Coffee With Parul Gupta – Co-Founder, NGO Post
“Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” ~ Thoreau.
But some of amongst the humankind rise above it and chase their dreams and become role models to the rest. Today we have one such person amongst us. Parul Gupta is a top wireless communications professional in IBM Research lab. She also runs a NGO site – ngopost.org.
Me: Sundar Rajan G S
PG: Parul Gupta – Co-founder, NGO Post
Me: Hi Parul, Welcome to Coffee With Sundar. Can you please speak about yourself, your background, childhood days and what you do.
I was born in a small town called Khetrinagar (near Pilani) in Rajasthan and my childhood was spent in many cities all over India, as my dad’s job took him to many places. I have a B. Tech in Electrical Engineering from IIT Bombay and a M.S. in the same from University of California, Los Angeles. Currently I am working at IBM Research – India and devote my free time to NGO Post.
Me: What is NGO Post all about? What is it trying to achieve.
PG: NGO Post is a big, open community of people interested in social issues where anybody can register for free and read/share information. Our goal is to connect the various stakeholders like NGOs, donors, volunteers, CSR groups, multilateral organizations etc, so that they can mutually learn from and help out each other
Me: How did you start NGO Post? What is the trigger behind this? Who else is involved in the initiative?
PG: NGO Post’s origin goes back to days at University of California, San Diego where Nitin and I were students in 2007. We were a part of a student group called Udai where all of us volunteers worked with NGOs and created awareness about different social issues. During our activities, we felt the need for an open, global platform where anybody interested in social welfare activities could come together to share their knowledge, learn from each other’s experience and also find other motivated people. Both Nitin and I have been deeply involved in the social sector since our early college days – I have been volunteering for many causes and Nitin was a founding member of an NGO called Shiksha Sopan in IIT Kanpur and Udai at UCSD. Nitin is also a web-technology enthusiast and a computer scientist by education. One night, during our chat sessions, he suggested NGO Post as a means of using technology for social good. I got hooked on to the idea and over time fellow-believers like Goli, Jean, Mayank, Megha, Aneesh, Hemant, Anupreet and many others joined forces! What NGO Post is today is due to the efforts of all these champions.
Me: You have worked with several other NGOs before starting NGO post. What were they. Can you share some anecdotes from them. What did you learn from them?
PG: here have been too many to name but each has been a learning experience in its unique way! While at IIT Bombay, I took Maths classes for Class 4-5th students. These kids had problems with even basic algebra – taught me the gaps in our primary education system. Almost a decade later, I took CAT Math classes for some very motivated visually impaired students at Samarthanam, and I realized how much needs to be done for making education truly accessible for them. I have also organized fundraisers for ASHA/AID, clothes, medical supplies and newspaper collection drives for GOONJ, events for spreading awareness about disabled rights with Chrysallis and picnics for underprivileged kids with Dream a Dream.
Me: You work full time at IBM Research labs. What work do you do there? How you are making time for this initiative?
PG: My research background has primarily been in wireless networks, but at IBM Research, I got the opportunity to work in many different areas like cloud computing, green technologies and analytics. The flexible work culture and good work-life policies at IBM also helped me sustain my involvement in NGOpost. The team put in a lot of hard work in the early years of NGOpost. There was a period of 6 months before joining IBM research when I was working on NGOpost full time. We were working on website features, online and offline publicity to build the community, content seeding, community engagement all at the same time. Now the community has grown and it is mostly on auto-pilot, so the volunteers try to make improvements as and when time permits.
Me: What are the top challenges for NGO post today?
PG: The top challenges for NGOpost are twofold:
Take the platform to the NGOs which are not very internet savvy or do not have good internet connection and help them benefit from this Steady time from volunteers – there is a lot that we can do to improve and grow NGOpost, make it bigger, more powerful. But as of now everyone in the team is a full-time professional with young families, so it is always a juggle to find time. We would be very happy to get help from young, enthusiastic people.
Me: What is your message for Indian youth? How can they help in this initiative.
My message for Indian youth is that you have a lot of power to make our country a much better place for everyone. Don’t lose hope in India, don’t complain that the system can never change. Don’t go away to greener pastures and think only of short-term personal gains – the future of the country depends on you. Democracy succeeds only if it is truly participative – here are a few simple things everyone can do
Don’t break the law and report others’ violations instead of being a
Use RTI to dig out and deter corruption
Protest against injustice
Move the society towards equality by working for upliftment of the poor
and needy in whatever small way possible
Every little bit makes a big difference.
Me: Thank you very much Parul. Wish you good luck in all your endeavours.
Readers, Hope you enjoyed this edition of Coffee With Sundar.
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