Shuvajit Payne graduated in Economics from Presidency College, Kolkata, following which he completed his MBA from IIM Lucknow in Finance & Marketing. He has been working with IBM as a consultant for the last three and a half years and has been working on assignment in the UK for the last 2 years.
Speaking frankly, Shuvajit describes his stint in the corporate world as financially motivated. “I wanted to ensure that I was financially independent. However, from the very start, my aim was to do something directly beneficial to those who need support.” Even before hearing about the Fellowship, Shuvajit took the crucial decision of moving away from the corporate sector – he resigned. “My initial intention was to take some time out to backpack across the country, with the aim of figuring out a way to start something of my own, while pursuing my two core interests, photography & travelling. That was when a colleague of mine introduced me to the SBI Youth for India Fellowship, and it seemed to be exactly what I wanted to do – albeit in a more structured way. Till now, I have not been disappointed at all.”
Shuvajit describes learning about rural India as the “last link” he needs to be able to apply himself completely. “Over the years, I have acquired a clear picture of how corporate projects work; I have the required soft skills, the knowledge of the macro-matters, and a huge contact list for support, thanks to IIML & IBM. But somewhere, to do something socially meaningful, I lack the understanding of how things work at a grass root level. Over the next year, I’ll not only try to fill this gap, but also try to bring all my skills together. “I believe that rural India should one day challenge the engraved idea of “development” that we, urban Indians, have. My friends hail the industrial life as the only-way-to-be, where development is measured by CCDs, flyovers and multiplexes. Yet, on the other hand, there is this massive part of India which our media forgets to portray – for whom none of these matter. I dream of rural India as a place where every village will become an individually self-sufficient entity, developed truly in terms of social happiness.”
Shuvajit hopes to work on two primary issues – “Firstly, ensuring that farmers get their dues. We need to do away with middlemen as much as possible – there are just too many people eating the pie (or dosa)! Instead of pushing the farmers to alternate employment, we need to push these middlemen to alternate occupations. “Secondly, there is the matter of migration. Somehow, our media has deglamorised agriculture so much so that farming is looked down upon as a possible career. In a village I visited, every child wants to be a computer engineer, but nobody wants to be a farmer. No wonder we are being faced with dwindling food security, overburdened cities and rising food inflation. We need to understand what to do in villages in order to stop this outflow – we need to restore the pride in agriculture.”
When asked whether the thought of working in rural India seemed challenging, Shuvajit laughingly admits, “Yes, obviously. Add to that the luxuries of London – my residence for the last couple of years! But one has to make a start somewhere and apprehension makes the programme more of a challenge – the solace is that one can never forget one’s roots.”
Shuvajit will be working with the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) for the next one year and will be in Vidarbha, Maharashtra, trying to understand how low cost technological solutions can help villages. “Most of MSSRF’s efforts have been tried and tested in Tamil Nadu. Hence, as a part of orientation, we have been travelling extensively across Tamil Nadu and meeting villagers to understand how things have worked here. The experience has been rich at so many levels, that I’ll recommend it to every Indian youth.”