Interview: Srivyal Vuyyuri founder of Sphoorti Organization

Few days back I had a chance to talk to Srivyal Vuyyuri, founder of Sphoorti Organization. Sphoorti is a Hyderabad based NGO running orphanages – working for children from underprivileged and vulnerable groups – orphan and poor, children of HIV/AIDS parents and sex workers – by providing rehabilitation, education, medical, healthcare and transforming them into responsible citizens.

My friend Suman,  introduced me to Srivyal. Previously I have written here about my visit to Sphoorti and the interaction with the kids. It was an overwhelming experience.

In the course of this interview Srivyal talks about the initial days of operations, challenges faced and advise for aspiring people who want to do similar work. I hope you will find the interview inspiring and please use the comments section to share your thoughts.

Could you please tell us about yourself?

I am an MA Economics graduate from University of Ohio (2001-02). I finished my B.Com in 1999 and M.Com in 2001, both from Osmania University, Hyderabad. I worked in Juno Online Services from 1999-2001. I was in ICFAI for about two years after MA Economics. I had started planning for Sphoorti in 2005 and finally established Sphoorti in 2006, since then I have been the Managing Trustee of Sphoorti. I did research in Economics for about three years and published around 15 research articles in academic journals.

Thats really great, being an MA economics from Univ of Ohio, what made you to start Sphoorti, any specific incident or was it in the back of mind?

It was always in my thoughts. Influenced by Swami Vivekananda’s work. Following are two such influencing lines I want to say here:

Givers are more blessed than the takers
The bliss we experience when we become the reason for somebody’s happiness cannot be quantified.

Personally, I wanted to experience it as much as I can, thats on the personal front.  Practically, as an individual, there is a limitation on the extent of help one can provide. When we involve others in the exercise, the fruits are bigger and better. There are a lot of people who want to help people in need. They have money, time and the desire. Its just that they do not have proper information about opportunities to help and more importantly they do not know whom to trust.

So I wanted to create a way where there is
1) opportunity - a platform for haves to reach out to have nots
2) trust - work in such a way that people are forth coming in helping our mission since they have confidence that we do what we promise.

That is really interesting, so can you take me through the initial days of setting up.

Well, initially all we had was the idea, nothing more. As someone who had exposure to principles of management, I wanted to make sure that things are done in the right way. This is to ensure work is sustained and the organization survives in the long run.

There were lots of discussions with family members, friends, well-wishers about starting Sphoorti. There were reservations, doubts, some people opposed, some ridiculed and still some encouraged. But as I had made up my mind to start, I thought I should go ahead. Finished all the required paper work like registration of the organization etc. The next stage of struggle was finding a house to accommodate the children. It was a very frustrating experience as it took 6 months for us to get some modest premises to start the Children’s Home.

Are there any major challenges you faced in setting up and in the initial years of operation?

The biggest challenge was finding the right people to work, to take care of children. Another issue was how to find children. But fortunately it did not take us much time to get out of these. We have been consciously working in such a way that we concentrate on the quality of service delivered to children and no situations/problems diminish our concentration on our mission.

Can you please throw some light on how you find children? Because that seems to be a problem, finding children and make sure they will join the organization.

Initially we did face some problems finding children. We informed a lot of people to refer to us – cases where in there are children who need our help. Kids who have lost parents, kids from broken families, extreme poverty situations. Slowly, people got to know us and kids started joining and once there were a good number of children it was not a problem for us. In the first year we had around 35 children and within two and half years we reached 80 children.

How difficult is it to convince a kid to come join the organization, lets say when he/she is working as a child laborer, is there any specific child’s case you want to share?

Initially, it might be difficult. We suggest to the guardians to mentally prepare the child before he/she comes to sphoorti. Even then after coming to Sphoorti for the first few days the kids get home sick.  Do not mingle with other children, exhibit unruly behavior, but then as time passes by and they get busy with doing their chores, schooling/studies playing etc. They become part of Sphoorti children’s community and since we provide everything that a child needs there is no room for complaint. We maintain an atmosphere of fun, frolic, lively that a child would love. There is discipline but there is freedom.

How about the financials, how difficult is to find donors, do you think web medium is helping you?

