Profiles of the
Young Achievers for 2012
How I Braved Anu Aunty & Co-founded a Million Dollar Company is a novel, based on a true story. It is a brilliantly written narrative—witty, humorous, mature, insightful and an absolute page turner. It also provides authentic anthropological glimpses into the social life and times of young, westernized, urban Indians. It has become a national best-seller and is fast attaining almost a cult-status among the young and aspiring youth of India.
The highly talented author of this remarkable book is Varun Agarwal.
Varun's novel, in its own right, is an extraordinary achievement for a debutant author. But his true-life entrepreneurial achievement, on which the novel is based, is equally extraordinary. When he was only 22, Varun co-founded Alma Mater, a company that specializes in apparel and memorabilia for alumni and students from schools and colleges in India. Alma Mater is today the biggest business of its kind in India, and was valued at a million dollars within a year of its founding. He and his company have been written about in The New York Times, India Today, Outlook, The Hindu, The Times of India and several other publications. Varun was featured in the Young Turks Show on CNBC, the same programme in which first and second generation entrepreneurs like Aditya Mittal of Arcelor Mittal, Rajiv Bajaj of Bajaj Auto, Manvinder Singh of Ranbaxy, Vikram Akula of SKS Microfinance, have been featured at different times. He has been invited to give guest lectures at IIM Bangalore and other business schools. He was a speaker at the INK programmes where earlier speakers have included James Cameron of Titanic fame and Deepak Chopra, the spiritual guru.
Varun's life has been as colourful and picturesque as his book and his venture. He dutifully secured his engineering degree as per the diktats of the conventional establishment thinking, personified by Anu aunty. But he followed his calling—that of a multi-faced creative mind deeply interested in film making, writing and entrepreneurship. Even while he was in college, Varun founded his first company Last Minute Films. His repertoire includes videos featuring, among others, Preity Zinta and A. R. Rahman. His videos, including those made for corporates, altogether have had over a million views on You Tube. Varun has founded yet another company, Reticular, a social media marketing company, with a growing portfolio.
For his extraordinary and multi-faceted achievements, we feel honoured to declare Varun Agarwal the Brigade Group-Rotary Bangalore Midtown Young Achiever 2012.
Vijayalakshmi, or Viji, as she is known to her family and friends, is visually challenged. But Viji is no ordinary girl - as borne out by her remarkable achievements and her unyielding spirit.
From the outset, Viji was determined to take on the challenges offered by society and its systems, without seeking any concessions. In the face of apprehension and skepticism of most people, she studied at a regular mainstream school. When Viji was in the 8th standard, a visitor to her school expressed her shocked disbelief and doubts as to how a sightless girl could cope in such a setting. Viji stood first for the school in the 10th standard examination. Reinforcing Viji's strength and resolve was her family. Her mother gave up her teaching career to be able to provide all-round assistance to her daughter. This included reading out texts and assignments almost daily.
Viji has secured a Master's degree in English Literature and has done the Kovida exam in Sanskrit. To be able to face all eventualities in her career, she has done a course in medical transcription and in MS Office. She works on her computer independently by using JAWS, a screen-reading software.
Coming from a musical family, and receiving motivation from her mother, Viji started learning Carnatic music at the age of twelve. She is seriously pursuing her musical interests by receiving lessons at an advanced level from a learned guru. She has also obtained a Master's degree in Carnatic music.
Thus qualified and equipped, Viji is teaching Carnatic music to her NRI students, who presently number fifteen, through the internet. She wakes up at 4 am every day and practices till 5 am. From 5 am to 8 pm, and from 6 pm to 8 pm, she teaches students across the world using video applications on the internet.
Her practice and knowledge of Carnatic music, and experience of using the internet to teach music, is culminating in Viji soon becoming Dr V. Vijayalakshmi. For, she is currently doing a PhD, with her thesis examining the use of technology in the spreading of Carnatic classical music.
With her unquenchable curiosity and all-round interests, Viji has won several awards and certificates in quiz contests and performing arts.
In her submission to our Young Achiever programme, Viji has included a statement written of her, which sums her up:
"Vijayalakshmi is B Positive in her blood group, as also in her attitude. Despite her visual deformity, she is ever smiling and never worrying. Her only mantra is 'what next' and working hard."
For demonstrating that whether one may or may not have sight, one must have vision; and in recognition of her inspiring example of great spirit, perseverance and hard work, we are honoured to present V. Vijayalakshmi with a special award of Brigade Group Rotary Bangalore Midtown Young Achiever Award 2012.
Adil Arif found his true calling at the tender age of six. He rescued two baby squirrels abandoned by their helpless mother near his home. By the time he was nine, his after-school hours and holidays were spent as a volunteer with the People For Animals organization. As he proudly recalls, that was when he rescued his first owl, a baby barn owl, under PFA's supervision. He commenced his solo rescue operations from the time he was in 8th standard. He regularly used his pocket money for giving aid and care to injured pigeons, barbets, owls and pariah kites.
When he was in the first-year his Pre-University course, Adil noticed that the rose ringed parakeets kept in cages in his college were ailing due to neglect of those who were supposed to take care of them. He urged his principal to make proper arrangements for feeding and looking after them. The principal was unconcerned. So Adil reported the problem to PFA. As a result, he was expelled from his college. Since then he has never looked back—at his college or the mainstream education system, from which he was a 'push out'.
Without a proper qualification, Adil could think of only one prospect—joining BBMP, as a volunteer in their forest cell. Drawing no remuneration, he is on call 24 x 7. On an average day, he is on a rescue mission at least four to five times in and around Bangalore. So far, as a volunteer, he has rescued and rehabilitated a truly amazing range of animals and birds. He has rescued snakes including cobras, rat snakes, Russel's vipers, checkered keelbacks, sand boas and common trinket snakes. Other creatures that Adil has rescued include: squirrels, monitor lizards, chameleons, pangolins, slender lorises, turtles, monkeys, bears, camels and elephants, as also crows, pigeons, parakeets, barbets, herons, owls, pariah kites, brahminy kites and peacocks. Adil has evolved as not only a rescuer and rehabilitator of animals and birds of cities, but of wildlife as well.
Adil practices gentle and skilled handling of rescued creatures. He is also an avid educator, especially dispelling people's popular misconceptions about birds, snakes and other animals, and spreading awareness of the need to preserve ecological balance.
While the 22-year-old Adil is pursuing his all-consuming passion for rescue and rehabilitation of all creatures great and small, his parents are naturally worried about his future and economic well-being. An even bigger concern for them is the risk to his life that is always present during the course of his often dangerous work. However, it is commendable that they are fully supportive of his chosen career ridden by uncertainties and zero remuneration.
We are honoured to recognise the selfless commitment of Adil Arif to one of the most profound areas of concern before mankind - and award him a special prize of Brigade Group and Rotary Bangalore Midtown Young Achiever 2012.