Where Science, Schools, and Social Entrepreneurship Meet
Wednesday, December 21, 2016
In a small workshop, hidden away on Pune’s NDA road, a demonstration is under way. A supervisor draws diagrams on a white-board, watched closely by a group of four or five employees. Shelves line the walls, displaying a variety of science models on bases made of black acrylic fibre; more acrylic sheets are stacked to one side; a DC motor vies for space with a conductivity tester, a beam balance and a large yellow plastic ball (intended to explain how the human retina functions). All told, this workshop produces 81 such models, covering around 540 concepts of science for students from the third to the tenth grade.
Overseeing the whole operation from a corner is Lewitt Somarajan, curly-haired and bespectacled, every bit the eccentric scientist. Except that he is the boss here, the entrepreneur running the show.
Mr. Somarajan, who is now 28, graduated in engineering in 2007 but, he says, he quickly realised that a corporate job was not his calling. In 2008, he went on the Jagriti Yatra, an annual two-week train journey that introduces a bunch of carefully-selected budding social entrepreneurs to successful social enterprises across the country. The experience taught him that he wanted to start an enterprise that could benefit smaller towns and villages, but he still had no idea what he would do. In 2011, he started a fellowship with Teach for India, in Pune (incidentally teaching in a government school that is in a street just opposite to where his workshop is currently located).