To say the journey was difficult is an understatement. In Energinee’s infancy, the team struggled with fear, uncertainty and doubt when they first explored the idea of upskilling prison inmates to create the handicrafts. Today, not only have they changed the lives of many inmates for the better, but it has changed the Dream Team’s lives too.
With conviction, Naresh says, “my biggest achievement so far has been to be able to give a right direction in someone’s life! I met Surendra and Srikant who served life imprisonment. The only motive in their life was to kill all those responsible for their imprisonment. They used to chant the names of the people they supposed as their enemies so that one day they could get out and take revenge. While working with them, I tried my best to change their negative attitude towards things and was successful in doing so. Now I feel a sense of contentment seeing the positivity inside them and seeing them work so hard.”
Once Energinee gained traction with their handicrafts, their next challenge was how to scale up their solution, due to the difficulty of changing entrenched beliefs and habits. For example, many believe in offering incense sticks in front of the gods’ idols is the only best option. They prefer to leave these sticks in fruits in front of the idols. Thus this makes it difficult for the team to persuade the temple visitors to switch to placing their incense sticks in the bins provided.
Naresh’s goals for Energinee is to penetrate the huge market available. Today, there are more than 2 million religious places (such as temples, peer-mazars, mazids and more) within India which are registered. However, there is little acceptance of Energinee’s bin solutions from peer-mazars and mazids today. The authorities there do not even allow the team to speak with them, as they fear that the Energinee team might be using black magic or harbouring bad intentions. However, the Energinee team continues to stay positive and believes they will earn the support and trust from these places of worship one day.
Back at home, things were not much easier. Some of them faced a lack of family support for their work. In the beginning, Akash’s parents had asked him to leave the house if he insisted on pursuing the social enterprise instead of an Engineering career. He stayed true to his purpose, and in just 9 months, he and the business became self-sufficient. Eventually, they understood his dreams and have fully accepted it. Similarly, Naresh did not get any support from his family. They had always wanted him to hold a secure job. However, Naresh said that the zeal within him to build a startup and solve societal problems kept him going, even though at times he faced money woes, admitting that “there were times, I didn’t have a single penny to spend”. Just like Akash, Naresh had given up lucrative full-time job offers, including one as a manager and another at a huge exports company.
“No matter how many jobs were offered to me, none could replace Energinee. This startup made me realize my passion for creativity and provided me with a chance to direct my passion to bring positive change,” says Naresh.
For Akash, when he faces such problems that he is unable to share with his family, he turns to his mentors, whom he credits for being there to pick him up and motivate him. Some of his mentors include Harsh Deswal and Jakir Hussain, who are strong pillars of support for him through tough times and decisions.