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Deepa Gupta from Bangalore, India

Founder of Jhatkaa.org

Embrace failing and uncertainty. Through failures we learn how to get things right.

Business skills help activist campaign for change

Deepa Gupta is an activist campaigning for social justice. Since graduating from UTS, she’s helped establish two grassroots advocacy organisations in India – the Indian Youth Climate Network and Jhatkaa, which means “jolt” – aiming to jolt the status quo. “It’s not enough just to educate people on a social issue, or even help them implement solutions,” she says. “There’s this whole world of politics that controls so much of what actually happens.”

Jhatkaa holds corporate, cultural and government leaders to account. It seeks meaningful political change towards justice, inclusivity, sustainability and equality in India. So far, its 300,000 members have won more than 12 campaigns and achieved significant milestones in dozens of others.

Successful campaigns include persuading a multinational company to compensate 950 workers affected by mercury poisoning, saving trees from urban development and making emergency contraceptives available over the counter.

At UTS, Deepa studied part-time for a Bachelor of Business. She had a full-time cadetship with the Sydney office of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), the world’s second largest professional services firm, while she studied. Deepa learned skills including marketing, project planning, project management and accounting – all of which helped her when setting up the not-for-profits. She also joined the university’s environmental collective and particularly “Flick my Switch”. This campaign encouraged students and staff to cut energy consumption and switch to renewables. Using Facebook and postcards, the collective gathered more than 5,000 signatures. UTS sponsored Deepa to attend UN climate change conferences in Poznań, Poland, in 2008 then Copenhagen the following year. In her third year, she took a semester off university to co-found the Indian Youth Climate Network and then spent every university holiday in India supporting its activities.

Soon after graduating, she helped launched Greenpeace India’s mobile advocacy platform, one of the first in India, and Change.org’s India office in 2011.

Although Deepa has not set up a business, she has a burning entrepreneurial spirit. Her advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is: “Embrace failing and uncertainty. Through failures we learn how to get things right. In uncertainty arises opportunity, we just can’t predict it!” Through her own experience she has learned “not to expect anything, not to be attached to what you want, and to be open to the absolute unexpected – because I’ve been a lot more surprised than I can imagine”. Her approach is to create self-sustaining entities – and then move on to the next venture.

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