Over the past five or ten years, the country’s geography has seen a vast change. The land has been cleared to be occupied by tall skyscrapers.
Shubhendu who worked as an industrial engineer in Toyota in India happened to assist Akira Miyawaki , a forest expert from Japan, who had arrived to plant a forest at the company factory. Miyawaki had developed a unique methodology that could grow a forest , 10 times faster than the normal time. Fascinated by the idea, Shubhendu decided to bring it to India for which he interned with Miyawaki and successfully grew his first forest in a small backyard of a house. Today, leaving his highly paid job behind starting his own organization Afforestt, he had created about 33 forests all over India.
He says, “The idea is to bring back the native forest. They are not only self-sustainable but also are maintenance free.” So why plant a lawn when you can plant a tiny forest. It is good for the environment after all.
The adamant dream
Sharma faced enough challenges to bring his idea of ‘Afforestt’ into existence. Initially, his family disagreed with his decision of leaving a well paid job to turn to something like planting trees. However, he was determined to do it and started off without his family’s knowledge.
“Especially, convincing the family was a very tough. They could not understand why I was bent on quitting a high paying engineering job at Toyota to plant trees all my life. ” He further adds,” My friends were a great support to me a boost. Till date, they take interest and engage in the activities of Afforestt.”
His family only came to knew about after few months since it became operational and had to give for Sharma’s dream.
Then came the challenge of launching a business which was entirely new to the country. Even after conducting many researches, to launch a business which had no existing market, was also no less of a challenge. Not only was there no hope to create such a market , it was also difficult to convey the concept and convince clients to try it in their backyards. An obvious doubt of the people was if it would really be possible. People only pay if the idea is sold well.
In his path to success, he also realised that the idea could not be executed as a good deed alone. It needed to be funded to survive ,hence was established as a business. Even so it only charge very less than what the actual Miyawaki methodology charges i.e., Rs 150 per square metre. Sharma says, ” I realized it can’t be done as a ‘do gooder’ activity. If I wanted it to succeed, I had to think it through and come up with a business plan, and a bunch of my friends helped me to set it up.”
Eventually , crossing all hurdles, passionate and enthusiastic Shubhendu Sharma came up with Afforestt, an end to end provider for creating natural forest in 2011.
Afforestt is now a team of 6 working from Bengaluru. Its first order came from a German furniture maker who approached them to plant about 10000 trees. The company serves its clients in two ways- one were they provide complete project execution along with maintenance services that includes labour arrangement, materials and equipments, tools and facilities etc required to commence the project in the Miyawaki methodology and the other method where it offers project management, on site consulting and software support.
The organisation has so far served over 43 clients and planted 54000 trees.
‘Planting’ a better future
“We want to create a scenario where plucking a fruit from a tree in the backyard will be easier than buying it from the market,” says Sharma.
With his vision he had now planted almost 33 forests in over 11 cities in India, starting from his own backyard in Uttarakhand. He aims to go further beyond what he has achieved by planning to launch a monitored crowd-sourced software where people who wish to plant their own forest can easily know what species to go for.
The initiative taken by Sharma is an inspiration to all. Planting of the trees has brought over noticeable change in the atmosphere and also the biodiversity. And the forest serves fresh fruits as well.
Afforestt in its website says, ” The damage done to the Earth is repairable. We believe that our forests can be brought back, but only if we act NOW.” Yes, all of us need to act now and join Shubhendu in his initiative which is actually for a better future. For every tree cut down, plant another 100. Isn’t that what is going to help rather than shouting out slogans and breaking out protests. This, planting forests, should be our protest. As Sharma ” This should become a livelihood cycle, where a lot more people are engaged in afforestation.”
All of us something to learn from Shubhendu’s story. There is so much you need to give back to nature and it may be difficult but definitely not impossible to make a change. And this industrial engineer who chose nature over money has definitely shown us that.