Mr. Anshu Gupta, Indian Social Entrepreneur & Founder-GOONJ – popularly known as “THE CLOTHING MAN OF INDIA” – rendered a most moving live webinar session on his life and mission for the BA-LLB/LLB students & aspirants of Asian Law College (ALC) on Friday, 30th October 2020 under its Guest Lecture Series.
Mr. Anshu Gupta is an Indian social entrepreneur who founded GOONJ, a non-governmental organization (NGO) headquartered in Delhi. Popularly known as the “Clothing Man of India”, Mr. Anshu founded Goonj to offer a sustainable economic model to eliminate poverty and related issues. Under his leadership Goonj created a barter between urban surplus and village communities’ labor, triggering large-scale rural development work. Forbes Magazine listed him as one of India’s most powerful rural entrepreneurs. He has also won many national and international honors including the Ashoka and Schwab Fellowships. He was awarded the Magsaysay Award for his work on transforming the culture of giving in India and for highlighting material as a sustainable development resource for the poor.
Mr. Anshu has done his Mass Communications twice and masters in Economics. Starting as a freelance journalist, Mr. Anshu left a corporate job in 1998 and founded GOONJ with a mission to make clothing a matter of concern and to bring it among the list of subjects for the development sector. An Ashoka Fellow and the Global Ambassador of Ashoka, Mr. Anshu is creating a mass movement for recycling and reuse of tons of waste material by channelizing it from the cities to the villages, as a resource for rural development. A powerful and inspiring speaker, Mr. Anshu addresses many national and international forums to bring clothing on the development agenda and to motivate the youth to take action. He is a regular speaker in many parts of the world on innovation, leadership, village development, power of youths and social entrepreneurship.
A core initiative of Asian Education Group (AEG) – considered as the largest centre for professional media, IT, law, management, fashion & hospitality education in Asia with world-class facilities – this webinar was organized Asian Law College (ALC) – which is a constituent group college of Asian Education Group and is ranked as one of the one of the best Law Colleges in Delhi NCR – for all B.A.LL.B. & LL.B. students. The webinar was followed by a lively Q&A Session with the most distinguished guest.
The eagerly awaited session started with a poignant video clip weaved around the soul-stirring poem “SAFAR” written by Mr. Anshu Gupta himself that depicted the heart-rending tale of some common category of people in our lives during this ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. Thereafter, following a formal welcome note and a brief but highly impressive introduction of the distinguished guest by Dr. Supriya Srivastava on behalf of the AEG family – Mr. Anshu Gupta took centre stage of the session.
Thanking the management of Asian Law College for inviting him for this talk, Mr. Anshu Gupta at first extended his warm greetings to all students. He then got back to the visual rendition of his poetry “SAFAR” that was shown as the preamble for the session. Setting the tone of his talk for the day, Mr. Anshu Gupta said, “The video clip on SAFAR was a reminder of how we misbehaved and ignored the people (like the house help, cook, drivers, car-washers, migrant labourers) who were integral to our life and existence during the last few months of the Coronavirus pandemic that compelled them to go on a mass exodus from cities back to their rural bases.” Referring to his own life story and his intense interest and work towards mitigation of sufferings of people during natural disasters happening around him that taught him great lessons of life, Mr. Anshu Gupta said, “COVID-19 pandemic is a different kind of disaster and that is what has been depicted in the poetry SAFAR. It is time to relook into it. The crisis is not yet over. The problem of migrant people is bothering me a lot. Nowadays, I keep thinking what can we do so that they can come back to places from where they had to migrate helplessly.”
Praising all those people who went out of their way to feed these migrating people, Mr. Anshu Gupta said that homeless people always existed and there is much that each one of us can do for them. Here, he recounted the telling story of Habib, the rickshaw puller, who collected unclaimed dead bodies for Delhi Police as a matter of his bread & butter. He spoke at length about his spending a week during the winter season with Habib and closely watching his intense struggle for a living. While at it, Mr. Anshu observed the absolute lack of winter clothing for Habib and his family consisting of his wife and a little daughter. One day he came to speak to his daughter about how she managed to keep herself warm during winters. The answer provided by her chilled his conscience. Habib’s daughter said, “Jab mujhe thand lagte hain, toh maain laash se chipak kar soti huun!” That chilling answer, to quote Mr. Anshu Gupta, “gave him a vision on CLOTHING.” And, “that is how Goonj started.”
In this way, after working in the corporate sector for some time, Mr. Anshu Gupta started Goonj in 1999, with his wife Ms. Meenakshi Gupta and a few friends, to work on the basic need of clothing, an issue that does not have a place in the development agenda. Using cloth as a metaphor for other crucial but ignored needs like sanitary pads for menses or school material for education, for the last 18 years, under Mr. Gupta’s leadership Goonj has taken the growing urban waste and used it as a tool to trigger development work on diverse issues like roads, water, environment, education, health etc. in backward and remote pockets of India. Under Goonj’s flagship initiative ‘Cloth for Work’ village communities across India work on their own issues and get the urban material as a reward for their efforts. Cloth for work and all other initiatives of Goonj have received various, national and international, awards and accolades.
Thereafter, Mr. Anshu Gupta opened the session for questions. There were a number of questions all related to his life and the missionary work, to which the renowned guest provided answers to the utmost satisfaction of the students.
Before concluding his talk, in his message for the ALC students, Mr. Anshu Gupta shared some great words of wisdom and inspiration and said, “Jindagi ek baar mille hain. It is good to live the dreams of your parents, but live your own life … have dreams … and fulfill those dreams. Most of you are very fortunate … and our struggle is to grow, not survive. You need to understand these privileges and strive to work for those who do not enjoy such privileges. The country today needs DOERS … and the Coronavirus pandemic has given us all an opportunity to make a difference in somebody’s life!”
Mr. Anshu Gupta was then presented with a “Memento” on behalf of Asian Education Group, which was profusely appreciated by the honourable guest.
With this, this most moving live session with Mr. Anshu Gupta – “THE CLOTHING MAN OF INDIA“– came to an end.