Today, we live in a fragile world, where natural ecosystems and resources are depleting in rapid proportions. Society drifts further away from practices of preservation and renewability. We have forgotten to care for the substances we put in our bodies, but more importantly what we sow in our earth. And at the end of the day, we are what we eat. If we continue exploiting our soils and its fruits, our bodies soon reflect that abuse.
In our journey to find the solutions to these issues, we quickly learnt that they weren’t to be found in complicated textbooks and research; but rather in the hands of the rural communities that punctuate India’s landscape. The recipe to a sustainable future lies in the practices of grass-root groups and villages, that don’t often get a voice.
Thus, Gratitude Farms was born. We aim to act as an organized catalyst for rural empowerment and community-based agricultural models. With a team of professionals from the corporate and rural development sectors, our goal is to develop rural entrepreneurs and grass-root leaders to transform villages for greater self-reliance. Organic farming, urban organic farming and zero wastage value additions are the core expertise of Gratitude Farms.
A new India with sustainable and vibrant rural communities.
To develop and support 5,000 ex-soldiers and their family as
self-sustaining organic farming entrepreneurs in next five years.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Major VP Sharma (Retd)
Co-Founder and CEO
VP Sharma is a technology professional with over 34 years’ global experience in Telecommunications / Networking domains. An alumnus of National Defence Academy, Khadakvasla, Pune, he served in Indian Army (Corps of Signals) for 16 years from 1985 to 2001. During his career in Army, he has served in many operational assignments and military technology projects in India and internationally.
He transitioned to corporate world in 2001. From 2001 to 2010, he worked in telecom sector during the years of hyper-growth. During this period, he worked for Airtel, Ericsson and Nokia Siemens Networks and Cisco Systems in senior positions.
In 2017, he left his corporate career and along with three of his close friends to take up social entrepreneurship full-time through two ventures - Gramonnati Trust and Gratitude Farms with a goal to develop 10,000 rural entrepreneurs over the next five years from amongst youth, women and ex-soldiers.
He lives in Pondicherry.
He is an alumnus of IIT Kanpur (M Tech, EE), and Military college of Telecom Engineering (BE, E&C).
A proven leader at senior, strategic positions in large, global, geographically dispersed and complex organisations, Shekar has about three decades of work experience at large, diverse multinational corporations covering General Management across various functions and Industries like Automotive, Technology, Telecom and Retail.
Shekar has managed large and geographically diverse global teams. He has traveled widely and has a sound understanding of various cultures across Asia, Europe and the Americas. Understanding people & their drivers is his passion. He is an active Coach and has been mentoring several people over the years. Transformational Leadership is his specialty; driving change is what he finds most exhilarating at work. He currently runs his own consulting firm which specializes in Startup advisory, Shared Services and Business Transformation and has a diverse set of clients from global leaders in Aviation and Consumer Durables to a series of early stage start-ups.
Brig Rakesh Kaul (Retd)
Co-Founder and COO
Brig Rakesh Kaul has over 33 years of distinguished military experience as an officer in the Corps of Signals, Indian Army. He has led major communications and networking projects for the Army over the years in various parts of the country. He joined Gramonnati after his retirement in Mar 2018. He is also a wildlife enthusiast and is a post graduate in Eco-Tourism. Presently he is Co-founder at Gramonnati and Gratitude Farms.
He has now settled in Pondicherry permanently post his retirement from Indian Army.
Educational Qualifications: B Tech, M Sc (Ecotourism)
Co-Founder and Director
Ayushi Sharma is a graduate from Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education (SAICE), Pondicherry. She has done her Masters in Energy Strategies from MINES ParisTech, France. Her interests are in the field of micro/nano- grids for rural communities and plans to set up her own social enterprise. She is currently working as a research engineer in the renewable energy startup, SunMoksha.
She is developing technologically advanced but affordable water management solutions for our organic farms.
BOARD OF ADVISORS
Director, National Institute of Agricultural Marketing (NIAM, Jaipur)
At present working as a Senior Director in CCS National Institute of Agricultural Marketing (A Govt. of India organization under the Ministry of Agriculture) also worked as a Chief Project Leader/Faculty Entrepreneurship Development Cell, Department of Management Studies, Malaviya National Institute of Technology (Ministry of Human Resource Development, Govt. of India), Jaipur. Worked in USA on H1-B VISA as a Marketing Manager and also visited Mexico, Canada, Caribbean Island, France, Holland, UK, Germany, Thailand, Japan, Spain, South Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong etc.
He is the Knowledge Partner for Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare for RKVY Project to develop Agri start-ups and holds the position of Chief Mentor for IIT Kharagpur, West Bengal, National Rice Research Institute, Cuttack, Odisha, Bihar Agriculture University, Bhagalpur, Bihar, and Jobner Agriculture University (SKANU), Rajasthan, Jaipur.
He has been actively researching, teaching, and consulting in Agricultural Marketing & Agri-Business Management Assignments from different stakeholders including World Bank, Asian Development Bank (Consultancy), Govt. of India, Govt. of Rajasthan etc. Published more than 200 research papers on diff subjects and presented many research papers in workshops, seminars, conferences at national and international level etc. Organised more than 1000 training programmes (short term & Long term) in India and abroad i.e., Induction Training Programme, MDPs, Training for Trainers (TOT), Awareness Programmes, and Capacity Building Programmes etc.
He has been the keynote speaker at various notable institutions including the World Trade Centre, CII Apple Conclave, International Conference on Marketing Reforms, International Conference on Marketing reforms and International Marketing conference.
