India: Bridging Communities — An Entrepreneur’s Tale

His journey from humble beginnings to entrepreneurial success is a testament to resilience and community spirit.

5 mins read
Nandigiri Bhuyan —a businessman turned philanthropist. [ Photo: Sri Lanka Guardian]

In the peaceful setting of Sisi Borgaon village, Dhemaji district in Assam, unfolds the journey of a man—a tale marked by resilience, entrepreneurship, and a steadfast commitment to community welfare. Today, he stands as a respected figure in Northeast India’s business community, renowned for his successful ventures and dedication to lifting others out of poverty. In this dialogue, he reflects on overcoming hardships, shares his vision for fostering economic empowerment through entrepreneurship, and highlights the impact of community-driven initiatives. With enhanced connectivity across the Brahmaputra ensuring regional integration, understanding the significance of this remarkable project becomes paramount.

Before the construction of the Bogibeel Bridge, this region faced formidable challenges. Spanning the mighty Brahmaputra River, the Bogibeel Bridge stands as India’s second-longest Rail-cum-Road Bridge, stretching 4.94 km across Assam’s Dhemaji and Dibrugarh districts. Its monumental presence aims to significantly reduce travel time between Delhi and Dibrugarh by three hours and trim the distance from Dibrugarh to Itanagar by an impressive 705 km, marking it as India’s fifth longest bridge.

Each journey across this landmark structure resonates with the profound impact it has brought to communities once grappling with daunting river crossings. Witnessing the Brahmaputra’s enormity during monsoons underscores its magnificence and challenges—where islands appear and vanish with the seasons, and its unyielding currents test resilience.

Behind the construction of this engineering marvel lies the dedication of countless unsung heroes. My earnest desire to meet these stalwarts led me to encounter a remarkable individual—an advocate for community welfare, deeply committed to transforming lives.

I’ve dedicated myself to social service, particularly uplifting the economically disadvantaged in this region

Nandigiri Bhuyan

On a solemn day, amidst brooding clouds, I met Nandigiri Bhuyan —a businessman turned philanthropist. “I’ve dedicated myself to social service, particularly uplifting the economically disadvantaged in this region,” he explained with humility.

During the COVID-19 crisis, Nandigiri’s contributions were pivotal—he donated ₹1 million to the state government, benefiting 2,000 families with relief efforts. His commitment extends further, taking full responsibility for the education of numerous underprivileged students and ensuring access to essential medical care.

“We empower our youth to pursue education aligned with their passions, fostering entrepreneurship as a pathway to self-development,” he emphasised.

Starting with a modest bank loan of  ₹ 30,000 in 2007, Nandigiri has grown his enterprise into three thriving companies with an annual turnover exceeding. ₹ 200 crores.

Reflecting on his childhood, he recalls, “I was born in Sisi Borgaon village, Dhemaji district, as the eldest of four boys in the family. I witnessed firsthand the challenges endured by my father, Moni Bhuyan, and my mother, Banti Bhuyan. We were born into extreme poverty, which ignited a relentless drive to break free from its grasp. Last year, after a long journey, my father passed away. My education began at MV School in Hattulachuk Gaom, where I completed grades 5 to 7. For higher secondary education, I attended Sisi Borgaon College, achieving both O Levels and A Levels.”

Despite aspirations in Computer Engineering in Guwahati, financial constraints forced an early departure. “My father, earning ₹950 monthly from temporary work, struggled to support us. Despite his sacrifices, financial burdens loomed large,” he recalls.

His journey into entrepreneurship began through serendipity. “A childhood friend introduced me to a bank manager frequenting his shop, recognising my potential. ‘I’ll help secure a loan,’ he assured. Meanwhile, I opened a Public Communications Outlet (PCO) and engaged with Khageswar Pegu, an officer overseeing 17 Panchayats,” he recalls.

“Diligently operating as the sole computer operator from 9 AM until midnight, my consistency caught the Block Development Office’s attention. Empathising with my situation, they awarded me contracts ranging from ₹50,000 to ₹1 lakh,” he recounts.

Establishing a welding workshop, he discovered his entrepreneurial spirit. “I resigned to focus on contracting, contributing to projects like the Bogibeel Bridge,” he states proudly.

Today, millions traverse this colossal project, thanks to the Indian central and state governments for enhancing regional connectivity.

