What gives meaning to this existence? For some, it is achievement, fame, money, or power, while for others, it is doing their best for society, being altruistic to the core, and helping as many people as they can in the very little time we have on earth. Gurumoorthy Mathrubootham is of the second mold. Hiding away from the limelight, he continues to impact the lives of several people with several initiatives that one might wonder whether he has 36 hours to work within a day. With a transition to full-time social work from a corporate work experience of 20+ years, his story becomes even more inspiring to so many of us who wonder how we can impact lives sitting behind our desks. His main work is centered around CSR, as in Corporate Social Responsibility, but his life is an example of another CSR altogether, how to be Completely Socially Responsible.
Guru hails from Tamil Nadu, India. His father was an Engineer in PWD, and his honesty often meant a transfer every six months. Such transfers led to young Guru being raised in multiple places, switching across various mediums of study. He went on to pursue his Engineering in Electronics and Communication from the College of Engineering, Guindy, one of the oldest and top-ranked colleges in the state. His stay at Guindy nurtured his interests in social movements where he was an active part of Student movements and Student politics.
Out of college, he joined HCL technologies as a support engineer. He later went on to work at Wipro for nine years. Apart from growth in his career, Wipro helped him grow mentally as well. It taught him a lot about values and shaped him as a person. In his own words, he considers Wipro a home. During this stint, he also worked abroad (US&UK) for a few years, where he came across an organization called AID India (Association for India’s Development). Having always been interested in doing something meaningful, AID became just the steppingstone that Guru needed. He found their philosophy, which considered all problems interconnected and believed in holistic solutions, fascinating and started volunteering with them and continues to do so even now.
In 2001, he shifted to Bangalore, which would act as the workspace for his social activities for years to come. He started after-school learning centers where people from underserved communities could come and learn. These were aimed at joyful learning without any fixed syllabus. Recently, few centers have restarted due to the dire need for uninterrupted Education in the wake of the pandemic.
In 2004, When Tsunami hit India, he learned about the effects of saline water on cultivable lands and learned more about the agrarian crisis. He empathizes with the farmers deeply, as he believes that farmers in India are the ones to bear the brunt of many issues. Irregular monsoons, price fluctuations, water issues, etc., have made the farmer’s lives highly difficult and are making farmers move away from crop cultivation to fruit cultivation. One such issue he is mainly fascinated upon is the water crisis in the Cauvery delta region of India (comprising of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu), where rice and sugarcane are the major crops. He also offers a solution for this water crisis by highlighting the importance of growing indigenous non-water intensive crops like Ragi and millets.
In 2010, He was in a senior position in a corporate leading a 500+ member division, but deep within his heart, he wanted to effect change. The idea for such a change came from an article that called out that the major segments for cellphones in India will be ABCD (A-Astrology, B-Bollywood, C-Cricket, and D-Devotion). Guru wondered why not E as well and decided to target Education. In his quest to provide technology solutions to social problems like Education, he set up MobiSir Technologies. MobiSir targeted the Exam preparation market for tier-2 and lower cities. He also later co-founded a skill development company called ArthaVidya which worked on gamified learning for commerce students.
Despite being under tremendous pressure to run and grow these startups, Guru never compromised his values and ethics so much that he never even took a client out for dinner. Such moral high ground and lack of VC support were the major hurdles he faced during his entrepreneurial efforts. While the companies are still running, he moved onto the next phase.
Complete Social Responsibility
Somewhere during the 2017-18 timeframe, he got bored with the startup ecosystem. He moved onto full-time social work, spending his time on several initiatives with corporate backing and his own interest. Currently, he works as a CSR program manager for Juniper networks, although not as a full-time employee to dedicate time to other initiatives like After School centers, DoctorNet, etc. The work of Juniper Networks, which Guru truly believes in, covers the holistic development of about 11 villages in the Hoskote taluk of Bengaluru.
The other initiatives he has been part of over the last two years include running a fellowship program for public health professionals under SOCHARA – a community health organization, running Sahay helpline for the emotionally disturbed, helping the movement of migrant workers during Covid, dry ration distributions, training of Asha workers, providing covid support and preparing for the third wave, etc. The list of his contributions to society doesn’t seem to end, yet he humbly shies away from being called an Activist and calls himself a mere volunteer. But those who know him know that he is much more and is an inspiration to many.
*IIM Bangalore, PGP 2020-22