Shantanu Naidu's journey started when he finished mechanical engineering at the University of Pune and joined Tata Elxsi as a junior design engineer. In a TEDx talk, he says, “I was a junior engineer there, which meant that I had to work night shifts.” He also adds that he used to come home at around 1 or 2am in the morning on his motorcycle. In the first couple of months, he saw dogs which had been run over by speeding cars in the middle of the road. As months passed, the incident which he thought was just an isolated one, didn't seem to go down in number. He tried to find a reason behind these happenings so he spoke to almost 80-100 people who have been in close encounters or the ones who ran over dogs. When he spoke to them he found that all of them had a very similar answer - they don't see the dogs at night and don't see the dogs early enough.
To make the dogs visible from a distance so that the person can slow down or change lanes, Shantanu, who was a design engineer with access to retro-reflective materials, decided to create ‘glow-in-the-dark’ collars for dogs. To further his initiative, he founded the organization - ‘Motopaws’.
Being a student organisation, the funding to create these collars was not enough. So, they decided to use denim pants as a base material to make the collar. They collected denim pants from different households and made 500 reflective collars in Pune and collared 500 dogs.
After 24 to 48 hours, anonymous online comments started coming in about how the collars helped the dogs to be visible and eventually led people to slow down.
These comments soon got the media's attention. Mr. Naidu's work was highlighted in the company’s newsletter which got him an invitation to Mumbai from Mr. Ratan Tata himself, the former chairman of the Tata group and an animal activist.
In 2016, Mr. Naidu went to pursue his MBA in Mr. Tata's Alma Mater, Cornell University, in the US. When he finished his degree and came back in 2018, he joined Tata Trusts as the Deputy General Manager in the chairman's office.
While working with Mr. Tata, Naidu came across students who feared entering the field of entrepreneurship. Amidst the Covid-19 lockdown, Mr. Naidu started an online talk - 'On Your Sparks' to help aspiring entrepreneurs. He started the talk based on his life lessons and converted them into entrepreneurial lessons. Now, he comes live with 'On Your Sparks' every Sunday on his Instagram account and charges Rs 500 or $7.14 for each attendee. The fund collected here goes to Motopaws. Today, Motopaws has spread to over 20 cities and 4 countries.
According to the BBC, “Mr. Naidu, whose family had close connections with the Tata brand, never thought he would end up working with Ratan Tata.” The mutual love for dogs brought them closer and their intergenerational friendship grew thicker.
Now, Mr. Naidu is also the founder of GoodFellows, an upcoming for-profit startup that aims at providing intergenerational friendships. Here, young and educated graduates till the age of 30 will be put through several psychometric tests designed to measure empathy. These GoodFellows are employed to create intergenerational friendships between them and their grandpals to reduce their loneliness and isolation.
This January, his book, 'I came upon a lighthouse', a short memoir of his life with Ratan Tata, was published.
Shantanu Naidu started his journey with an initiative to help the street dogs and people in his locality. Soon it paved the way to who he is today. He is truly a motivation for who we can become tomorrow.