Every day, people on the streets of India go hungry. But one man in Kolkata is trying to change that.
Inspired by his mother to give back to society, Bikash Agarwal, an entrepreneur who leads a successful construction company, started Apni Roti, a mobile van that dishes out hot freshly made rotis. In just four months, Apni Roti was reaching out to 150,000 people in Kolkata.
Previously, he started the Shivohum Balaji Seva Trust to cater to the needs of the poor. He opened two ashrams (monasteries) near pilgrimage centers in West Bengal and Jharkhand providing free accommodation, food, and healthcare to the underprivileged.
“It was while overseeing the trust that I saw that many organizations catering to the poor were distributing leftover food to the needy,” says Bikash. “While it does help, I felt that everyone deserves a hot, fresh, hygienic meal.”
While Apni Roti has a huge team of volunteers pitching in to support the day-to-day work, Bikash relies on WhatsApp to streamline operations.
“While we do finalize the itinerary a week in advance, we are able to engage our volunteers effectively by sharing live location of the van. We have a WhatsApp group called Apni Roti Squad where all the volunteers sync up. In addition, volunteers also share suggestions regarding the areas of the city that can be added to our itinerary.”
Bikash’s initiative is making a difference.
“We have people reaching out to us on Facebook, our public telephone numbers, and WhatsApp and appreciating us for running an initiative that we believe fulfills a basic human right.”