Awards Category: Young Leaders
Founder, Feeding India
Ankit Kawatra founded Feeding India, which works to solve the complex challenges of food wastage, hunger and malnutrition in India, in 2014. Ankit holds a Bachelor of Business Studies majoring in Finance from Delhi University, and attended the Leading Change programme at the University of Cambridge.
Creating a Better Future
According to the Food Agricultural Organisation report ‘The State of Food Insecurity in the World, 2015’, India has a staggering 194.6 million people who are undernourished; the second-highest in the world. Yet, the amount of food that is wasted is appalling. Ankit experienced this first-hand when he attended a star-studded wedding catering to over 10,000 guests. According to Ankit, there was so much food, the leftovers for the night could have easily fed 5,000 hungry people; instead, they all went straight into the trash. Although he was sickened by the wastage, he thought of it as a one-off incident; however, when he started enquiring about what happened to leftover food at events and wedding functions, the vendors he spoke to told him that all surplus food was thrown away. Realising that something had to be done about it, he quit his job and started Feeding India. One of the fundamentals of Feeding India is that it doesn’t create new food, but instead manages surplus food. Ankit felt that this helped differentiate his initiative with many other organisations solving hunger issues, where most of them are creating food rather than looking at food that has already been created. Also, Ankit believes in giving out balanced meals to the hungry; delivering biscuits and calling it a meal just doesn’t cut it for him – nor should it, with the amount of food that goes to waste every day.
To gather surplus food, Ankit partners with caterers and restaurants, and are given a heads up on any upcoming events. As the wedding or event progresses, the caterer gives Ankit a call to let him know the approximate amount of food that will potentially be left over. A team of volunteers, called Hunger Heroes, is then dispatched to the venue to collect the extra food; the food is collected at around 12.30am, then immediately distributed to the beneficiaries. To ensure the food gets to the right people, Feeding India ties up with NGOs and shelter homes and drops meals off at these places. However, sustainability also factors into the distribution model; if, for instance, an event is held near an orphanage or old folks home, the food will be donated to that home to minimise transportation costs. While Ankit feels that it’s great to be able to distribute leftover food to help alleviate hunger for the underprivileged, his long-term goal is to make people more conscious about food wastage and have them think twice about wasting food – or at least think of Feeding India as another important service they need to book when organising their next event.
Apart from food collection and distribution, Feeding India has also grown to include a host of other programmes including Happy Fridge, which serve as a one-stop collection point for food. These fridges are installed in various housing areas, office campuses and markets for people to donate their excess food, and for those in need to access that food at their convenience. Meanwhile, the Poshan to Paathshala programme helps ensure vulnerable children gain access to proper education; it provides children with nutritious meals during their school hours as an incentive for them to continue going to school. Feeding India is also involved in emergency relief efforts, where its team of Hunger Heroes works with organisations in disaster-hit areas to deliver food and other necessary relief materials to victims.
When Ankit decided to quit his job and start Feeding India, naturally his family was not amused. In fact, he says they were ‘extremely dramatic in the first 4 months’ and he was almost pushed to stop what he was doing. By communicating continuously about how he wants to make a positive impact on the next generation, he managed to slowly convince them that this is the path he wants to follow, and that doing good is a type of success in itself.
From a team of just two people, Feeding India has grown to include over 8,500 volunteers working in more than 65 cities, handling 12 food recovery vans and more than 50 community fridges. With its recent acquisition by Gurugram-based foodtech unicorn Zomato India, Feeding India has significantly widened its reach; with Zomato’s resources and funding, Feeding India currently distributes 1.1 million meals a month as opposed to 78,300 monthly meals it delivered in December 2018. Furthermore, the number of cities that Feeding India operates in has also risen to 82, with the number of Hunger Heroes rising tremendously from 8,500 to 21,500. Additionally, Zomato is also funding the development of several initiatives, including the Feedi.ng app, which will connect donors and volunteers at scale, with the platform expecting to serve at least 100 million underprivileged people every month.
For his efforts, Ankit was honoured in the Forbes 30 under 30 Asia list 2017 under the Social Entrepreneurs category. He was also selected as one of 17 Young Leaders for United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, was named a Queens Young Leader by the Royal Commonwealth Society, and received a National Youth Award from the Government of India. Feeding India has also been recognised by the Prime Minister of India, the Queen of England and the United Nations World Food Programme.