Divya writes about gender, philanthropy, startup and workplace trends, and business from the lens of its impact on people. She is keen to find interesting stories and new ways of telling them. A journalism graduate from Mumbai who was previously with The Economic Times, Divya is also an editor and proof-reader. Outside of work, she likes to travel, read books, drink hot chocolate, and endlessly watch, read and talk about cinema.
It was more than five years ago, during an internship with architect BV Doshi, that Piyush Verma developed an interest in social design. It led him to work on projects like rehabilitation of people affected by floods in his home state Uttarakhand, building transformable prototypes of shelters for homeless people in Delhi, and preserving vernacular housing in the Himalayas.
Verma then received the Tata Fellowship in 2018, which took him to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US, where he investigated ways to improve rural water planning in India. He led the MIT India Initiative programme, bringing dozens of social impact researchers from MIT and Harvard to India.
Verma, who comes from Nainital, wanted to do something for entrepreneurs and innovators from Tier II cities and beyond. “I wanted to bring them on the same level as their Tier I counterparts in terms of funding, mentoring, access to networks, resources and markets.”
He founded Manush Labs in May 2020. The accelerator works with a network of impact investors, and industry leaders and mentors to support social startups that are working at the grassroots to find scalable solutions. Manush Labs collaborates with organisations like Social Alpha, Wadhwani Foundation, Ankur Capital etc to handhold startups through various stages, from mentoring to funding. Their first programme, which ends in February, has Verma working with 25 startups in the food and agriculture space. He is also designing a summer 2021 programme.
“In Piyush, we found a rare combination of clarity of purpose, and the drive to deliver needle-moving outcomes,” says Sudha Srinivasan, CEO, The/Nudge Centre for Social Innovation, which incubated Manush Labs in November 2020. “His ability to collaborate and effectively leverage resources provided by the incubation programme has set Manush Labs on a trajectory of rapid growth and learning.”