CTC Profiles - Ashwin Sekar

Monday, April 10, 2017
Featuring Ashwin Sekar

What are you currently doing (job/study)? your interests?
I work for Global Analytics, as a Sr. Director of Product  and am responsible for running the P&L of one of our brands. We are a fin tech company serving the short term credit needs of UK consumers.

My interests are of course financial tech - and leveraging it to providing people ways to access credit in a frictionless manner.
The environment and it's preservation has always been of interest to me from childhood in some form or other. Only in the last 7-8 years have I realized that one's voice matters and that one needs to do more than just following a life style that minimizes waste. There is a huge need to influence others positively and get them to make some life style changes.

Fitness is a more recent phenomenon and I am keen to test myself - though my work and travel is a big challenge. I have done 4-5 half marathons, a sprint and 2 olympic triathlons, the 10 KM swimathon. I have now signed up for the half iron Tri this July and am keen to test myself. That will be interesting :)

When & How  did you  get started  CTC?

My colleague at the time Rekha Raja was always into CTC, and a couple of others were into the treks that CTC organized. I have always wanted to experience a trek, but have never managed to do so myself. I was then introduced to Ra Aravindh through a clean-up activity in 2013 we had organized in our community and he had shown up for that. And then very soon he told us about a plantation event by Ainthinai where I went along and loved the experience of being with like-minded souls - where I don't need to "argue" or "sell" being environmental consciousness. It was already a way of life for everyone who was there.

What are the activities of  CTC that  you are involved in?
I adopted waste management as my main focus area since 2013 as I was concerned about over flowing waste everywhere. So I had become associated with DailyDump.org - for composting solutions I had already started doing some workshops and was talking about waste segregation and composting. Peter then invited me to do a workshop for CTC in e-page maker, and about the same time I got introduced to Sivakumar, Ra Aravindh, Parthiban, Sinthu, Ravikumar and others. - did a workshop which was well received. And then we did a composting challenge and then Trek Polama happened and I felt that the cause is so much bigger that I decided that all the small margins I was earning from selling these composting pots deserved to goto Ainthinai and CTC for all the amazing work that was happening and needed further scaling.

What will you say has been your biggest achievement when it comes along with  CTC?

- Thru CTC I learnt that we can really use our voice to make a difference. My community in Classic Farms Shollingnallur - over 5 apartment communities - 700+ apartments are all segregating their waste, composting their food waste and in various stages of growing our own vegetables and fruits. And the road to that was nearly a year long with multiple clean ups, followed by educational meetings, multiple workshops to convince residents and committees and training the house keeping staff. But I have now met so many wonderful people through these efforts that I would say with satisfaction that in the end it's always worth it.

My company also gave a forum to channel my passion and we are now a green office - where we compost all our food waste and caterers are banned from bringing any forms of single use plastics. They have also experimented with buying millet based cookies from local bakers as opposed to the biscuits - which come wrapped in plasto-metallics - hopefully we will soon get there.  I am still trying to convince them to stop using the black lining bags given that our waste is segregated, but I guess one battle at a time :)

Anything else you might want to add?
I wish I could be there and participate more in all the activities, but frequent travel on work and inconsistent hours is a major constraint. So, instead of spreading myself too thin - I decided that I will contribute monetarily as much as possible to Ainthinai (I think I contributed nearly INR 50,000 last year - Ravi, Sinthu, Siva, Parthiban, Abirami deserve thanks here for helping spreading the message of composting), and also focus my efforts on segregation and composting and convert as many bulk generators of waste - apartment communities into green and responsible societies.

Other areas we have dabbled in is low flow water saving aerators - when installed to taps reduces water usage by 40%, installed rain water harvesting on roof tops - which is helping us offset 2 months of tanker water purchase. Also, after Vardah - we were the only apartment in the vicinity to have fresh water. We are also investing in Solar and hope to really scale that and offset our power bills. I am happy to share all the financial modeling we did. The numbers work. 

As I always like to say - Sustainability is not just for the sake of it. It makes sense - both from an ecological and a financial perspective. Just measured financially, the returns on all of these initiatives are VERY attractive.

Share any one of the CTC Best moments you had !

I was amazingly surprised and happy when I was given the top volunteer award for 2016. Never expected that, and I was definitely tearing up a bit! :)

How do you manage your work life balance?

Wake up early. And goto bed at a set time or at least try to. Also, I try not to get envious of seeing all the photos of people doing so many things every day. Whatever you do needs to work for you and your family. But, once you see that there are 24 hours a day, and you work smartly, there is always an hour or two to spare every day, and more on weekends. Everything else is an excuse.

Any specific goals/dream that you are working on ?
All bulk generators of waste should segregate and minimize their foot print. Our waste Our Responsibility. I want this to become everyone's attitude

How has your life changed after joining CTC ?

For the better. Met wonderful people, and continue to get inspired by the amount of passion on display. Also, It has reinforced to me the importance of making one's life matter. Do something that makes you happy, but also something that contributes in ways big and small to society. There is always ways to do that, if only we all are ready to push the boundaries a bit. As like Peter likes to say - life starts at the end of your comfort zone.

Did anything change after marriage?

Actually, I became more actively involved with CTC after marriage. My longstanding dream of going on a trek is still pending though. Hope to do a joint trek together soon with Gayathri :)

Share some of your cycling  that you did in CTC?
I have done a couple of 100K and 125K finishes via affiliated events, but not done any Brevets.

I also have a resolution to cycle to work at least 75% of the time this year (slightly behind targets, but I am trying to catch up). If everyone were to commit to cycling short distances (<5-7kms a="" air="" and="" br="" congestion="" contributor="" have="" on="" pollution="" reducing="" roads.="" significant="" to="" we="" would="">
We have seen you in leading many of volunteering and how does this help you outside CTC ?
It gives you confidence to talk to people and to raise your voice. Else, I would contribute my bit, but wouldn't speak up. But, now I realize that it's important to speak up, to raise your voice on things that matter. It makes a difference and I do that now - whether it comes to politics or whether it comes to issues of environmental preservation. If we don't look out for our interests, no one else will. Don't wait for someone else. Do it yourself!

What are you other interests?

I would like to contribute and raise a voice to the problem of urban transportation. I wonder if we can combine with the government, and join hands with corporates to create smart solutions for Indian cities and to begin with for OMR. There are solutions that exist, and there are policy changes that are needed to avoid marginalizing the pedestrians and cyclists. All our policies right now favour private ownership of vehicles and that really is a myopic policy that needs revisiting. I am researching on this front and would love to figure out a way to do more.

Also, I wonder if OMR can be "greened" and what a boom it would be for motorists if we had nice shade giving trees lining the entire road? Maybe this could be a project for Ainthinai to lead the charge on :) and we could follow.



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