Certain incidents happen in our lives that leave an indelible mark on our minds and make us all the more aware of our existence. They come in moments and act us wake-up calls. But, while many prefer to remain unfazed and carry on with their self-centred lives, Rajiv Uttamchandani could not. He felt the need to take charge and change his life on several occasions and each such moment has a marked contribution on making him what he is now.
This probably also explains why he has so many titles to his name — astrophysicist, social entrepreneur, keynote speaker, each of which he uses to contribute for the greater good.
Turning Into A Social Entrepreneur
The 2012 Nirbhaya case had triggered massive protest marches and demonstrations all over the country. When astrophysicist Uttamchandani read those reports, something in him changed. “It bothered me at a personal level and I knew I had to do something. That’s when someone told me, ‘focus on the solution and not the problem’. I took it seriously and started addressing violence against women and children, but with the help of science and technology,” he said.
He shared some startling facts with the Entrepreneur India.
“An estimated 92 women are raped every day in India”
“Every eight minutes a child is sold into human trafficking”
“There are over 14 million slaves in India today”
“44.5 per cent girls are married before the age of 18”
Source: UN, Human Rights Watch, India national Crime Records Beureau.
Founding The International STEM Society for Human Rights
Uttamchandani founded a not for profit organization, International STEM Society for Human Rights, and developed a smartphone application titled H.E.R. (Humanity Education & Rights) rescue.
“We launched the app in India in 2016 and we are now in talks with the US department of Justice and Philippines national police to launch it there as well,” he said and added, “It’s an alert system that one can use when he/she is in danger. In the phase II of the application, we plan to make the app voice activated. So, when in danger, one can just shout a code word which will activate a video and audio recording and send your GPS codes to the police.”
Currently, the app is gesture-enabled where one can shake their phone, press power button thrice to trigger an alert. “We want to make one product that’s truly international,” he added.
Making Profits For The Not-for-profit
Working on the not-for-profit organization, Uttamchandani soon realized that investing his own funds would not be enough and started three official corporations – H.E.R conference (a conference aimed at social entrepreneurship, which also advises SMEs to contribute more to the society), H.E.R clubs (a project which involves schools, through which they hope human rights education becomes a part of school curriculums) and H.E.R journal (an e-journal).
By June, he will be launching H.E.R Apparel. “It’s an organic hemp-based clothing line, making it a better alternative to cotton. It’s also a gender neutral line, for we want to stand for human rights. So, even men can wear t-shirts that state “HER” to show their support for women’s rights,” he explained.
A Word For Social Entrepreneurs
Having been involved in social entrepreneurship for so long, Rajiv has lots of advice for others. “If you have a social cause that you are attached to and you are genuine about it, you will always get help. I have had so much support and people are willing to volunteer because they believe in the cause. The happiness you get from doing something good for another human being is the biggest reward. Always remember, it’s not a one man show,” he concluded.
From A wrestler To An Astrophysicist
Born in Philippines and having moved to Hong Kong when he was 10, Uttamchandani had nurtured one wish in his formative years, between 13 and 21 years of age — to be a professional wrestler and relocate to the US to pursue his dreams.
“I actually used to dress like Stone Cold Steve Austin and was insistent on going to the US to become a wrestler. My parents had one condition – that I had to go college. It was then that my brother suggested that I should study astrophysics. It happened just like that and when I actually pursued astrophysics, I fell in love with astronomy. I was very intrigued by the universe. Now, even if I don’t do active research in astronomy, I have spent the last seven years teaching in colleges.”