On May 1, 2020, WOTR brought together a diverse range of stakeholders including policy makers, government officials, researchers, corporate donor representatives, and development practitioners for a half-day virtual workshop in order to reach a consensus on Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EbA) for building resilience to COVID-19 in rural Maharashtra.
Nitesh Rikame is a Business Development Officer at our head office in Pune. He has been with WOTR since 2017. He shares his story in our 'WOTRian of the month'.
‘I was born in 1990 and grew up in Vasind , a small semi-urban town near Mumbai. My father was an HR Manager in a private company and my mother a teacher. I had a very typical urban childhood. From my childhood days, we used to go to our village, and this somewhere instilled in me, a desire to work in the agricultural areas of our country. I felt this was what I wanted to do. I was also good at social sciences, biology and this also pushed me in that direction. I completed my Class XII from Kalyan in Thane District of Maharashtra. I decided to do something a little ‘different’ from the usual careers of medicine, law or engineering.
I wanted to do a degree in Agriculture, and applied for agriculture colleges across the country, and later go selected at ‘Dr. Balasaheb Sawant Konkan Krishi Vidyapeeth’ in Dapoli. However, as this was too far from my home, I chose to do my BSc. in Agriculture from the ‘Padmabhushan Vasant Dada Patil College of Agriculture’, Talegaon Dabhade. One thing I realised after studying the subject, was that the reality was quite different from what we pick up as middle class urban dwellers. One basic constraints of agriculture, that I realised is that farmers didn’t see agriculture as a business, but rather as an occupation passed on from generation to generation. This has to change in the times to come.
Initially, my thought was that after doing my B.Sc. I would do business on my own farm land. But I realised that there was much more to agriculture than my perceptions about it. So I realised that agribusiness management was the field to pursue. Most of the B.Sc. graduates were becoming researchers, extension workers, or lecturers. I felt this was not for me, and hence decided to do my Masters in Agribusiness. I sat for and got selected in the Vaikunth Mehta National Institute of Cooperative Management (VAMNICOM), in Pune. The experience at VAMNICOM was wonderful as I learned in-depth about aspects of supply chain management, agri inputs, agri business and the ways in which farmers miss out on the full benefits of agri business. There was a good senior-junior bonding. I was fortunate, that while at VAMNICOM, I got an internship with Bharat Insecticides and extensively travelled through Madhya Pradesh. I was one of the two students who later received a Pre-Placement Offer (PPO) at Bharat Insecticides. I took up the offer and joined the company in 2016.
I enjoyed working in Bharat Insecticides and learned a lot but quickly realised that my flair was to work in the development sector. I felt that promoting products alone wasn’t giving me the job satisfaction I wanted. So after 3 months, I resigned and went back to Mumbai. My friends and I started an e-commerce store in Thane called 'bhajiwala.com' . Our goal was to procure vegetables from the Vashi APMC yard and farmers themselves, and then do home delivery of vegetables to the consumers. We would do weekly vegetable markets in the major housing societies in Thane. Due to various reasons, however, we could not sustain this start up beyond one year. I really enjoyed my time, here, as I learned the ropes of setting up a business from scratch. One learns so much from this. So I left the start-up and went back to Pune.
I was then introduced to Crispino Lobo, at WOTR Pune and later applied to work there; I was interviewed and selected in January 2017. Working in WOTR was a tremendous challenge, especially in Business Development. To do BD in the non-profit sector is very tough. It takes a long time to convert any leads into business, people are often reluctant to give money, and organisations have their own distinct geographies and areas of work. It is challenging to raise money, especially in the beginning when people are not aware about your organisation. WOTR works in watershed development, which people don’t easily understand.
But gradually I realised how to market WOTR, how to reach out, and how to pitch in the right way. When I joined WOTR, the Business Development was not well-structured and organised. At a young age, I got the opportunity to lay down guidelines for the organisation, how to collect data, how to follow up, how to map the sector and so on. These are golden opportunities which generally people don’t get at a young age. Crispino himself was a good mentor, as he is very thorough, professional and a hard task master. One can learn a lot from him. The same is the case with Prakash Keskar. As I move on to a new chapter in my life, these lessons will stand me in good stead.
On a lighter note, I collect coins and currency from different countries. I have almost 25 countries’ currencies as well as old Indian coins. I have been a national-level squash player and an avid trekker. At WOTR, I have picked up the hobbies of reading and writing as well.
My advice to anyone who wishes to enter this field, in conclusion, is to be patient and work with confidence. You need to be very patient in the field of Business Development, and have complete conviction in your approach. If you follow this, you will get the results that you want.’