Sridhar Venkat, CEO, Akshayapatra, a not-for-profit organisation which provides 20 lakh free meals to school children in 14 States, says the goal of the organisation is to become irrelevant. The organisation which cooks 100 crore meals every three years, dreams of reaching out to more children and cooking 100 crore meals a year.
But the real success of Akshayapatra, according to Venkat, is not to go on increasing the number of meals that it can cook. “The real achievement is when we close the organisation. We should become irrelevant,” he says. In an interview with BL on Campus, he shared his five-point success formula to make growth happen. Venkat says start-ups and not-for-profit organisations should focus on what they want to do to scale up.
Staying focused on the objective is part of the five-point success formula he prescribes to make an organisation scale. “Simplicity is the key to scale up. When an organisation is small, the teamwork is with missionary zeal. But when it grows up, it turns complex. Keep things and processes simple in order to scale,” he said.
Venkat was relating the story of Akshayapatra to a gathering of Social Venture Partners (SVP) members here over the weekend. SVP represents a group of investors from varied backgrounds that come forward to invest in socially relevant start-ups that are making a difference to vulnerable communities.
”Innovation need not be expensive, it can be frugal,” he says, pointing to the simple technological innovations that helped Akshayapatra scale up its operations.
Market good work
Venkat asserts that all good work being done must be marketed well. “We have realised this much early that all good work should be marketed. Unless people know about it, you can’t scale up. Marketing is essential,” he says.
In order to make a not-for-profit a successful and scalable entity, one should have the mind of a corporate and the heart of a not-for profit. “All of us (leadership team) are from for-profit backgrounds,” he said.
Akshayapatra’s journey, which started two decades ago with five schools and a few hundred children, now touches over 20 lakh children in 20,000 schools. The not-for-profit organisation employs 6,200 people in 65 locations. “About 95 per cent of them are from simple backgrounds,” he said.
“The challenge for Akshayapatra is not growth. We have enough children to feed. About 3,000 children die of hunger every day in the country. We are serving 20 lakh meals. Our target is to reach 50 lakh students,” he said.