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This Social Entrepreneur is Transforming Rural Lives He began his entrepreneurial journey tobringing prosperity to the lives of rural people through his financially viable business models.

By Sunil Pol

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Entrepreneur India

"Changing lives with small interventions"

Passionately carrying forward his father's vision of rural development and "bottom-up approach' as the key to the country's development, this social entrepreneur Arun Nagpal, Co-founder, Mrida is creating transformational impact on the lives of the rural people with his small interventions.

The degree holder in Mechanical Engineering and a PGDM in Marketing & Finance this and having around 30 years of work experience incorporates, Arun Nagpal founded Mrida with Manoj Khanna and Gurveen Kaur Sood in February 2014. He began his entrepreneurial journey by bringing prosperity to the lives of rural people through his financially viable business models.

These models provide energy access to remote rural villages under Mrida Renergy & Development (P) Ltd, supports cultivation and collection of high value crops, plants and herbs, promotes healthy products and traditional Indian medicine to the consumer under Mrida Greens & Organics Pvt. The Group companies also showcase the tangible benefits and impact of small interventions at the Base of the Pyramid, while providing an opportunity to understand the ground realities of rural India in a relaxed, get-away environment.

"More than 200 million people in India lack access to energy today, and depend primarily on kerosene for their lighting requirement. Energy access is known to be a tool for development – key development initiatives such as education, livelihoods, women's empowerment, and so on can be facilitated using energy access. Being a predominantly agrarian economy, it is unlikely that holistic development of rural India can become a reality without involvement in agriculture", said Arun Nagpal.

While having long working experience in corporate and earning a good salary it was not easy for him to take a leap into social entrepreneurship devoted to rural development without a strong family support.

"For the family or for me, taking the plunge from the highest rungs of the corporate world to the "world of Mrida' was not easy culturally and emotionally from a work and financial security. My family readily went along with that decision, and provided all the support", expressed Arun Nagpal.

With desired interventions the company initially started with 2 Villages, 4 Micro Grids, 19 Solar LED Street Lights, one "e-hub' (a solar powered initiative combining education, entertainment and e-commerce) and one battery operated "e-rickshaw'. In 2016-17, Mahindra & Mahindra together with Mrida scaled this up to cover 11 villages, 18 solar micro grids, 2 e-hubs and 3 e-rickshaws, and also added health/hygiene/sanitation and agri interventions as development tools.

Presently, Mrida is a self funded organization with a total investment of about of Rs 4 cr. The investment is primarily made in covering plants and herb extraction facility in Umbergaon in Gujarat, in manpower, infrastructure, product and business development, test marketing, and funding of operational losses.

The new Companies Act, mandating investments in CSR by Corporates has helped a great deal. Thus, the company has partnered with leading business houses in India like Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services Ltd. (IL&FS), Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd., Hero Motors Group (AG Industries, Rockman Industries) and The Reliance Foundation for integrated Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives. These have so far been implemented across multiple villages and hamlets spread across UP, MP and Uttarakhand, with further interventions in states like Rajasthan, Jammu & Kashmir, Bihar, Jharkhand and Orissa under active consideration.

While further aiming high Arun Nagpal says, "We are working on the concept and principle of "50-500-5000'. What this means is that we intend to complete 50 interventions, or "proofs of concept' on the ground by the end of this year. In the next 2 years we intend to carry the Mrida engagement to 500+ interventions across the country, and scale this up further to more than 5000 interventions in the 2 years following thereafter."

Hence,to fulfill his vision the entrepreneur is also planning to soon approach social impact investors, PE or VC funding agencies and multilateral agencies for funding. We would be open to divesting a stake in Mrida, to bring in capital and funding for scaling up and growth to the next level, apart from management inputs", divulged Arun Nagpal.

Headquartered in Delhi,the company is operating with the total strength of 27 employees the company's revenue for fiscal 2015-16 was of Rs 2 cr which is projected to grow to Rs 5 cr during 2016-17.

Sunil Pol

Correspondent, Entrepreneur India

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