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A Simple Idea and a Lot of Passion - How a Young Indian Entrepreneur Drives Change

Due to my entrepreneurial activities, I have been privileged to meet many interesting people from all over the world in the last couple of months. Through the intercultural exchange, I have already learned a lot more than a class at business school could ever teach me. I recently had the chance to spend a couple of days with a 21-year-old guy from India who completely changed my mind about what’s really important in life. Until then my biggest concerns where about whether or not the WiFi on my $39 domestic flight would work or not. This is something I would now consider a typical first world problem, something not worth putting my energy into. This young man demonstrated what it really means to invest all of one's energy in something one believes in.

I honestly didn’t know a lot about his country before I met him. Unfortunately, I have never made it to India and probably most of what I know about it was adapted from the movie Slumdog Millionaire, which according to him sadly delivered a very negative image of the Indian people to the world. The things I knew were limited to the large gap between rich and poor tiers of the population, and millions of Indians living in slums at the doorstep of the megacities like Mumbai and Delhi. But from him I learned about an issue that I have never put much thought into before: One of the biggest problems in many developing countries happens to be the lack of proper footwear. In India alone around 30 million people do not own shoes and need to walk through the streets and agricultural fields bare feet. The reason for that is not only the money, but also on the insufficient knowledge about the importance of wearing shoes. Most parts of the India are dominated by a warm climate all year long, which further worsens the situation with the bruised feet becoming an easy opening for infections like Elephentiasis, Tungiasis and Hookwork. I learned that according to the World Health Organization, 1.5 Billion people are currently suffering from diseases that could be prevented by wearing proper footwear.[1] Being aware of this problem, he founded a company that collects discarded shoes and uses the soles to manufacture simple sandals and thus is appropriately named “GreenSole”. The company provides these to the needy through corporate sponsorships and also sells recycled footwear in the market. GreenSole also trains the laborers, and educates people about the importance of wearing footwear and the possible consequences of foot infections.
When I learned about all this, I was particularly overwhelmed by the commitment that this young guy put into his work. Being only 21 he is totally rational and professional about everything that is related to the business. In the time we spent together, he always got up an hour earlier and went to bed an hour later than I did, in order to take care of the business. While studying in the U.S., he leads his team of 5 managers in marketing and supply chain back in India in his spare time. But instead of complaining about it, he even plans to expand his business to other countries such as Africa, and prepares himself for several competitions and conventions (including a talk for TEDx in Dubai).

I am really glad that people like him exist and that they make us pay attention to the really important issues in this world. To encounter with him once again showed me that entrepreneurs, much more than governments, have the opportunity to change the world through the way they identify problems, find solutions and translate them into actions. And we all have a chance to support entrepreneurs like this by sharing their stories and helping them to get people's attention for the problems they are trying to solve.

Social Entrepreneurship, India, Greensole, charity