SWIMMING AGAINST THE TIDE AND USING HER SKILLS FOR THE BENEFIT OF OTHERS: THIS IS RADHIKA BATRA’S SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP JOURNEY
Whenever one thinks of entrepreneurship – images of an outrageous lifestyle come to play – Ferraris, Rolex’s, creating our own Antilia – very little do we think of the impact we create for society. Do not feel guilty if cash is always on your mind, but ensure to make space for the happiness of others as they benefit from your business. Money only brings temporary smiles but what really touches the heart and will bring permanent smiles is creating a difference and watching how that difference creates value in the lives of others.
Radhika Batra is a medical graduate holding both a MBBS (Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery) as well as a MD (Doctor of Medicine in Pediatrics) from Santosh University, Ghaziabad (India). Rather than following the norm path for a medical graduate, Radhika created her own unique path. Using her knowledge and skills, Radhika found the door and entered the world of social entrepreneurship. She is the founder and president of Every Infant Matters. Every Infant Matters aims to be the solution of making healthcare accessible to all, while improving the lives of disadvantaged children. Every Infant Matters has many current projects running such as COVID relief programs supporting front-line workers and the poor. Radhika has managed to not only use Every Infant Matters as a way to create a local impact but an international impact too, as Every Infant Matters operates across 4 countries – India, Kenya, Nigeria and Dominican Republic. If you are passionate about a social cause – do not follow the norm – take the “road not taken” like Radhika. This is how she did it.
1. Can you tell us a bit about yourself? (background, hobbies, etc.)
I am a pediatrician, working as a Senior Resident in a busy government Hospital in New Delhi, called the ESI Hospital. I have always loved the medical profession and ever since childhood I knew I was going to be a doctor. I also love writing and have written blogs for The Huffington Post, Medium, Thrive Global and Times of India.
2. What inspired you to start this venture/service/business:
My Eureka moment came when a few years ago, I saw a severely malnourished stunted 5 year old child who had become blind because of absence of Vitamin A containing foods (milk, eggs, butter) in his diet. The child had been surviving on a thin gruel made of rice and water. That is all that he had been given for several years. I was shocked and horrified at this injustice. The child was angry and frustrated, he kept screaming and hitting his mother. There and then I decided to start my own venture. In a world full of plenty, there are children that are starving to death and becoming blind, nothing can be more shameful than that. No child should die due to preventable causes, or live a life of darkness or disability, especially if it can be prevented by simple low-cost timely interventions. Every Infant Matters believes in justice and inclusion, and aims to ensure ubiquitous access to health care for all.
3. What are some of the challenges you faced:
One of the biggest challenges I face is that of funds to support growth. I am honoured and humbled by the fact that so many people, individuals, families, foundations, and Corporates are coming forward to support my work and providing funds. The challenge is that I must scale my work across India and replicate across geographies as the need is immense. 250 million children worldwide suffer from Vitamin A deficiency and are at risk of going blind. These are the children I must reach and treat . My organisation is working in four countries across three continents, but we still have miles to go. Another challenge will be of maintaining quality when we become bigger. I feel technology will be a great enabler for maintaining quality and for data accuracy.
4. How did you manage studies along this?
I utilise every moment of each day . My work as a paediatrician has become very demanding, more so because of the Covid pandemic. I do my regular hospital job and emergency duties and then I come back and rest. Once I am rested, I jump out of bed and start my work as President of Every Infant Matters. I have a dedicated team and we have allocated responsibilities, this is a great help in my work.
5. What were the initial responses like?
The initial response to every infant matters was that of scepticism. Everyone laughed at me. They thought I was a maverick. Some people were genuinely concerned about my career as a paediatrician and said that I will be compromising on my medical education and even my income. But I ignored the jibes and jeers, I chose the ‘road less travelled’ and stayed on my path.
6. It requires a lot of courage and confidence to embark on something like this. Where do you find the strength and positivity to grow this venture everyday?
I believe that work is its own reward . When I see what we have achieved, it gives me great courage and strength, and the fortitude to forge ahead, unfazed by difficulties. I am in regular conversation with my Director Partnerships in Africa and Latin America, and also with the Country Directors in various countries. When I read the reports and see what we have accomplished, I see the pictures from these countries, I feel that I am blessed and I am truly lucky that I could have serve many people in dire need.
