CEO Stories

Lost and Founded Series - Prasoon Kumar

Social architect, dreamer, and passionate problem solver. Prasoon Kumar envisions a world where no one will be homeless.

Author: DBS BusinessClass, Administrator of DBS

Prasoon Kumar

Social architect, dreamer, and passionate problem solver. Prasoon Kumar, Founder and CEO of Billion Bricks – a non-profit that envisions a world where no one will be homeless and everyone will have equal opportunities for social and economic development – is convinced that problems, however big, need to be recognized, accepted and then solved in their entirety once and for all. Inspired by the late, great Mahatma Gandhi, Kumar asserts that you don't have to be extraordinary to have a big vision and strive to achieve it and makes it a habit to ask himself on a daily basis: ‘how many homeless people have I helped?’ The father of two soon-to-be teenagers also sees his children as a benchmark for measuring how much of an impact his life has had on the world to date and ultimately believes in being true to yourself and not using the lack of money as an excuse for inaction.

 

People say you are “Prasoon Kumar, Founder and CEO of Billion Bricks”. Who do you say you are?

I am an urban dweller who is observant of his surroundings. When I see the flashy cities, I don't miss seeing the poverty that co-exists, the homeless on the streets and the prevalent inequality. I am a passionate problem solver and believe that problems, however big, need to be recognized, accepted and then solved in their entirety once and for all.

 

What was the best moment in your start up life? It was so good you wanted to fly Business Class somewhere with someone, and pop open the most expensive bottle of champagne there.

It was unquestionably the completion of our first project, a shelter for homeless children in Mumbai. I was deeply touched to see it for the first time full of children running around, playing, eating and coming over wanting to talk to me. When I stepped out of the building and looked back at it, I felt, “Yes, I did it. I can actually do what I had set out to do. It's possible”.

 

Have you ever cried? Or what was the lowest, crappiest moment in your start-up life? You wanted to give up everything. You wanted to kill someone. (During your start up career of course) Tell us more!

I face difficulty when potential clients do not want to pay for our services and question my integrity or the ethics on which the organisation is build, especially in regards to non-profit social enterprises.

 

What secret did you hide from your co-founder or partner or parent for the longest time? Why?

When I started bB, initially my wife was happy because she thought I was just taking some time off from my hectic life as an architect to spend more time on a cause which I was passionate about. She thought this interest would wear off within a short time. It took her a while to understand I was full-time working on the start-up and that this would become a life-time commitment.

 

What’s the most eccentric thing about you? If VCs found out, they won’t have signed the term sheet then. But hell with that now.

I tend to be a dreamer and focus more on the vision and the mission of the cause rather than on the money involved, which sometimes makes me look too much of a visionary with VC investors.

 

What are you up to today? What gets you up in the morning?

How many homeless did bB help today? – this is the question I ask myself every day. bB is scaling up faster than expected and that pressure keeps me going.

 

How do you keep yourself physically and mentally fit for start-up life?

My kids and working out at the gym keep me sane.

 

Offer a life hack (or two) to a young founder.

Be true to what motivates you and don't think that a lack of money is an excuse for not doing something.

 

Movie or song that best describes you.

Dhoop - Just A Little Deed

 

Favourite quote.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
- Robert Frost, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

 

Who and what inspires you?

Gandhi has been my inspiration since I read his autobiography, “My experiments with truth”. He shows the power of believing, perseverance and truth in achieving the impossible. You don't have to be extraordinary to have a big vision and strive to achieve it.

 

Tell me about yourself in 2030.

I will be the father of two teenagers and they will be questioning me both as a dad and whether I have been making an impact into the world. It will be a crucial moment of assessment of my personal and professional life.

 

Published Date: 27 May 2015

 

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