I recently got a chance to chat with Sukhendra Reddy Rompally, Co-Founder and CEO of Chezuba about Social Entrepreneurship and how people can break into this field? Forbes has recognized him recently as Forbes 30 under 30 Asia, 2020.
To get started, can you give an introduction about yourself and Chezuba?
Sure, I came across the idea of Chezuba when I was on a break, reflecting on what I wanted to do in life. I worked as a business operation manager at that time. Before working as a business operation Manager in Mumbai, I worked in Taiwan for 2 years in a video gaming company and then in Russia as a Marketing Manager.
I had applied to INSEAD for my MBA then. During the break, I was reflecting on “what are my strengths, my weakness, purpose, and what I like to do in life?”
Two words only came in mind, “Global” and “Social,” as I have always been a social volunteer on numerous occasions before in my life. During the break, when I was thinking about “Global” and “Social,” I was in Myanmar traveling. I heard Chezuba at a Burmese Tea Stall. It meant Thank you, and it clicked with what I had in mind.
It was October. After coming back to India, I resigned from my job in November. With the help of my childhood friend who works in Amazon, Seattle created a prototype by December and got funding in January from Investors and launched the product in March.
Chezuba is a platform which connects Volunteer with NGOs. The skills remote volunteers have and the skills needed by NGOs for volunteering opportunities. We help NGOs resolve the issue of lack of volunteers, and by providing online volunteering opportunities from across the globe, we assist people in finding impact projects. We are young, and a global team spread across five countries. To date, Chezuba has partnered with non-profits in over 38 countries and has registered volunteers from 103 countries.
Our vision is to build a social platform for impact like Facebook is a platform for social networking and LinkedIn for professional networking.
What does social entrepreneurship mean for you?
I don’t think there is no difference between social entrepreneurship and entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship is something that has both a social purpose and profit aspect, which is needed to sustain the business.
Take, for example, Uber. It is a social business for me as it is creating so many jobs for people, while the Uber pool is reducing carbon footprint across the world.
I believe that there is no difference between the two. Throughout the ages, capitalism has caught up with people so much that they only think about business from a profit point of view.
Let me tell you a story from a life; When I started working as a business development manager, I was working for a casino gaming company. During the interviews, I told my manager that I’m not too fond of the concept of this venture as it is creating only profit, and there is no social impact. My manager said that if you come up with something in the future, which has a social impact, then she would fund me, which she later did.
So, basically, for me, there is no difference between social entrepreneurship and entrepreneurship, and I hope the world comes to believe the same thing over time.
Why are we seeing so few entrepreneurs with this point of view?
It is the same as when Copernicus mentioned that the world is round. As I said before, capitalism over the decades has made us think that business is only about profits and not social change, which was not the case previously.
As we have risen in Maslow’s law of hierarchy, previous businesses have fulfilled our basic needs like food, water, and clothing. We have become more focused on profit as in the decades which have gone by.
So how can we rectify this situation?
I think the situation will take care of itself, and it has already started taking care of itself as we are seeing more companies working in the Renewable tech sector and other areas explicitly focused on social impact.
The highest level of Maslow Hierarchy is the purpose, and so eventually, people will come up to that level and start focusing on social impact again. We will start seeing more of this in the coming decades.
What advice you have for people that are looking to break into this field?
I will advise people to follow their vision passionately and to leverage their network. If you trust your vision, you will eventually get people who believe in you and fund you.
And everyone can leverage their network when they start as I did. My friend created my initial prototype for free, and the five people who funded me 20000 USD were my ex-boss(the one I mentioned above) and friends and friends of friends.
So, find a problem to solve and trust your vision. Leverage your network to get started into the field of Entrepreneurship or social entrepreneurship, as you say.
Also, we followed a frugal process to bring the product to market and grow it, which helped us a lot.
Did you have a mentor that helped you?
I don’t have a professional mentor as such as I learn best from myself, but if I had to name one, it would be my ex-boss.
A mentor is someone who will show you a different perspective, but the decision has to be taken by you as you know the ground truth.
To know more about the fantastic work done by Chezuba, click here.