With January rolling in and the next semester approaching in the distance, one can feel the buzz around insti. Hostels are gradually filling up as are our favorite haunts. ‘Tis the season of Shaastra and Saarang, IITM’s technical and cultural festivals respectively. Over the years, these fests have grown in scale and impact with a plethora of new events, exhibitions, and shows. This article focuses on Shaastra 2019 and their social campaign ReACH, in particular.
Shaastra, IIT Madras, holds the unique distinction of being the first IS0 9001:2015 certified technical festival that is wholly student-run. Shaastra, ever since its inception in the year 2000, has been an integral part of the technical ecosystem at IIT Madras. The ideology of Shaastra revolves around one primary goal: to create and sustain a society of inquisitive minds, who learn and innovate by interacting with each other and with the industry. Over the years, Shaastra has moved beyond merely being a technical festival. Shaastra has attempted to use its wide network and unique position to create a positive impact in the society through various initiatives. Pledge-A-Book (2015-16) was one of these campaigns and it went on to become hugely successful, receiving support and praise from personalities like Dalai Lama, Sachin Tendulkar, Raghuram Rajan, Sudha Murthy, and Shashi Tharoor.
T5E caught up with the CoCAS, Vamsi Krishna Mula on the eve of Shaastra. He noted that “Every year Shaastra aims to roll out unique and innovative ways to create long-lasting impact in the society. This year, we strive to achieve this through ReACH, our social campaign; Relaunch, a unique women-centric career returnship platform; and finally, Shaastra for Schools, titled Ignite.” The Shaastra Spotlight Series is another major attraction with its star-studded speaker lineup featuring Chess Grandmaster Vishwanathan Anand and Nobel Laureate Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, among others. Shaastra 2019 also hosts three shows; Envisage, India’s first and only student organized techno-entertainment; ‘Light Art Show’ featuring Sand Artist Vivek Patil and lastly, Mirage, an internationally acclaimed laser show. The Shaastra 2019 team also continued the rich history of impactful social campaigns by launching ReaCH – Reuse a Carton to Help
ReACH – The Inspiration
T5E spoke to Mayur Joshi, one of the heads of Shaastra’s Public Relations Team to understand what inspired them to start working on ReACH. Mayur mentioned that the inspiration for ReACH struck them during their previous social campaign, Bubbles. He further noted that the lack of infrastructure in schools was a major driver of our campaign and that this understanding motivated the team to create desks which were cheap and sustainable.
ReACH began as an attempt to improve the educational conditions of the underprivileged, while simultaneously making use of the unused cardboard generated in various markets. With this campaign, Shaastra 2019 and ReACH attempts to serve a dual purpose of promoting education and reuse.
ReACH – Execution
T5E contacted Sawni Gupta, one of the coordinators of ReACH, to understand how the campaign was executed across Chennai. “Through ReACH, Shaastra created a supply chain network to collect hundreds of used cartons from shopping malls like Phoenix Marketcity. We were supported in this endeavor by several companies like Reliance digital, Nautica, Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein, One Friday and Promod”, said Sawni.
Sawni also mentioned that the campaign had garnered support from well-renowned NGOs like BHUMI who helped in getting volunteers for making the cardboard desks. Bhumi also helped the team by organizing a number of workshops session to spread awareness about the importance of recycling. TFI (Teach For India), another NGO, helped the team to reach out to schools which didn’t have desks. Currently, the ReACH campaign has reached out to 350 students in 5 schools with each student getting access to these desks. The campaign has been supported by a number of eminent personalities including Former Captain of the Indian Cricket Team Anil Kumble, Indian Astronaut Rakesh Sharma, former IPS Officer Kiran Bedi and Country Director of Gates Foundation Dr. Nachiket Mor, among others.
ReACH – Looking Forward
Siddhesh Desai, one of the heads of the Sponsorship and PR team spoke to T5E about their future plans for ReACH. He noted that the team’s focus till date was to devise a cost-effective solution through multiple iterations and not on scalability. He also stressed the importance of having a strong team at the grassroots level in order to solve social issues. He admitted that a single organization like Shaastra would find it difficult to establish a strong grassroots network and hence, the ReaCH team had brought several NGO’s on board to help in scaling the campaign. In the near future, Siddhesh said that the team would focus on spreading the word about ReaCH, reaching out to more NGO’s and onboarding medium and large-scale retailers.