Mr. David B.K. Thomas (BT/ME/1977)

Mr. David Thomas is a social activist who spent several years in IT industry before pursuing his true calling. He is the Chairman and Chief Functionary Officer of India Nirman Sangh, a not-for-profit organization that he started in 2004 in Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu. This NGO works on key issues of micro finance (SHGs), rural development, poverty alleviation and women empowerment. It also works towards sanitation and health related issues in rural areas.

 

The organization has been instrumental in changing lives of hundreds and hundreds of women making them self-reliant. In 2010, IIT Kanpur conferred upon him the Distinguished Alumnus Award for his outstanding contributions and selfless service towards women empowerment.

Profile

Mr. David Thomas obtained his B.Tech. in Mechanical Engineering from IIT Kanpur in 1977. He then joined the Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi for a post-graduation in Ancient Indian History. He was the first elected President of the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students Union (JNUSU) who was not affiliated to any of the major national political parties.


In 1987, after working in various IT companies for nearly 7 years, he founded Datasophy, an e-learning company that designed educational software for teaching sciences and social sciences in schools in India. He then joined IBM India in 1992 and later took charge of the IBM Europe Learning Services, headquartered at La Hulpe near Brussels. In 2002, he returned to India and worked as a Vice President for a year as the head of IBM’s Learning Services group for ASEAN and South Asia.

Keeping true to his inquisitive and exploratory nature, he quit his job in January 2003 and began his extensive travels across the country to understand the complex social dynamics of rural India. His interactions with local NGOs and his personal experiences drove him to set up a small not-for-profit company called India Nirman Sangh, along with a few friends. The organization, started in 2004, works towards women empowerment and is involved in several developmental projects in the Palani Hills region of South India, Tamil Nadu. India Nirman Sangh is completely funded through the savings of the members and the generous support of friends, including several IITians.

In partnership with the Gandhigram Trust, they have worked with thousands of women and transformed their lives for better. Through microfinance, they have helped women become self-reliant. A few have even started small, micro enterprises including grocery shops, tea stalls, a computer center, a Eucalyptus oil filtering and bottling business, a Kodaikanal coffee powder processing unit and a carpentry workshop. This has enabled them to provide good education to their children. The organization also holds awareness campaigns and trains women on other issues such as sanitation and health. Their women's groups have been engaged in programs like elimination of open defecation.

Since 2003, Mr. Thomas has also been an advisor to the Gandhigram Trust and the Gandhigram Khadi and Village Industries Public Charitable Trust. Based on Gandhi’s ideas ‘produce locally and sell locally’, he has created and implemented a highly successful rural marketing plan involving barefoot sales women, providing employment to more than a hundred poor women in villages. He is also a trustee of the Sathya Surabhi Trust in Kodaikanal, which runs a primary free school for underprivileged children at Attuvampatti near Kodaikanal.

There is another interesting facet of his charming personality and that is of a writer. He is the author of Rear Entrance, a book published in April 2011 by Hachette India. The book is partially influenced by his own experiences during his stay in Belgium. Mr. Thomas continues to work towards social issues and maybe has already penned down his second book.

 

 

 

IIT Kanpur

 

 

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