BFP: What do you do?
RKJ: I am a development professional (consultant) with over two decades of working experience with Micro-Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) who are mainly engaged in or working with rural farm and non-farm sector occupations in India and West Africa region. While working with poor producers and farmers, my focus lies on connecting them with Commodity Value Chains that they are working in i.e. with markets and mainstream institutions offering technology, design and financing options for instance. I also volunteer for social entrepreneurship networks like Changemakers, Ennovent and Rockefeller Foundation to help with outreach, entrepreneur support and review of entries towards various challenge contests.
In my private venture which is a social enterprise, we are providing affordable healthcare & wellness solutions to mankind especially poor and low income families by using nature’s vast resources and traditional knowledge systems based on herbs, crops and medicinal plants. Our motto is to integrate modern science with ancient knowledge and wisdom to create win-win both for producers and customers.
BFP: What is the best part about your job?
RKJ: What I like about my job is the amount of flexibility and adaptability provided by my nature of job because of which I can virtually engage with a vast number of producers and several other actors (stakeholders) in a given value chain at different levels where I find the gaps that exist. This becomes possible for me as being in development sector for long and connected to actors at all levels of micro, miso and macro, I can apply different lenses to analyse a value chain viz. pure developmental approach, business (private) point of view, regulatory/compliance needs and the perception of community/beneficiaries.
Once I am able to find the right gap that exists in optimal functioning of a value chain, I am able to bridge it through my extensive knowledge about people and their socio-economic environments on one hand and on the other with information gathered about the market trends and demands, as I keep myself abreast with the latest happenings in business and society through my linked-in and many other valuable networks i.e. BFP.
BFP: What have been your greatest challenges?
RKJ: In business we often encounter challenges in terms of finding the right people and partners with similar aspirations and capabilities who can truly understand the needs of people whom we work with and also cater to, as suppliers and consumers; to empathise with them and to offer them products & services, by assimilating vital information about the processes involved and the work systems under which the businesses operate.
As against this, in development sector I often find challenges in working with those sets of people who don’t really value their own strengths; skills and assets for instance. As a result they constantly suffer at the hands of unscrupulous traders and marketers who don’t value these either. The more worrying factor here is the common perceptions of these sufferings as acts of God and destiny, because of which people at large continue to remain mired in their own cocoon and refuse to learn even for their own betterment.
BFP: How have you overcome these challenges? / What advice, would you give to others? / What is the secret of your success?
RKJ: I use ‘Information is power’ phrase to overcome challenges in both of these sectors i.e. business and development as it works in most of the situations! I have seen that people listen to you when you have something to offer them in terms of new knowledge about their work or their lives, while empathising with them in what they do. I believe, the challenges occur mainly on account of ignorance about our own immediate and external environment, which at large can be corrected by gathering information about what goes on in similar other situations/environments.
I believe, we all have a natural tendency to follow best practices if we know about them. This is what I also preach as a trainer/motivator to my clients who are mainly young interns and volunteers, micro producers and other entrepreneurs; to gather as much information about one’s own environment as possible and watch for trends by using various media available to us, as the right information coupled with the right aptitude to work is the biggest key to success, in my opinion.
BFP: If someone wants to do what you do, where should they start? What is the route you have taken?
RJK: I believe, developing quest for knowledge should be the starting point. One should be open to learn from all available sources as one can, depending on what type of career one really wants to pursue.
I always wanted to be a social entrepreneur, a businessman with a social conscience in other words. This is the reason I chose the not-for-profit sector after acquiring knowledge & experience of international business management. Ever since then I have been busy acquiring the right aptitude to succeed in multi-cultural environment along with the key skills needed. I have adopted the ethical approach to sustain both my consulting and commodity business and trying to grow it internationally by expanding the product line and geographical territory.
BFP: Finally; what do you hope to get out of being part of the BFP community?
RJK: I sincerely believe and hope that business, if done in an ethical manner, can be the key to solve many of the current challenges that the world is facing- i.e. poverty & hunger along with climate change as some of the burning issues staring us in the face. I truly appreciate the knowledge to do good being spread by Business for Poverty network and the quality of information provided by it.
I believe the onus is on businesses to play a vital role to correct some of the ill practices of the world with the power of wealth and the resources that they possess i.e. technology and therefore I do hope to get associated with many other likeminded entrepreneurs and changemakers through your vast network to spread the good work happening in many parts of the disadvantaged world elsewhere. I believe that the best way to help the poor is to empower them with right skills and knowledge about their own work & life environment while constantly trying and contributing to make businesses inclusive for the weaker actors in the value chains thereby allowing them to prosper together with the growth of the business.
Thank you to Raj Kumar Jani for taking the time to do this interview.
Read previous Member of the Week interviews here.