“In 2016, I relocated my office to Guwahati, expanding across Northeast India—Tripura, Nagaland, Manipur, and Assam. Alongside business growth, I allocate 25% of earnings to social initiatives,” he emphasises.

Challenges persist in North-East India, with unemployment and poverty prevailing.

“As I support the community, countless youths seek opportunities. While I assist hundreds, job seekers number in the thousands. Addressing mass unemployment demands government collaboration,” he observed.

When he launched his business, government’s economic instability often led to delayed payments, causing significant stress. “At times, I waited eight to nine months for payment, necessitating additional income sources and bank loans.”

“In each village within my constituency, we’ve established youth groups to combat unemployment by harnessing local skills. My goal is to empower these youth to tackle community issues firsthand, leveraging their intimate knowledge,” he explains. “Financial support kick-starts Small Scale Enterprises (SMEs), addressing both unemployment and financial vulnerability. By ensuring economic stability, we aim to curb migration, securing a brighter regional future.”

His vision aligns with “The Entrepreneurial State: Debunking Public vs Private Sector Myths” by Mariana Mazzucato, challenging narratives around innovation. “The state co-creates markets, not just fixes failures,” he affirms, embodying daring and risk-taking akin to state innovation.

Nandigiri Bhuyan —a businessman turned philanthropist. [ Photo: Sri Lanka Guardian]

My faith grounds me. Each day begins with ritual and prayer, attributing all achievements to divine will

Nandigiri Bhuyan

He continues, “I’ve acquired land in Guwahati to establish an educational centre under the Nandigiri Welfare Association, fostering comprehensive development for impoverished children.”

Speaking of his religious beliefs, he shares, “As a devout Hindu, I’ve constructed a temple in Geluwa, fulfilling my father’s dream—a place of community worship.”

“My faith grounds me. Each day begins with ritual and prayer, attributing all achievements to divine will,” he reaffirms.

Speaking of his daily routine, he shares, “I rise at 6 AM, dedicating 45 minutes to exercise and religious practices before beginning office responsibilities. I aim to complete work by 6 PM, followed by dinner at 7 PM. From 7 to 10 PM, I meticulously oversee ongoing projects.”

Learning from setbacks, he adds, “I personally oversee every aspect of my work and entrust critical tasks to retired professionals. Post-dinner, I review daily reports with project managers, promptly addressing issues and ensuring progress.”

Maintaining quality remains paramount. “I never compromise on excellence, safeguarding our reputation,” he asserts.

Looking ahead, he envisions a transformed Dhemaji district. “In five years, my vision is clear: zero poverty and zero unemployment,” he declares. “Effective communication is pivotal to convey accurate messages and extend our impact beyond borders.”

Reflecting on the teachings of Gandhi, he emphasises, “Gandhiji’s principles of self-reliance and service to others have been my guiding light. Through bitter experiences of poverty, I’ve learned firsthand the importance of discipline and perseverance. My mission now is to empower those in extreme poverty to achieve what circumstances denied me in my youth.”

His commitment extends to healthcare. “I firmly believe in accessible healthcare for all. Through initiatives under the Nandigiri Welfare Association, we ensure medical care reaches those most in need. Supporting medicare is not just a duty but a moral imperative,” he asserts.

When youth succeed in business, they reinvest in their communities, creating a ripple effect of prosperity.

Nandigiri Bhuyan

Turning to the future, he envisions a transformative role for youth entrepreneurship. “I am passionate about nurturing the next generation of entrepreneurs. By providing opportunities and resources, we empower youth to create their own enterprises. This not only fosters economic independence but also builds a foundation for future generations to thrive,” he explains.

Spanning the Brahmaputra: The Bogibeel Bridge, India’s Second-Longest Rail-Cum-Road Marvel [File Photo]

He sees entrepreneurship as a catalyst for lasting change. “When youth succeed in business, they reinvest in their communities, creating a ripple effect of prosperity. This approach is key to breaking the cycle of poverty and fostering sustainable development,” he affirms.

His journey from humble beginnings to entrepreneurial success is a testament to resilience and community spirit. “I am grateful for the support I’ve received, and it’s my responsibility to pay it forward. Together, through innovation, compassion, and dedication, we can build a brighter future for all,” he concludes with conviction.

Nilantha Ilangamuwa

Nilantha Ilangamuwa is a founding editor of the Sri Lanka Guardian and has been the editor until 2018.

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