story, but to summarize, when I was in 11th and 12th grade, I used to fight with him and always thought he was the bad guy in the family. But, a day came when I had to hug him and tell him, "Dad, you are right. I was in the darkest period of my life when I considered you were wrong. I don't see myself as a good son, and it's very hard to say that here”. These are things that are very close to my heart. My devotion to him and the need to fulfil his dreams is my small act of social responsibility towards my father.
In these 23 years, I've met two women. One of these women, unfortunately, is no more, and I want to tell you why. When she was married, she was gang-raped by her husband and a couple of his friends. After the incident, she remained silent and didn't tell anyone about it. Later, an acid attack by the same people killed her. It was a shocking thing for me. What made me feel pathetic was that I couldn't do anything, even if I wanted to.
The second woman is a survivor of sexual harassment. When I came to know what had happened to her, I felt helpless. I had this regret again in my mind—"Why couldn't I do anything?"
To the people who are listening to this, it might be possible that in your lives too there was some incident for which I now want to ask – "Do you think that you are capable of handling such incidents today and do you think that you can act on them?" If you couldn't save a person's life at any given point in time, do you think that you can save others today who have gone through some kind of trauma or depression?
CodeBinary Initiatives as an organisation were founded with this motive – to help people. Firstly, this organisation does not have a million-dollar idea; it does not have a good business model. This company, in short, is first about helping people and, secondarily, about helping people to help other people. In this organization, we incubate NGOs and startups that are focused on dealing with social development-related problems. It was out of a sense of individual social responsibility that I felt, being independent, that I could do something.
CodeBinary was founded two years ago, and since then we have helped around 50,000 people and 20,000 families. We have provided internship experience to 10,000 students, and currently, we have a team of 200+ like-minded individuals. You will be shocked to know that our work is unpaid. Since CodeBinary is a social enterprise, whatever we earn is given to society. We invest and we donate. This is our social responsibility.
What is the main question that I learned from those two women? What is my act of social responsibility towards them? Apart from this organization, I am currently working on a project called Kahaani. This project aims to create a forum for people in which psychiatrists, doctors, counsellors, influencers, and lawyers can contribute to the recovery of survivors of heinous crimes regardless of their gender, age, caste, colour, etc. Kahaani is the network that works towards the mentoring and healing of these people.
Finally, I just want to say that all of us have to realise that at some point in our lives, we have to do something for someone. Starting today, being socially responsible would be the best way to make up for all those regrets.