As I said in the beginning, we want to concentrate on the core mission of taking care of children, that means we should not face any crunch situation. That might force us to get into a survival or fire fighting mode. Herein comes a very important principle. We believe that our income is a function of the impact we create. So, we concentrate on creating the impact, and the income follows as more people are aware of sphoorti and our activities. They realize how committed we are to our cause and it is not as if we are doing all by ourselves we are able to work this way because we are responsible and accountable to our donors.  And we take them along with us in all our activities, maintaining strong relationships with them, not treating them like a check book or an ATM. The funda is simple – do the right thing and make people part of it.

We must understand and remember that people help us not because we (Sphoorti) are doing something great. They support us coz they believe that through us, they are able to make a difference to the world around them. This is the raison d’etre of any non-profit organization

It sounds simple enough but I am sure it takes a lot of time and effort to build the trust. What advice would you give to people who want to do something similar, starting NGOs etc, I know of few friends who are just starting on a similar path.

First, get some real world work experience get exposed to things like management, leadership and communication skills. More importantly the art of making people feel important.  Getting into this sector immediately after studies to my mind is not such a good idea. Because running an NGO is pretty much like running any other organization a business, a school etc. You should take a long term view of the organization, no short cuts, no instant gratifications. The journey may be rugged, but you will enjoy every minute of it. For some inputs on our philosophy please read the following blog post.
Abundance Thinking and SPHOORTI

Thank you for all the advice. I am really impressed especially with ‘the art of making people feel important’. You have any books to suggest?

Books and blogs in general. I would prefer reading books about leadership, innovation. Think like a CEO :) , not a social worker. Books on sales, negotiation, relationships. Relationships are the key in this kind of work. I am currently reading The Quantum Leap Thinking by James Mapes. I would suggest reading blogs related to the corporate world. It all boils down to leadership and how to build an organization.

A point I would like u to include and emphasize is, the kind of work Sphoorti does or similar organizations do, should be seen as real serious work. Ours is a cause not a charity. So people should not treat this as a weekend activity or something that only people who are 50-60 yr old take up. Taking an early plunge would make u build an organization in one’s lifetime. And when you reach 50-60 you actually see a lot of work already done. And always stay HUMBLE coz it may be your idea, but it is someone elses’ money which is making the idea work.

Great, it is really an invaluable amount of information and advice. You seem to read a lot of stuff, wonder where you have that much time. So you work full time with sphoorti or you have a day job also?

I used to do freelance research in Economics for some time, but now Sphoorti takes up all my time and I cannot do justice to anything outside Sphoorti. You cannot achieve anything without giving your 100% and sometimes even 100% may not be good enough.

Very true. Can you brief on the future plans for sphoorti, where you want to see the organization down the line after five years?

Our abilities are limited only by our imagination. We believe in Quantum Leap Thinking :) . I cannot give u an answer for this question. Five years is a very long time. As for now, we are planning to get some land and have a campus of our own.

Do you have any special people to mention here who have supported you though this journey with sphoorti

So many actually. First my family members, without whose cooperation we couldn’t have done much. If personal life is good, professional life would be better :) . I can’t emphasize more on relationships. I would like to tell something which Zig Ziglar said on relationsips.

“People who have good relationships at home are more effective in the marketplace.” – Zig Ziglar

Then, so many guys who have chosen to trust us with their hard earned money, spend valuable time in driving long distances to meet the kids and encourage our work. I will take a few names who helped us from Day One, first is Abhay Gangadharan – who gave Rs 70k – our first donation, then Abhishek Yeramalla who took initiative in building a network of supporters in the US, then Krishna Pradeep who has done a similar thing, Raju Kumar Badkal and his team. There has been an equally important contribution from Humanitarian Aid Foundation (ECIL) and lately our partner organization Helping Hand Society.

Srivyal, thanks a lot for your time, its been a pleasure talking to you. I wish you lots of luck for your future endeavors with sphoorti.

Thank you very much!

Here is the picture of the first kid who joined the organization. His name is Shiv Shankar.

sphoorti-48

I hope you found the interview interesting and inspiring. I request you to please visit the Sphoorti website and see what they do, see the gallery to know more about the organization. Contact them to know how you can be a part of making these kids future more brighter.

