To describe V.R. Ferose as “high-flying” would be to understate his achievements. A Managing Director at 33 and the first ever non-expat to hold such a position in a global multinational in India, Ferose has built his career on inclusion initiatives and transformative leadership. He halved employee attrition at SAP, supported collaborative projects, and encouraged experimentation and innovation. But his greatest achievement (to date) is perhaps his efforts to create opportunities for people with autism. He has led the charge to hire employees who are on the autism spectrum, and today, more than 20 organisations have followed suit, hiring autistic employees and proving Ferose right – everyone really is good at something.
Acute loneliness can be crippling, as Kentaro Yoshifuji knows very well. At age 10, he became a recluse, staying home and skipping school for over three years. While he eventually managed to overcome his problems and graduate high school, he never forgot his childhood experiences. While at university, Kentaro developed OriHime, a robot he designed to help those suffering from loneliness, but with a twist. Rather than functioning as a companion, OriHime serves as a “second body” for its users, connecting them to the world. This stems from Kentaro’s belief that healing comes from human interaction. With OriHime, Kentaro hopes to empower those who cannot go where they want to go to once again participate in society.
A privileged education put him on track for “greater things”. Instead, he started digging wells. Meet Sanjit “Bunker” Roy, the founder of the Social Work & Research Centre, colloquially known as the Barefoot College. After seeing the devastating effects of famine while on a trip to Bihar, Roy made it his life’s mission to improve the fortunes of the rural poor. The Barefoot College, founded in a warehouse in 1972, has since trained over 15,000 men and women to become architects, teachers, pathologist, midwives and more. Its solar-electrification programme has trained women from as far as Afghanistan and Bolivia to become solar engineers, providing remote villages with power and bringing positive change to thousands worldwide.
If there’s one thing that Mohammad Rizan Hassan believes in, it’s second chances. After all, he was given the opportunity to turn over a new leaf, away from his shady past, and this he did with gusto. While he may have left that life far behind, it is the lessons he learned in those dark years that allowed him to recognise the disparity faced by marginalised youths in Malaysia. The same disparities he has sought to address through his initiatives; 1 Belia, 1 Kemahiran (1B1K) and TEKAT Automotive Centre. His inspirational leadership and advocacy for at-risk and troubled youth has helped over 5,000 vulnerable Malaysian youths graduate with vocational skills and become useful members of the country’s workforce and society in general.
Srikanth Bolla is proof that you can be blind, yet have a razor-sharp vision. Srikanth is the first ever international blind student to graduate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, after being rejected by the Indian Institute of Technology. In 2010, he launched a computer research and training centre with a digital library for visually challenged students at Samanvai, an India-based non-profit organisation that provides support to children with multiple disabilities. He then went on to found Bollant Industries, an eco-friendly paper and biodegradable products manufacturing company that has helped provide employment opportunities to over 400 differently-abled individuals.
Once the object of ridicule, Arunachalam Muruganantham, or the Menstrual Man, as he was called in the award-wining documentary by Amit Virmani, is today hailed as a hero by the women of India. He is the creator of a low-cost sanitary pad making machine – which makes pads for 1/3 of the cost of commercial pads – and has helped generate widespread awareness on traditionally unhygienic menstruation practices in India. Despite offers by big corporations to commercialise his invention, he has refused and instead continues to offer them to self-help groups run by women. In 2014, this remarkable man, once ostracised for his ‘experiments’, was named one of TIME’s 100 most influential people.