Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Banyan + meeting the President of India

left-right: Revathy, Sreedevi, Vandana of the Banyan, Surya and Indu
We love to meet people who share our world views and what we love even more is the opportunity to get to work with them. In this post I wanted to briefly cover an endearing collaboration we did in 2007 with the Banyan via our co-founder Revathy. At the opening ceremony, we also got to meet the (ex-)President of the nation, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam! From collaborations to meeting inspiring leaders: how did this all come about?

Revathy, apart from being a brilliant film director and actress, is also actively involved with a number of non-government organizations. Once such gem of an organizations is The Banyan, which reaches out to people with mental illness, rescuing them from the streets of Chennai to care and rehabilitate them. Started almost two decades ago by Vandana Gopikumar and Vaishnavi Jayakumar, this organization is now one of the strongest voices in India supporting the welfare of the mentally ill homeless.

In the summer of 2007, the Banyan was setting up a new center outside Chennai; they hoped this to turn into a venue where visitors (to this highly picturesque area) could purchase handicrafts made by the rehabilitated members and learn about their work. Revathy called us and asked if we would be interested in putting up our products for sale on a profit-sharing basis at this newly developed space. We immediately agreed and Indu got in touch with Vandana and Vaishnavi to work out the details.

Sreedevi, myself and Surya, on the train to Chennai before the event
After the months of preparation of the products, flyers and brochures, our team was finally on our way to Chennai for the opening ceremony. We were bone-tired from preparing for the show, shipping out stuff, but excited for our day ahead in Chennai!
Sreedevi, Surya, Revathy and Indu, wearing handwoven saris at the event!
We trekked up the ECR road and arrived at a beautifully set up space: made of red bricks, the center consisted of a cluster of sloping-roofed "huts". We met up with Revathy and spent a lovely afternoon meeting everyone; the venue was inspiring and so ideally located by the sea, with comfortable residential spaces, work areas and meeting rooms, all constructed in an open plan. 
Revathy and I hang out near our merchandise in the shop space
We set up our spaces and prepped to receive the guest-of-honor: the much loved ex-President of India Dr. A P J Abdul Kalam! In him, the team at the Banyan have always found a staunch supporter; so when they were developing this new center, it was but natural for him to be a big part of it. In many ways the work they do is a true embodiment of his convictions and ideals.
A.P.J Abdul Kalam at the venue, amidst the crowds
Pres. Kalam giving a motivating talk to the crowds at the event
After the ceremonial planting of a banyan sapling, President Kalam went on to give an inspirational talk about the need for more sustainable development initiatives like this (images above). To say that Dr. Kalam was energetic was an understatement, as he greeted everyone and keenly listened to what people had to say. The heartfelt compassion and encouragement that radiated from his personality was all too evident that day. It was cute to watch how he often evaded his bodyguards to pop out and meet people spontaneously! We felt truly grateful and honored to be a part of this day!
Surya with the Bollywood movie star Viveik Oberoi
Viveik Oberoi, the Bollywood glam-star was also one of the guests, providing all the glitz to this event. It was good to see celebrities use their media-magnetism to benefit worthwhile causes. Did I mention how crowded an event gets if a beloved ex-President and a Bollywood hero show up? :)
Unwinding at snack time with the team
The Kara team with Vaishnavi of the Banyan, second from right, chatting about our work together.
What was the outcome of this collaboration? To be frank, our sales from this space were not through the roof or anything. Where it was invaluable to our young brand was to meet like-minded people and put ourselves out there in the community to get some valuable feedback. More than anything, it gave us an opportunity to closely interact with some wonderfully passionate people and learn from the best. Something we have learnt over the years as we assess our growth: the people you meet give your brand and your mission a powerful platform to exist upon. 
PS- On a related note, we are always open for ideas to work together, do drop us a line if you have a suggestion!


  1. hi
    Revathy akka
    ur a great person for a world akka.......

    with love

  2. Hi ,
    revathy akka....
    u r a great person in the world akka.....
    i love u so much.....

    with love,


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...