7. What has changed since you began your journey as an entrepreneur?
A lot has changed. This year plunged us in the midst of a Covid Pandemic. Travel is impossible. Health Camps cannot be done. Poverty and hunger are everywhere. People are losing jobs. All this has made life challenging, but we are going from strength to strength, finding ways and means to implement our projects and scale .
We have started using online platforms for new projects. For example, we are training 1300 nuns in 12 countries on medical issues. With health systems non-existent in remote parts of the world, it is the nuns who carry out health care. Our dedicated doctors are training nuns in countries such as India, Italy, Swaziland, Lesotho, South Sudan, South Africa (Johannesburg), Mozambique, Ethiopia, the Hawaiian islands in the US, Germany, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Papua New Guinea. This is done by weekly training sessions, and answering queries on Whatsapp. We partner with the Congregation of Missionary Sisters of Mary Help of Christians to provide nuns with the necessary skills and expertise to assist them in providing medical care to the needy.
8. So many students want to do something outside their academics but don’t know where to begin. What do you want to tell them?
I would suggest that you explore your own heart. What are you interested in? Health? Education? Safe water? Job creation? Or is it something else. Unless you are interested in what you are doing, you will never be able to reach your full potential. Once you have identified your area of interest, find out what others in the same field are doing. Go to their websites. Learn the business model see how they achieve impact. Try and do conference calls so you can meet them and understand everything in greater depth. Do internships or work as volunteers in organisations that interest you. Once you have done all this, one day you will find that you are ready to embark on your own venture.
9. What’s your biggest learning lesson from this?
There have been many learnings in my journey. I have learnt how to manage a team, motivate others, maintain data sets, ensure quality, and so much more. By far the biggest learning has been to stay focused on the mission and vision of the organisation. It is easy to get distracted and overwhelmed by the need in this world. Whatever I do, whatever projects I embark upon, I always keep in mind that our mission is to provide healthcare to the needy. This is enough to keep me focused
10. What are your plans for future?
Our strategic growth plan is as follows:
1. Growth in India:
2. Growth in other countries
3. Adding new projects for the wellbeing of children ( sexual abuse, mental health)
We shall bring about this growth by building national and international partnerships to replicate our model and also by adding new health solutions for children in need.
In the next 5 years, we aim to achieve the following:
1. Partnerships with at least 20 small grassroot NGOS in India and Nigeria, those that are working in remote areas where health access is a challenge.
2. Partnerships in 5 new countries in the next 5 years. We have started discussions with local people in several countries such as Congo, Senegal, Sudan, Lesotho, Cambodia, Afghanistan, Malawi and Tanzania.
3. We are currently in discussions with two NGOs in New Delhi. One works with sexually abused children. The other serves children who are differently abled, either physically or mentally. Every Infant Matters wants to provide counselling and psychological support to these children. We are also in discussion with Mental Research Society, a non-profit in New Delhi that is focused on mental health, and provides pro-bono counselling, medical treatment even admission to those in need. Once these partnerships are in place, we shall be able to add a new project for the well-being of children with a focus on those with a disability or victims of sexual abuse.
4. Developing low-cost technology solutions for education and data accuracy
11. What motivates you to keep going every day?
I have one life to live and so much to do. This is what motivates me in my work. Also when I read about others who have served with love, like Kailash Satyarthi and Mother Teresa, I feel inspired to lead a useful life and do something for others. There are people who are desperately poor. Millions go hungry. And one million hungry children lose their vision. Inequalities in health are the worst of all inequalities in the world. This is what gives me the extra motivation
TO FOLLOW RADHIKA’S JOURNEY, click HERE!
REMEMBER, it is not only about how much money you take home, but what you can bring to the world so people from all paths of life can benefit from it. To meet a customer’s need does not necessarily mean a dollar needs to be exchanged in order to get that need, sometimes we need to exchange our ideas for love that will be felt within’ us from seeing the lives of others improved. Regardless of whether you open up a social enterprise or not, we all should be social entrepreneurs. As our world continues to worsen, make it a mission to use your passion for a cause to transform the lives of our community. You can do it.