Student Media Body of IIT Kgp


Know Your Entrepreneur #9

Posted on Dec 11, 2017

Nancy Charaya, Co-founder at Anthill Creations

Entrepreneurial uncertainties ignite the brilliant young minds to take risks and try to succeed in tackling them. Awaaz, IIT Kharagpur salutes the never-say-die attitude of these torch-bearers of change and tries to bring to light their success stories. For the 9th edition into this effort, we happened to get an opportunity to talk with Nancy Charaya, the COO of Anthill Creations, one of the eight early-stage non-profit startups selected for an 18-month incubation programme by the NS Raghavan Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning (NSRCEL) at the prestigious Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Bangalore. Anthill Creations is a voyage that began on July 1st, 2014, set sail by the brainchild of a group of students - Nancy Charaya (ex-Chief Editor, Awaaz), Pooja Rai, Nupur Agrawal, Souradeep Paul and Vishesh Gupta - from the Department of Architecture and Regional Planning, IIT Kharagpur, who have, now, become the Alumni of this prestigious institute.

We talked upon many facets as to what Anthill Creations tries achieve and how they plan to handle the uncertainties that fall in their path.

Nancy Charaya

Q1. What is the importance of a playground for children, and how do playgrounds help in the development of the children?

Nancy: Playing, as an act, is very important for children so as to be able to develop themselves on co-operative, social and physical fronts. Study by world-panning institution United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), has shown explicitly that if a child doesn’t get to play sufficiently in their early ages, he/she tends to be more depressed in his/her later years. Playgrounds we believe, therefore, are the solutions to these problems in developing the social and cooperative aspects of a child, which can’t be taught in classrooms. However, activities of specific nature are needed to be promoted towards this goal. We tried to develop activities which inculcate creative thinking among the children, so as to let their imagination grow, instead of playing based on procedural lines. Now they would be able to play the same games in a number of imaginative ways and develop themselves at various levels.

Q2. According to Anthill how many playgrounds would be necessary to achieve this goal, considering the scenario that we face in India?

Nancy: Schools are places which contribute greatly to the development of a child and, as in our beliefs, playgrounds occupy the same niche, if not higher, when the overall development is concerned. Hence, it seems logical to have at least the same number of playgrounds as the number of schools in India, whereby each school should have at least one ground for the children to play. Talking about the numbers, since India has about a million schools, about a million playgrounds would be necessary.

Q3. What propelled you to set up the foundations of Anthill Creations?

Nancy: Back in Kharagpur, we initiated by building our first playground at the Disha Seema Care Centre. The children there, earlier, used to play with anything they could get, be it stones, sticks or anything else. As students of Architecture, we thought of doing something for them and this motivated us towards the initiative. We felt that they deserved better and decided to take it as our project as architects to help them in this. We soon realised the situation to be worse than this - about 95% of the schools didn’t have playgrounds at all; a huge number indeed. We took it under our prime concern to dig deep into the situation. We got to know of the trends in the children’s social behaviour - how would their shyness decline, how would be their response to society alter and so on. As we researched more, we realised that substantial work ought to be done to improve the situation that existed and this motivated us to initiate as well as continue our part in a full-fledged manner.

Q4. Team is the foundation to the journey of an idea. How did you find the support of your teammates?

Nancy: The best team you could ever get is your group of friends. They support you when you tend to fall, at social as well as personal levels. We, a group of friends from the Department, took this as our project and everybody was pretty motivated to keep it intact and build it over.

Q5. What were the challenges you faced, in the stressful times of the final year at college, in building the first low-cost playground, your first major milestone?

Nancy: We decided to build the first low-cost playground at the Disha Seema Care Center within the IIT Kharagpur campus. One of the first major challenges that hit us were to take permission and to attract funding to be able to build the playground. We decided, based on our studies and research, to build this playground using tyres. How would the children use the tyres to play, was the next thing to be brainstormed about. As this was a very new concept for Indians, convincing people that tyres are actually safe for the children was the next big hurdle we faced. There were many stages which made us think on how to tackle them, but we kept ourselves motivated for the success of what we dreamt of.

Anthill Creations Team

Q6. Did you have the big picture in your minds while you were at IIT Kharagpur or you realised the importance while posted at your jobs?

Nancy: The prime motivation we had was to gift the children true happiness and better life than they enjoyed right then. We kept on building playgrounds even while we were posted at our jobs but the pace was rather slow. It took us sometime to realise it was actually a widespread problem and when we did, we decided to work on it wholeheartedly and things paced up.

Q8. Anthill Creations has been selected by the NS Raghavan Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning (NSRCEL), IIM Bangalore to be incubated for a span of 18 months. How do you plan to utilise this opportunity for the span and beyond?

Nancy:Attracting an incubation and that too from a prestigious institution was a great boost-up for ourselves. We are being provided a decent amount which would provide us opportunities to scale our venture. We also decided to take up three parallel projects which would enable us to scale this venture even further. Currently, we are trying to build playgrounds one after the other. However, we are thinking upon investing some capital into building the process and related research. We aim that we would be going, not from 100 to 200 in number but from 100 to 1000 in the shortest period we can. We believe we can progress through effective guidance and proper funding, as is being currently provided to us.

Q9. What are you plans for the expansion of the work you do in the years to come?

Nancy:Currently we are operating in 10 cities and we plan to expand ourselves to the rest of India and also to Nepal. We aim that in the next 5 years to come, we would be able to provide access to at least 30% of the children to the thousands of playground that we target to build in various regions of India and Nepal.

Q10. In your opinion, what is the present scenario regarding the support system for the social startups in India?

Nancy: In my opinion, the social sector is something which is still untouched by the intelligent people in the society. They do not consider social entrepreneurship as a career and hence it isn’t getting the attention it deserves. It looks very simple but here the problems are pretty complicated, the institution paying is generally not at the receiving end too. We faced problems regarding the fundings as there was a major void of people whom to get in touch with. Since we have suffered these challenges for ourselves, we would like to be helpful to the budding social entrepreneur, who are ready to set sail in the uncertainties of these treacherous waters, in any manner possible.

Q11. What are the areas you believe, social initiatives would help to let the society march ahead on the path of progress?

Nancy: We live in a society that experiences multitude of problems. We lack the quality and quantity of immensely important amenities and services like procurement and distribution of food, education and healthcare. Even though, people and institutions have come up and are doing great work in these regards, we still need to see a multiplying effort to better the situation that we currently face. All we need is to set aside the discomfort we suffer from and develop opportunities for the society to tackle bigger problems and thrive.

Q12. What role, in your belief, being a part of Awaaz, IIT Kharagpur played in preparing you for the upcoming efforts in this venture of yours?

Nancy: I personally believe, it’s all about the company of people you enjoy. While at Awaaz, I got the opportunity to work with amazing people, like Mr. Ashutosh Kumar Mishra and Mr. Avimuktesh, who were there whenever I was in need of emotional and moral support. I received all the support and help needed by me from each and every member of the family, named Awaaz, IIT Kharagpur.

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