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Indian Techie Genius Who Turned Social Entrepreneur to Give Back to Society

© Photo : Avneesh ChhabraAvneesh Chhabra
Avneesh Chhabra - Sputnik India, 1920, 13.12.2022
A techie genius as a kid, Avneesh Chhabra shot to fame as the fastest person to assemble a computer. He also invented Devanagari font - the alphabet used for Sanskrit, Hindi, and other languages spoken in India.
At 10, the technology bug bit Avneesh Chhabra, now 35, after the little boy got access to his father’s computer and discovered Google.

“I was very privileged to have a computer at my place, as my father used it for his work, and in the evening, I used to use it to google [things], explore more about the computer system, and play games on it,” Chhabra told Sputnik.

Calling himself a completely self-taught person, Chhabra shared that it was Google that became his teacher and experiential learning his way of grasping knowledge.

Fastest Person to Assemble a Computer

The biggest turning point in Chhabra's life came when he took part in an inter-school competition at the age of 15, in which participants were asked to assemble a computer in the fastest possible way.
“I became the fastest person to assemble a computer in just 2 minutes 30 seconds during the inter-school competition,” Chhabra said.
His computer lab became his playground and he and his friends would often kill time by working around wires in computers that were not working and lying in the scrap.
“We used to open them up and try to fix it. I tried it once at home, and I managed to fix the computer. That’s how we learned. In the competition, it was actually much easier because they had older computers which were bigger and larger with easier wires,” Chhabra said.

Devanagari Font

The second part of the competition was held by Microsoft where participants were asked to create font designs for computers.

“We somehow managed to make Devanagari font in the format of Unicode which allows you to type using computers and devices. We learned later that what we made would actually revolutionize the way how are we going to type on the computer in our native language,” Chhabra said.

His team not only got the first prize but also an offer from Microsoft to sell the fonts to them. It was the first time young Chhabra to make fortune but his father had a different plan.
“When I asked my dad, he said don't sell it out because only Microsoft's name is going to be on the font. Keep your name and released it for India so that India can benefit from it,” Chhabra said.
When he told his dad that they were paying so much money for selling out the fonts, his father asked him what he wants to do with that money to which the innocent young Chhabra replied, “I want a few packets of chips and some games to play.”
His father told him that he will provide him with all that but asked him not to sell out.
“I released the fonts under the GNU public license. And my team member and I still have our names on its copyright. I think India benefited quite a lot from that time onwards from that font,” Chhabra shared.
This turned out to be the starting point of his entrepreneurial journey as he went on to make websites for his friends for a small fee and started renting out computer games and CDs at the store in his colony.
He also worked as a professional fashion photographer and took up several projects that got him a huge fan following on social media.

Entrepreneur Journey

At 26, Chhabra turned entrepreneur and started two mobile application companies – Pitstop and Contag.
While the Pitstop app provides roadside assistance to people for their cars if they break down and also manages their service bookings, Contag provides every information about an individual including address, ids, and others.
“We ran both businesses for some time and we reached a stage where it required all our time, money, efforts, and marketing. It was difficult to do justice to it so we decided not to go ahead with it and privately sold both our ventures for an undisclosed price to others,” Chhabra said.
“As an entrepreneur, you need to know when to pull the plug, if your idea is not coming into reality, or it's not sustainable,” he adds.
However, he found his calling in taking his 65-year-old family business of saffron (king of spices) to another level and also working towards the social cause.
Hailing from the sixth generation of the 'Baby Saffron' brand which was started by his great-grandfather in 1965, Chhabra stepped in to take the business to another level in 2007.
He gave a 360-degree twist to the business in 2007 by digitizing everything and also took the brand online, setting up a cloud server, online factory management process, software for human resource management, and managing the whole end-to-end line of production, storage and inventory.

Binging Social Impact

After dabbling in different ventures, Chhabra used his pool of knowledge to give back to society and started two NGOs- Passion Guru andQause. Chhabra reached the pinnacle of his career with Baby Saffron and until 2017, his only goal was to make a career and money. But he realized his big mission when he went to an NGO to celebrate his birthday with orphan children.

“I realized there is a huge lack of technology in the NGO sector. So, I wanted to bridge technology to NGOs, and give back my passion, and my learnings of technology to this section of society which needs it the most as it helps their outreach.”

“I created Qause which is a digital aggregation platform for NGOs, volunteers, and donors, where we are basically matchmaking them as per what they are looking for, let's say an NGO wants space to hold an event and they don't have space. So, we have NGOs in our network that have spaces but don't know what to do with them. So, we partner them up, and it's a win-win situation,” Chhabra explained.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced people to switch to digital mode amid social distancing and lockdown and to cater to those people, Chhabra started another venture - ‘Passion Guru’ that enables online passion-based classes for kids across India.
“During COVID, children were stuck in their homes, in their villages, and in slums, without even a school to go to. In most cases, domestic abuse was happening at home as the father was drinking. It's really unfortunate and sad.
Passion Guru turned out to be a ray of hope they had during the COVID where they were looking forward to our 3 pm to 6 pm classes where they just forget about everything in terms and have fun,” Chhabra said.

Biggest Take-Back

As Chhabra looks back, he shares that life has taught him a lot and the biggest learning he has had is humility and calmness.
“No matter how big you are and how rich you become, in the end, you are a human and money can get you so far. In the end, how you are as a person and how you behave with and treat others, is one of the key factors of success in life. Contributing to that is your own happiness. If you yourself are not happy, you really can't do anything for others,” Chhabra said.
After dabbling in different ventures, Chhabra used his pool of knowledge to give back to society and started two NGOs- Passion Guru and Qause. Chhabra reached the pinnacle of his career with Baby Saffron and until 2017, his only goal was to make a career and money. But he realized his big mission when he went to an NGO to celebrate his birthday with orphan children.
“Somewhere that's what keeps me going. At this point in life, giving back has a little more happiness than doing anything else. Creating value for somebody who needs it more than you do has been my driving force. It gives me happiness to be able to give back and that's where I’m at this point,” Chhabra concluded.