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Akash Singh: Young wizard makes a mark

In every problem Akash Singh faces, he smells an opportunity and comes up with a solution. The latest thing he does is upcycling tonnes of temple waste, thus making temple premises and water bodies free of trash. Earlier, he launched several innovations, purely based on needs. Akash was also elected as an Ashoka Young Changemaker in recognition of his entrepreneurial spirits. And guess what? He is just 19.

Read all about his incredible story, of innovation and entrepreneurship.

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India has 2 million Gods and worships them all. In religion; all other countries are paupers, and India is the only millionaire: Mark Twain

Since time immemorial, we Indians have great faith in religion. Our ancestors have provided us with so many temples and pilgrimages to worship and please God. In India, for every 400 people, we have at least one place to worship. According to a survey, Indian youths largely have faith in God and the numbers are only going up. Hence we will continue to perform various rituals to worship God. But what about the waste generated out of these rituals and temples? Since temple offerings are considered sacred and treated as a holy entity, most temples dump them in water bodies. The waste mainly consists of flowers, incense sticks ash and coconut husks. When dumped in the water, it pollutes water bodies, leading to choking.

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Realising the gravity of the matter, Akash Singh, a young innovator and entrepreneur came up with a solution, Energinee Innovations, a startup that aims to upcycle temple waste and also provides an opportunity to jail inmates to earn a livelihood. "Be the change you want to see in the world", Gandhiji said. We all have heard or read it at some point in our life but how many of us have been able to follow it?

Akash Singh is amongst those who adhered to it and was successful in his attempt to bring in the change he desires to see. His journey started when he first built a wind harnessing model at a science exhibition when he was in Claass X in 2015. After getting the right direction, he organised a science and technology fest (now called Khoj Khumbh) for school students along with the Douji Committee. He wanted to provide a platform for people wanting to bring a wave of positive change and needed an opportunity to showcase their talent and potential they own. In fact, Akash and his team organised Khoj Kumbh along with Douji Temple Committee and Ashoka innovators.

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Akash's Innovative mind didn't just stop here. He made a smart stick for elderly people which not only helped them walk with ease but also had several other facilities built-in like a mobile charging point, self-rechargeable torch, alarm, compass and the facility to adjust its length. "Old age comes with many challenges. I was inspired by my grandfather to make high tech stick," says Akash.

Just like that he proposed to build a smart irrigation water sprinkler after witnessing perpetual wastage of water, along with his three classmates, that can irrigate up to a range of 30 m.

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With every problem that Akash faced, he ended up finding a solution for it and has been received with various accolades. He was just 18 when he came up with the idea of Energinee Innovations. During his diploma studies, Akash used to visit temples frequently. He loved sitting beside the lake nearby, listening to the hymns. One day he saw a priest dumping loads of waste into the lake without an iota of hesitation. He observed the same habit in every other devotee. In an attempt to stop, he was questioned back that, " Yahaan nahi dalengey toh fir karenge kya hum iska?"

This question made Akash restless until he found the solution. His mentor and professor Zakir Hussain informed him about the Atal Incubation Center BIMTECH of NITI Ayog. Atal Incubation Centre intends to promote innovation and entrepreneurship in India. With the idea of reprocessing the temple waste and the assistance of Atal Incubation, Akash started his startup along with his friend Naresh Bhati. They started by installing bins in some temples around New Delhi which would collect ashes and coconut shells. Using these as inputs they would make different handicrafts and sculptures. His company raised its first round of funding from a German-based Angel Investor.

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A team of Atal Incubation Centre BIMTECH advised him to work with jail inmates. They began by training 30 prisoners of Gautam Buddha Nagar Jail on handicraft skills and then they started making products. After a fortnight, 22 of them got out on bail, threatening the production process. But the very next day more than 40 prisoners were ready to work with them. Working with jail inmates was not easy for the team. But after spending time with them, they realized that most of them were incarcerated without any proper investigation and were forced to serve a sentence for no reason. Energinee Innovations not only helped them with a way to earn a livelihood but also endowed them with a chance to earn back the respect stolen from them. One such example is of Sanjay, a 21-year-old resident of Noida, UP who was forced to spend around 17 months in jail on false accusations of abducting a girl forcefully. He worked meticulously with the team and after knowing about his work, the girl's parents withdrew the charges and agreed for their marriage. Currently Akash's team has 22 people all under the age of 25. He calls it his "DREAM TEAM" and they together seek how to face off the challenges and make this startup voyage to success.

His team has been helped and mentored by Harsh Désaur (designing), Abhinav Singh Rawat (marketing) and KR Chari (waste management research).

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Akash was also elected as an Ashoka Young Changemaker in recognition of his entrepreneurial spirit and his ability to empathize. Now he is a part of the world's largest social entrepreneurs and Changemakers. Akash has also been awarded by Prime Minister's Office (PMO) and Chief Minister of Haryana for his projects. Other feats include Young Entrepreneur award by Great Noida Authority, Udyam Veer Award by MSME. Recently, Akash also participated in Social Entriprise World Form (SEWF) held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. He was also featured on the list of 20 in 20 by Open Magazine

So far they have been able to get eight prisoners to get linked to some organisations on the basis of the skills imparted under the skill development workshop provided by Energinee Innovations. Moreover, as yet 152 temples have been reached out to upcycle the waste in the regions of Gurgaon, Ghaziabad, Noida, Greater Noida and Delhi. Now they are planning to expand their operations to Varanasi and Mathura. The team has a sustainable temple model under construction along with the idea to empower women by giving them a chance to work and earn and become independent.

Energinee Innovations is not just a start-up. It is an opportunity to eradicate the plague of societal and environmental problems like waste management, water pollution and provides the jail inmates to overcome the stigma of imprisonment. Akash believes that through hard work and determination one can realise his dreams. Energinee Innovations is a product of such hard work and determination through which he would realize his dream to make the world a better place to live in.

"Driven by empathy and social impact, our aim is to bring a positive change in the life of billions of people," says Akash, concluding the conversation.

He is ushering in positivity, even at this young age. Only the sky is the limit, young man.

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