See this online presentation to quickly know more about Sphoorti’s way of operating and other interesting stuff.

Thank you for reading. Share your thoughts using the comments section below.

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18 Comments

  1. Posted February 14, 2009 at 10:40 pm | Permalink

    That was enriching. Hats-off to Srivyal of Spoorthi. I hope to meet this man some day soon. And dude, that was one hell of an interview. Commendable work. Get us more Spoorthi.

  2. Gowri Shanker
    Posted February 15, 2009 at 12:37 am | Permalink

    Hi Chandu,

    Nice blog to see your new updated blog, I am moved by spoorthi article and appreciate spoorthi’s work.

    Cheers,
    Gowri Shanker.

  3. Supriya
    Posted February 16, 2009 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    Firstly letme comment on this Interview and then u’r BLOG .Well real good enlightment on the intricacies . i will definitely try to pay a visit next time when i’m @ HYD.And Srivyal is truly a man to admire for his dedicated workmanship.
    U’r blog — For the standards you set ,i guess look and feel needs room for improvement ,sorry -:)

    • Posted February 16, 2009 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

      I am happy that you liked the interview. if you can pay a visit to sphoorti, that would be really great.

      coming to the look and feel of the blog… there are some updates coming… :)

  4. Posted February 17, 2009 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

    Hi Srivyal,
    I am impressed with the interview publication. Sure, I take up some thoughts from this article. Congrats for the good work done to the poor-children.

    Thankyou for sharing this link with me.

    Regards,
    Rajesh

    http://www.ekantika.com
    Ekantika Childrens Rational Home

  5. Posted February 24, 2009 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

    Great Thoughts and interview

  6. Archana.A
    Posted February 26, 2009 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    I wish the Spoorthi article gives spoorthi to everyone who happens to go thru it :-)

    Gr8 blog Chandu. I know this blog is just the begining and i am confident that u wld prove yourself and succeed in whatever you aim for.

    Whish you all the best !

    • Posted February 26, 2009 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

      thank you very much for reading and for the wishes too!

      Even if one person gets inspired after reading this interview I would be more than happy and the purpose of the interview is achieved!

  7. Divya
    Posted April 26, 2009 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

    Hi chandra, Great work.Good things like this should always be encouraged. I really hope it inspire many more people and I Wish u all the best.

  8. shilpa
    Posted May 13, 2009 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    Hi,I want to join this organisatio,can i get any contact number or mail id where i could join this.

    Regards,
    Shilpa.

  9. srinivas
    Posted May 13, 2009 at 8:00 pm | Permalink

    nice work

  10. Ranjan
    Posted May 16, 2009 at 10:19 pm | Permalink

    Shilpa, the website has the email address and phone number

    http://www.sphoorti.org
    srivyal@sphoorti.org
    Ph: 9490120168

    Cheers

  11. Spandana
    Posted June 9, 2009 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

    That was fantastic Srivyal.. your are doing a great job.. I would applaud Srivyal for being so efficient in keeping the children happy:)

  12. Sowjanya
    Posted June 10, 2009 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

    Hi Chandu,

    Gr8 to see ur thoughts here after a long time.
    tremendous work

  13. Sushant
    Posted January 5, 2010 at 11:53 pm | Permalink

    Hi , Dude

    Worth appreciating …..there are lot of people who has a inner feeling but only very few break the barrier and go to the actual field , you are one among them ,

    I salute you buddy , very soon I will be at your place with your prior permission .

    Regards

    Sushant
    (mobile number removed)

    • Sushant
      Posted January 5, 2010 at 11:55 pm | Permalink

      Pardon me for the grammatical mistake , speed sometime kills…;-)

      Sushant

  14. Praveen
    Posted May 24, 2010 at 1:38 am | Permalink

    Very nice blog, inspiring.

  15. adi
    Posted January 13, 2011 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

    Hey chandra .This interview was very useful to me. I recently visited Sphoorti and found it exactly the way you describe it here..kudos!

One Trackback

  1. By A Visit to Sphoorti « Cheyuta on February 16, 2009 at 10:43 am

    [...] read this interview(by someone) with Srivyal. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Kids Recycling Zone – [...]

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