Kaustubh Pandharipande

Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 2004


This profile was prepared when Kaustubh Pandharipande was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2004.
The New Idea
The millions of nomadic people in India today live desperate lives on the fringes of society, struggling with deplorable conditions, lack of basic services, hostile public opinion, and the constant threat of harassment by the authorities. While government programs seek to solve these problems by settling nomadic people into mainstream society, Kustubh recognizes the unique skills, rich culture and economic importance of their traditional mobile lifestyle. Through his organization, Samvedana (Empathy), he is forging a trade network to connect these different nomadic groups to each other as well as working at the local, national and international level to raise the visibility of nomadic people and fight for their legal rights.
Kaustubh has recognized that the trading nomads, with their far-flung routes, high mobility, and facility with languages, make excellent salespeople. They are also well—placed to do market research, bringing back crucial feedback on existing products and suggestions for new product lines. They could be a great service to more stable tribes of skilled craftspeople, who need a way to get their unique handcrafted products to their customers in the cities. Kaustubh’s trading network helps these groups work collaboratively instead of competitively, providing a tremendous economic advantage for everyone, including the end customer—mostly middle and lower income households that continue to place a premium on doorstep vending because of its convenience, personalized nature, and the variety of available goods.
Kaustubh has also begun rolling out a step-by-step plan to secure the legal rights necessary for the nomads to successfully carry out their profession and lead lives of dignity.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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