He has been Editor of various prestigious magazines including Journal of Entrepreneurship and authored 4 books viz Book on International Marketing, Book on E. tailing & Retailing, Book on Services Marketing, and Book on Consumer Behaviour.
Mentor | Coach
Founding advisor for budding Social and Tech entrepreneurs on scale-up, incubators, accelerators, and VC's in value investing. A novice Farmer, practicing and learning sustainable farming.
Over two decades of experience in funding, investing, incubating, and starting small industry. He is among the first to raise venture capital funds for the Indian IT industry back in 1992, as part of Creditcapital Venture Fund (India) Ltd. (CVF) in Delhi & Bangalore.
Previously, Formerly, visiting Professor, IIMA - VC and Private Equity courses. IIM Indore – Entrepreneurship. A regular contributor to industry magazines like Dataquest, a leading computer fortnightly from CyberMedia Ltd. and Business Line, a business newspaper from the house of The Hindu. Conducted various seminars on Venture Capital for banks, financial institutions and in Business Schools/Universities. Retired as Vice President of Polaris Software Lab handling M&A's, divestitures, incubations as well as internal process monitoring for 6 years.
He was a part of start-up VC Fund, the Sterling Technology & Venture Corporation (STVC) and incubated a technology company, as CEO, a Joint Venture of Polaris and the TeNet Group of IIT Madras.
Prof. M. V. Ashok
An Agribusiness Professional
Retired as the Chief General Manager of National Bank for Agriculture & Rural Development (NABARD) after 37 years of development banking service having been with the Reserve Bank of India and Canara Bank also. Currently, he holds the position of Adjunct Professor for School of Agribusiness Management, MIT World Peace University, Pune and as Visiting Professor at College of Post Graduate Studies Shillong with the Central Agricultural University North East, besides being an Adviser to Aditya Birla Group as well as Dr Reddys Foundation and other NGOs.
Mr Ashok has considerable exposure in NABARD to collective farming models beginning with the Farmers Club Scheme form 1985 onwards to the introduction of the Farmer Producer Organisations model from its inception from the late 1990s. Lucknow. He has been associated with sustainable development programmes for rural communities and has associated himself with several corporates in choosing appropriate development programs for implementing agribusiness projects using CSR funds and in helping choose to implement partners like NGOs in the project area for supporting FPOs. Mr Ashok has had exposure of rural finance and agribusiness sector in several countries including Thailand, Kenya, China, Germany USA, Finland and England.
IT industry veteran
He is mentor, and adviser to several for-profit and non-profit start-ups. He is passionate about the adoption of technology by the masses facilitating a more equitable and sustainable world. He is a networking industry expert and has held various leadership roles in technology and management at Cisco Systems. He is currently a founder & trustee at Gramonnati - an early-stage non-profit developing rural communities through entrepreneurship.
He is a member of the advisory board for Intelehealth - an international non-profit developing technology for improving healthcare access in rural areas. He is currently an adviser to start-ups Astrome, OpenNets, and Teslon based in Bangalore.
OUR SOLDIERS OF THE LAND
Hony. Capt. Govind Raju, from Air Defence Artillery, served in the Indian Army from 1976 to 2007. A person with Never-Say-Die spirit, he has been our Farm Manager for the main Gratitude Farms and adjoining farms for the last two years. Under his watch, achieving the desired results of Food forest, where we grow over 12 tonnes of vegetable in one acre, monitoring the complex process of aquaponics, training the new members joining the farmland team etc are done. He has learnt and gained expertise in the techniques of Food Forest and is instrumental in ensuring the quality of the farm and the results of the Food forest model.
Naik Raja from the regiment, 6 FD Artillery has served in the Indian Army from 2002 to 2019. He is responsible for our projects for enriched vermicomposting and mushroom cultivation. A very resourceful, and quick-to-learn person, with remarkable aptitude towards developing the enriched vermicompost, for which we take the raw material from the biomass waste of our food forest. He is currently working on a project for 100 tonnes capacity of vermicompost per annum in our main Gratitude Farms
Naik Raman from 288 Medium Regiment has served in the Indian Army from 2003 to 2020. He has been with us from December, 2020 and is taking over our new projects in Aravind Eye Hospital and in Cuddalore
Naik Kulashekharan from 2MLI Regiment has served in the Indian Army from 2002 to 2019. He is responsible for our Chitamur Farm of 3 acres and about 450 mango trees. In addition he is going to take over our new projects in Cheyyur and Pooriyambakkam villages, which is around 60 kms from Pondicherry
Hony. Lt. Shankar from 12 ENGR Regiment has served in the Indian Army from 1988 to 2018. He has been instrumental in setting up of our Chennai team. He was one of the first, who set up the last mile delivery system when we set up our Chennai office. A man of all seasons , he is handling multiple tasks for our Chennai operations team
Naik Keshav Prasad from 61 FD Regiment has served in the Indian Army from 1993 to 2019. He is the Farm Supervisor for our Shadnagar Farm in Hyderabad, where he oversees the development of a state of the art , center of excellence and a training center in Shadnagar, a farm which is spread over 9 acres and is going to represent the best of our food forest model.
Hav. Muniyappan from 201 ENGR Regiment has served in the Indian Army from 1998 to 2018 . He is a role model for a lot of people in his village as well as for the ex-soldiers’ community. He lost his leg while in service, was boarded out in 2018 and since 2020 , he has been instrumental in developing the solar drying business by deploying solar dryers and expanding the capacity in his village, Sengampoondi. On an average he helps us in solar drying of approximately 100 kg of products every month. A man of utmost dedication, he has become a role model for many others who are seeking to become entrepreneurs in their own village.