After pursuing finance from Sri Ram College of Commerce, New Delhi, Neel Ghose was all set in building up his career in finance. But later he came to realise that the excel sheets and the financial analysis are not meant for him, thus stepping into the world of food and startups! In 2014, he started ROBIN HOOD ARMY, that works to get surplus food from restaurants to the less fortunate sections of society from Pakistan and India.
In the past he worked in a New York based hedge fund for two years. Read further to know about his transition from being a financial analyst to becoming the Vice President International Operations of Zomato and starting the Robin Hood Army.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THIS EPISODE
- Neel got the inspiration of starting the Robin Hood Army from his American friend Hunter Halder who launched a voluntary organization called Refood in Portugal, which helps in serving the surplus restaurant food to the less fortunate.
- The organisation does not accept monetary donations and only distributes the food or donations in kind that it receives from restaurants, partners and donors.
- The Robinhood Army consists of over 1000 volunteers and have served food to over 3,50,441 people so far.
QUOTES AND TAKEAWAYS
- “After observing their processes and having some long conversations with Hunter, I thought of doing this back home in India, where unfortunately the need was much more.”
- “Simple really – think less, and do more. Most things will fall into place that way.”
What inspired you to start the Robinhood Army? Did you always have a plan of action for it or did you find inspiration from real life?
Not really, it wasn’t pre-meditated. I happened to be living in Lisbon, Portugal through work where I met this amazing person – Hunter Halder, an American who decided to make Portugal his home and launched a voluntary organization called Refood. What Refood does is basically collect excess food from restaurants through a network of volunteers and serve this to less fortunate people.
After observing their processes and having some long conversations with Hunter, I thought of doing this back home in India, where unfortunately the need was much more.
How did you commence the work of the Robinhood Army? How has been your journey so far?
We started in a really small scale – on our first night of distribution in Delhi there were just 5 of us and we served over a hundred people. The first thing this taught us was just how large the hunger problem is in our country. It made Anand (my partner in crime) and me realize that to create impact we will have to grow disruptively.
Over the last year and a half, the ‘army’ has grown to 2500 active volunteers spread across 21 cities in India and Pakistan who have served just short of 400,000 people. We have been lucky to meet some amazing people in the journey who have taken the RHA to where it is. We are still 1% done though.
Are you pursuing this as a social mission or as a personal aspiration?
Neither really! 🙂 We are pursuing this as the team. We keep inspiring each other to push harder. There are 200 million Indians who struggle to find two square meals a day, we have barely scratched the surface of this.
According to you, what has been the defining moment for the Robinhood Army?
That’s a tough one – there are too many to count. One vivid memory which comes to mind is when we ‘infiltrated’ the army into Pakistan. It was amazing to work together with a like-minded team on the other side of the border fighting a common enemy – hunger. We are now in Karachi, Islamabad, and Lahore and hope to reach more places very soon.
What are the hurdles which you have had to confront in this journey?
Probably the most challenging bit is that most of us are young working professionals, so it’s not the easiest thing balancing this with work. Luckily most of us have solid support from our workplaces who actively encourage us in growing and spreading the RHA.
Are you looking out to expand this idea in the near future?
Yes, for sure. One common feature amongst all our Robins is discontent – not in an unhappy sort of way, but more along the lines of constantly adding value to the community around them.
We are currently executing plans to make the RHA more global – the aim is to provide a common platform for like minded citizens across countries to give back to the community. We shall be in 5 countries in the next 2 months – that still means 186 more to cover J.
What is your message to our readers who are mostly the millennium youth?
Simple really – think less, and do more J. Most things will fall into place that way. Also do join the Robin Hood Army, rumour has it that it’s a fun place.