Engines can be sexy

In fundraising school, they teach us "when you're trying to sell a car, don't talk about the engine, talk about the features." How that translates to nonprofit work is that we like to talk about the end client or the end beneficiary. And that's right. That is why we do this.

 Amit Deep Kumar of KhanaGaDi

Amit Deep Kumar of KhanaGaDi

I have just spent four remarkable days sitting with the engines of our program. And I can't not talk about them. The eight entrepreneurs going through our accelerator program are the engine behind job creation. Because of them, poor people not only have jobs, they have reliable jobs. They are protected from capricious employers. They are offered a chance to improve their skills and earn more money. Their previously uncertain existence is now anchored by connection to formal networks in the formal economy in a way that allows them to plan their lives. These entrepreneurs are making it so.

And it's not easy. One entrepreneur in our cohort has built an app that connects domestic workers with employers seamlessly, allowing the worker to bypass the traditional security guard or other barrier to apply for a job. To build this app however, she is competing for engineering staff with all of the other tech startups in India. But she got it done. 

Another entrepreneur, dismayed by the wrenching conditions of rickshaw pullers, launched a business several years ago to enable them to own their own vehicles and pull themselves out of poverty. But he's not done. He is now building a new business to enable these rickshaw drivers to move into solar battery-powered rickshaws that are better for the driver's health and the environment.

 Siddarth Hande of Kabbadiwalla Connect working on his projections

Siddarth Hande of Kabbadiwalla Connect working on his projections

Every one of these entrepreneurs could be working in other industries, making more money. Instead, they are pouring their lives and their energies into improving the lives of others. These "engines" of Upaya's program are the reason I am optimistic about the impact we can have. It is important to always think about the beneficiary we're trying to affect but the real heroes of our work are the entrepreneurs who daily chip away at the status quo to reshape the world. It's genuinely an honor to know them.