This Gemini was born at Udupi in Karnataka, to Rajalakshmi, a homemaker, and (Late) Shankar Narayan, a mathematics educator with the Manipal College of Education and a native of Udupi. Interestingly, the surname Belawadi became the family’s surname due to local naming customs as one of his ancestors had migrated to Belawadi seven generations ago to work as a temple priest.
Since childhood, Hareesh was enamoured by wheels, trains and trucks. A degree in Mechanical Engineering from the Manipal Institute of Technology and work at Tata Motors for over five years seemed like a natural answer to pander to his passion. Yet, he was aware of the challenges and opportunities faced by the communities at the bottom of the pyramid. He had always been supporting the community as corporate-volunteer in CSR activities of Tata Motors and Tata Steel and earlier still in college days as volunteer for adult education and healthcare programs in villages around Udupi.
His exposure to rural living and agriculture started only in the year 2000 when a relative sought his help in resolving a family crisis. That is when he tried to form a business-collective of marginal farmers, but it failed miserably. This brought in a realisation that professional training would result in better management of initiatives of NGO programmes.
It is then that Hareesh became aware about EDII’s academic programmes. He joined the Post Graduate Diploma in Management of NGO (PGDMN) programme at EDII. He believes this was the most vital decision of his life as he rediscovered his purpose in life and could choose a path that would use his skills to bring about a relevant change in the society. As a mid-career professional, an intense one-year program made total sense to him. The prestigious scholarship from IDBI at EDII gave him the push.
Hareesh was campus placed at Cohesion Foundation in Rajkot and he learnt a lot about local economic development of the rural areas. His next learning was in a very diverse initiative. Toe Hold produced traditional hand-crafted leather footwear cluster at Athani in Belagavi District of Karnataka. Hareesh facilitated Toe Hold’s transition from a leather footwear project to a social enterprise, jointly owned and governed by 168 women leather footwear artisans through 13 self-help groups. He later emerged as the Chief Operating Officer cum facilitator.
Hareesh tied the matrimonial knot in 2004 with Deepashree – a development professional with a Electronics & Communication Engineering degree, and master’s in Sustainable Development. Deepa worked in the corporate world and Hareesh in the social sector and thus the two joined forces to make a change in the world.
Another attempt at the development sector helped him to identify a niche market opportunity for professionals possessing cross-sector multi-disciplinary experience, thus enabling him leverage his skills and competencies acquired during his six years of corporate stint and seven years’ service in the development sector. This is when the entrepreneurial bug bit Hareesh. He initiated Tantra Development Consulting with an aim to offer professional consulting services to both, business as well as social sectors. Within just two years, Tantra’s investment scaled up substantially and its revenue also expanded commendably. With CSR becoming mandatory, newer areas for consultancy with creative solutions emerged. Later, Hareesh got associated with Zonar Enterprises LLP, as a partner and management consultant. Driven by his entrepreneurial passion, Hareesh is in the process of creating three new ventures in areas of telematics, medical technology and instrumentation & automation!
As a consultant he has already worked with 38 clients on 79 projects in both rural and urban pockets of 12 states of India. He is now an acclaimed expert for bootstrapped start-ups and SMEs – including technology ventures, agribusinesses, garment initiatives, green makers, and oddball entrepreneurs. He is now working on projects with elements of ‘innovation’ backed by corporate houses or CSR entities, and ‘enterprise’ by Producer Collectives hand-held by local NGOs.
Hareesh acknowledges the role of EDII in his mentoring and consultancies. He helps entrepreneurial-initiatives achieve better results in their pursuit of both profit and social impact, imaginatively using business, technology, and development together. His people skills and abilities in strategy, innovation, design, and marketing are put to good use in them. Hareesh works with teams that address complex business / social problems in adverse areas, while simultaneously overcoming resource-constraints, and is able to provide value to multiple stakeholders. This makes him popular for co-creating pragmatic frugal-solutions across sectors.
EDII is proud of his efforts in encouraging entrepreneurship at all levels.