Jul 29, 2023

Kushal Charavorty

Kushal Chakravorty is a seasoned professional with a strong background in management consulting, digital transformation, and business development. He is currently the Director of Business Development at ThoughtWorks, a global technology consultancy. With a passion for reducing inequality and improving the lives of underprivileged children, Kushal is also deeply involved in social impact work. He is the founder of the Lotus Petal Foundation, an organization dedicated to providing education, healthcare, skill development, and nutrition to underprivileged children in India. Kushal’s journey from a successful corporate career to a philanthropic mission reflects his commitment to making a positive difference in the world.

Episode Highlights

  • (00:00) – Nitin Bajaj welcomes Kushal Chakravorty to the show
  • (00:15) – Kushal quit his corporate career to work in the social sector
  • (01:27) – Lotus Petal focuses on helping underprivileged children and their families
  • (03:34) – Kushal has helped more than 2 million children through his initiative
  • (06:26) – Kushal is building what could be India’s largest philanthropic school
  • (08:38) – Two moments where things did not work out as you had expected became lessons
  • (11:50) – What do you do for fun besides reading and listening to music
  • (12:32) – Nitin: Kushal, thanks so much for sharing your life lessons

Show Transcript

Transcript - Full Episode

Nitin Bajaj: (0:00:00) – Hey, everyone, welcome to the industry show. I’m your host, Nitin Bajaj. And joining me today is Kushal Chakravorty. Kushal, welcome on the show.


Kushal Chakravorty: (0:00:10) – Thank you, Nitin.


Nitin Bajaj: (0:00:12) – Thanks for being here. The pleasure is all ours. Let’s start with who is Kushal?


Kushal Chakravorty: (0:00:18) – So Kushal is a human being. And I believe that, that it’s one world, one community, and there is a lot of inequality in the world. And I want to put in my efforts to reduce that inequality and in the process, also grow. Myself and my life has taught me that helping others not only gives meaning, but also fulfillment in your life. And that’s what I have dedicated myself to. I quit my corporate career to work in the social sector, founded Lotus Petal foundation, and for educating underprivileged children, providing them opportunities in healthcare, skill development, education, nutrition. And towards this, I have already committed over 70% of my wealth and 100% of my time towards this. And one of my aims also is to engage as many people as possible across the globe in this. So this is something which defines me.


Nitin Bajaj: (0:01:25) – Thanks again for all you do. And I know you’re also a father to two beautiful daughters and a meditator and many other flavors, and you could have done so many other things. You were already doing really well in a corporate career. So I want you to talk a little more about lotus petal in terms of its reach, its impact, but then also, why do this.


Kushal Chakravorty: (0:01:58) – In terms of lotus petal? So it started in 2011, and in the last ten years, we have spent almost $15 million in charitable giving. And in the last two years, we have spent almost $6 million in the charitable activities. And that has led to a significant transformation in the lives of many underprivileged children and their families. So as we speak, we have almost 2000 people every day on campus, which includes students, it includes our staff members, visitors, and we are running two campuses, and we are also building what could be India’s largest philanthropic school with almost 10,000 students. We also run a dive digital platform, which we plan to take to almost 100,000 children in the next three years. And of course, you have a lot of choices in terms of where you can spend your time, where you can spend your energy. And this is something which gives me an amazing sense of fulfillment when I’m able to help others and see a transformation and change happening in their lives. So that really drives me. And I would say I’m fortunate that I was able to find a path where I could work as well as I could dedicate my time and energy. So I think it’s where all these things are meeting together.


Nitin Bajaj: (0:03:32) – So beautifully put. And, Kushal, I remember the first time we met, you had mentioned how you got started. And even though I know the story, I want others to know it. What really triggered that moment that made you give up a very successful and comfortable corporate career that allowed for so many things and decide to go this way? So could you please share that with.


Kushal Chakravorty: (0:04:02) – So you know, it was a very cold winter morning in Delhi. And at that time, I used to work for a global MNC in a global role, which required a lot of traveling. So whenever I was in town, I used to drop my daughters to school. And in one such really cold winter morning, while I was waiting for the school bus and I was wondering whether they are feeling warm enough or not. On this chilly morning, I saw some kids walking right in front of me, and they were barefoot, they didn’t have any winter wear. And that moment really hit me very hard. And I felt that here am I thinking whether it’s good enough. And here are some children. They also have parents. And I’m sure their parents must be feeling the same, but they don’t have the capacity to provide the children with this winterware. And the reason my children had it because I got education on time. I mean, I was privileged to win the first lottery at birth, got born in a family which sent me to school on time. I got three square meals every day. My health was taken care of. And I got so many other guidance, mentoring. And because of which, I went to a good engineering college, then to a good management school. And that’s how I was able to get into this corporate job and provide for my kids. So I felt that this should not just be for my own self and I should also do for others. And that got me to this school where I found that it was not these two or three children, but there were over 250 such kids, and they were in the same state. And that kind of prompted me to provide them with shoes, cap, socks to get through with the winter months. And once I did it, I felt a sense of fulfillment I have never experienced before. And once you feel something good and you want to do more of it. So I kept doing it, and it kept growing. And then one day, I just decided to quit my corporate job to focus full time on this.


