How often do we come across someone who has the courage to quit a high paying job to pursue his passion and add value to the lives of people?
Meet Saurabh Narang, who had everything life could offer. A lucrative job in British multinational investment bank Barclays, a cushy house in Delhi, and a bustling social life to top it all. But, the 33-year-old decided to take the path less travelled.
Taking a year-long sabbatical from his banking career, Saurabh went onto chase his dream of becoming a full-time photographer and social entrepreneur.
“Though I used to spend time behind my camera as a hobby, my thoughts used to hanker on taking it up professionally. And, as an artist, I did not want to draw boundaries or limit myself. I wanted to create a meaningful change in society. This drove me to take a break from the nine-to-five and listen to my calling,” he tells SocialStory.
In 2017, Saurabh started his journey around the world. In one year, he ended up visiting more 26 Indian states, four Union Territories, and 10 countries. A life-altering experience at Spiti Valley led him to teach photography to children at Spiti Ecosphere, a social enterprise run by the local community to create sustainable livelihoods.
At the time, during a trip to the holy city of Vrindavan in Uttar Pradesh, Saurabh started documenting the lives of widows. His lenses captured thousands of women hidden behind white veils, engaged in chanting bhajans, and begging outside temples. He lived with the widows for six weeks and took several portraits, most of which depicted their existence in the shadows of society after being thrown out by their families.
“I took up quite a few photography assignments during my travel. In one year, I was able to raise a little more than Rs 7 lakh. And I thought it to be the perfect time to give away all of it towards something worthwhile. So, I used it to fund the education of girls and also for a special project involving the creation of a 12,000 feet art installation made of plastic that was aimed at raising awareness about the ill-effects of the material,” recalls Saurabh.
At the end of his sabbatical, instead of going back to Barclays, Saurabh chose to become a social entrepreneur. He founded Create4Cause in 2018 to enable people to support unnoticed causes through art. The platform brings together creative professionals who want to contribute their project fees towards a social cause, and brands that are willing to fund a project by an artist.
Six artists have already signed up, including travel blogger Shivya Nath, story teller and poet Deepti Ahuja, India’s first busker Debojyoti Nath, and independent filmmaker Vishnu Mittal.
An uplifting journey
Saurabh was born to a typical middle-class family in Delhi. He pursued a Master’s in Business Administration with a specialisation in Finance from ICFAI Business School (IBS) in Bengaluru. He bagged his first job at ICRA, an Indian credit rating agency, before moving to Barclays. His tryst with photography began at this juncture.
“I was relying on the camera on my Nokia N73 for a very long time. Once I started earning, I bought myself a DSLR. I learnt all the concepts and techniques by watching YouTube tutorials and browsing on Google. Within a few months, I became well versed with filling the framing, colour and contrast, lighting, symmetrical balance, depth of field, and so on,” says Saurabh.
He encountered many challenges since then. Sometimes, it took hours to find the right resources, and understand and practice them. Besides, there was nobody to correct his mistakes or guide him. But, he remained patient, diligent, and open-minded.
In 2013, Saurabh realised that he knew enough to participate in photo contests and workshops. He won a slew of accolades thereon, including India Unexplored by Lonely Planet in 2014, Sony Alpha Stories Award in 2015, and the IPF Portrait Prize in 2018.
He presented his photographs at several national and international exhibitions like UNESCO International Day of Light at ICTP in Italy, Auckland Festival of Photography in New Zealand, Kolkata International Photography Festival at The Indian Council for Cultural Relations, The National Photography Exhibition at M.F Hussain Art Gallery in Delhi, and the Indian Photo Festival at State Art Gallery in Hyderabad.
When Saurabh left his high-paying corporate job behind, a lot of people doubted his decision and belittled him.
“Though it was a tough decision, I will never regret it. After all, it led me to a path of self-discovery and exposed me to the realities of life. Travelling solo involves a lot of grit. And, my journey was definitely not easy. I escaped death twice. I almost got myself drowned in the Andamans Sea and then, survived a deathly wild-bee attack at a hamlet in Madhya Pradesh,” he says.
During his year-long travel, he worked with multiple non-profit organisations, including Maitri India, Spiti Ecosphere, Greener Pastures, Horizons for Youth, and other photography projects. Whatever fees he received, he donated all of it to two social causes close to his heart which are 2 social causes – educations of girls and for plastic art installations at Spiti Valley (so as to spread awareness).
Kicking off an initiative for social good
Create4Cause revolves around artists want to contribute their project fee towards a social cause of their choice. For instance, if a professional photographer is interested to do a product shoot for a brand but, is ready to donate his project fee towards an environmental cause, say planting trees, he can register himself on the platform.
Create4Cause will then help the artist identify and connect with a brand whose looking for a photographer. Once the project guidelines are set and mutually discussed between the two parties, the enterprise helps them narrow down on the social cause they wish to support.
In this case, if the photographer and the brand involved decide to contribute towards an afforestation programme, Create4Cause will take on the role of guiding them through the process and ensuring the brand donates the project fee to the fund required for the cause.
As of today, Saurabh is operating and managing the initiative all by himself.
“I believe that life is not about making money. It is about making a difference to someone, somewhere. Create4Cause is my way of doing some meaningful and satisfying work, contributing to the community around. As of today, only six artists have registered with the project but I am sure this number will grow. My plan is to begin facilitations once 20 of them register,” he signs off.