We well know the northeast part of India is renowned for its scenic beauty and lush green mountain valleys. The eye-pleasing sights and fresh air in the region are soothing for the mind and soul.
Social entrepreneur, Vijay Byrsat chose this place to set up his startup. He set up the Centre of Learning, Knowledge, and Services (COLKS) in Shillong. This start-up aims to help the farmers to learn essential skills, provide education, and help farmers gain access to the outside world.
Early Life, Education, And Work
Vijay Byrsat was born in Shillong. He finished his schooling and graduated from Edmund School. Later, he pursued his Masters from North-Eastern Hill University. He also qualified for the NET examination. Vijay taught in a few colleges in Shillong as a professor for a few months. He later appeared for banking examination and cleared it with flying colors.
He took up a few banking jobs in India and abroad. He was not happy with his work; as he was looking for something different. He resigned from his jobs often searching for something he wanted to do.
One Sunday morning, while reading the newspaper, he came across a motivational article. The article was about serving society. He realized he wanted to work for a social cause. He quit his job and returned to Shillong.
Vijay returned to Shillong in 2014. When he arrived, people called him a fool for leaving an international job. But he knew he wanted to work for a good social cause, and there was no better place to start than his hometown.
Vijay Byrsat wanted to bring a change and work for a good social cause. Initially, he did not know where to start. He took a two-month break and travelled across his state. He just traveled the northeast region while talking to different people on the way.
While traveling, he met many big and small farmers and had a heart to heart conversation with them. He realized the farmers needed help, guidance, and support. Once he finished his journey, he decided to work for the farmers’ cause. His first goal was to provide basic training and education to farmers.
Raising Money to Set up COLKS
At first, nobody believed in his vision. Even after being a banker himself, no bank provided him with a loan. His idea was unique. Nobody earlier had thought of doing something in this sector. After months of intense struggle and hard work, he accumulated money to fund his start-up. He established the Centre Of Learning, Knowledge, And Services (COLKS) in 2015.
Challenges faced By Vijay Byrsat
The first challenge was to provide skills to the farmers. He taught farmers scientific methods to increase their production. He also realized that because of the lack of market access, farmers weren’t able to make much profit. Because of the middlemen, the profit was minimal.
The availability of finances was also a problem for the farmers in the northeast. Vijay Byrsat started finding solutions to these problems.
Achievement of COLKS
Vijay Byrsat helped some farmers to increase their produce nearly up to 10 times. He also removed the middlemen and got the direct access to the market. This increased the farmers’ profits.
To help the farmers with the finances, Vijay partnered with the State Bank of India. Today, the bank provides the farmers with loans at a very low-interest rate.
The farmers under the guidance of Vijay came out with a range of natural products like cinnamon sticks, ginger powder, black pepper, organic tea, etc. One of their well-known product is BEE Natural Honey.
In 2016, COLKS was ranked among the top 5 social start-ups in India by SAP labs and the Indian School of Business. Also, Vijay received the ‘Northeast Young Heroes Award’ in 2020.
Plans For Future
Currently, over 4500 farmers are part of this social start-up. Byrsat plans to expand his ecosystem to other parts of North East India as well. He also wishes to expand to other South Asian countries. The mantra of the start-up is to change the lives of the people and create a better tomorrow for them.