Nitin Bajaj: (0:06:07) – Such a beautiful story. And I can’t get enough of it. Every time I hear it, it gives me goosebumps. And again, kudos to you for taking this on and I believe so far you’ve helped more than 2 million children. That’s just amazing. So, Kushal, this is an extremely difficult thing to do, right? Helping underprivileged children. There are so many challenges. Parents have to come on board, children have to come on board. You have to think about their nutrition, their future, the current challenges they face. But I want to hear, what is the one big challenge you face?


Kushal Chakravorty: (0:06:52) – The biggest challenge is, of course, fundraising and ensuring that funds are available on a regular basis. That is one big challenge, which we have. And the second is to attract talent into the social sector. That is the second area where it’s a big challenge. So these would be the two key areas where we are facing challenges currently.


Nitin Bajaj: (0:07:21) – On the other side, what is the one most exciting opportunity that you’re targeting?


Kushal Chakravorty: (0:07:28) – So it’s what I just shared about building what could be India’s largest philanthropic school. And we are halfway through the project, and currently we are almost having 2000 children on campus, and we aim to take it to 10,000 in the next three years. And that is really exciting in terms of the operations of the whole campus, the education intervention, how to ensure learning outcomes at scale, the cultural assimilation of the employees to focus on this kind of vision and mission. So that is really exciting. And we are really looking forward to the day when we have 10,000 students studying in the campus. That would be really something very exciting to make it happen.


Nitin Bajaj: (0:08:20) – I can imagine the amount of energy and excitement that would bring about with 10,000 children. It’s really a dream, and I can’t think of anybody else than you to bring that dream to life. So, really excited for that. Now, I would love for you to take us back in time and talk about two moments. One where things did not work out as you had expected and it was a failure and became a lesson. And the other one where things exceeded your expectations and became a success beyond your imagination.


Kushal Chakravorty: (0:09:04) – I think this was during the campus placements, after the MBA, and I’d always got the job in the first interview, whether it was in engineering or in summer placements and in the final placement, I think I was interviewed by almost 14 companies and every one of them rejected me. And that was really a very humbling moment for me. And I had made plans of going in a certain direction. And then I started in an organization which was not even in my list at all. And when I reflect on it, I feel that life has its own plans for you. And when things don’t work out the way you wish them to be, then one must trust that the universe has something else planned for you and that could be your best opportunity, may not necessarily be what you want. So I think being open and going with the flow of things is what I really learned. And also, of course, it was a very humbling experience. So that, I think is one of my biggest lessons and it has stayed well with me in terms of success. I think the story of the first student of Lotus, Petal Saloni Raj, who came to us at the age of 14 and she was having grade four learning levels and in five years she was able to complete her schooling. And she always had the aspiration of becoming a doctor, which was really an impossible dream when she was 14 years old and studying in grade four. But through our fast track program, in five years she was able to complete her schooling. And then she took a gap year in which she prepared for her medical college entrance exams. And now, as we speak, she’s a final year medical student. So that is something which is success story that one is really inspired by. And that really is a success which I feel very proud of and very humbled, as well as something which is very inspiring to keep doing what I’m.


Nitin Bajaj: (0:11:24) – Doing, and rightly so. It is an amazing story. I’ve heard it a few times. And having heard Saloni speak and the confidence that she has today, thanks to your efforts, to your team’s effort, it’s really something to be proud of and something to celebrate. So kudos again to you and the rest of the Lotus pedal team. Now, I want to ask you something which is maybe off track a little bit. What do you do for fun?


Kushal Chakravorty: (0:12:00) – So I love to read.


Nitin Bajaj: (0:12:02) – Yes.


Kushal Chakravorty: (0:12:02) – And I love to walk, take long walks and also listening to old hindi film songs. So that’s something which I really do, which gives me a lot of comfort. And I really love it.


Nitin Bajaj: (0:12:18) – That’s awesome. Music is my favorite too. I’ve never combined walks and music. I like to selfishly keep them separate, but it just works for better efficiency. So I would love to take this moment to move us into my favorite part of the show, which we call the one line life lessons. I would love for you, Kushal, to share a few of your life lessons with us.


Kushal Chakravorty: (0:12:46) – Well, there are many lessons. So one is, I think, is to go with the flow. That is something which. That’s one lesson of going with the flow. Second one always has to lead by example. Then having a bias for action, that is rather trying to think too much to have a bias for action is what is one of the lessons I’ve learned. And then I think, most importantly, people never remember what you did or what you told them, but they always remember how you made them feel. And that is something which is a really important life lesson for me. Not every situation is pleasant, but it’s always important that how you make the person feel. The person should feel respected and valued at any point of time. So that’s something which is a big life lesson which I have learned. And of course, one has to take risks. And people often ask me that, what was the plan b? Or it’s very difficult to plan in that way. So taking calculated risks and listening to your intuition, your gut, I think, is something which, again, our lessons remain.


Nitin Bajaj: (0:14:18) – Kushal, thanks so much for sharing those life lessons. But more importantly, your journey and story and for doing what you do. This work is extremely important. There are so many children that need the help and whose careers can be changed, for whose lives and their families lives and the generation can be transformed. So thanks again for doing this really important work. I congratulate you and continue to be a well wisher in your future success.


Kushal Chakravorty: (0:14:53) – Thank you, Nitin. And hopefully we can have more people becoming part of this journey and impact many more lives positively. Thank you for having me in the show.


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