If you think drama happens on stage, think again. The creator of the organization Naked Colours, and founder of LiveMad, Swapnil Tewari, has led an extraordinary life filled with real-life drama. From being kidnapped to nearly breastfeeding a four-month-old, he has lived life on the edge to help others. He works to bring hope to troubled communities through education, social inventions, and love. His social work has helped tribal women folk, sexual abuse victims, victims of discrimination, and Kargil widows in 58 regions of India. Swapnil Tewari is a TEDx speaker. He is among the 1000 World Leaders for Hope. He even appears alongside those named by Forbes in their Changemakers 30under30 list. Swapnil Tewari is one of the youngest specially-abled social reformers in India who is dyslexic and synaesthetic by birth.
A Difficult Start
Swapnil Tewari had a tough childhood being more than just a dyslexic child. When he was just 13, his father died in a car accident. It affected him so badly, that he almost popped his mother’s sleeping pills but recalls, “as I was about to take those pills, a thought struck me. I realized that all my heartbeats, my body parts – everything is alive. And they want me to live. Since that day, I decided to give a chance to happiness.”
And so, the specially-abled child lived to complete his MBA.
The Start of an Easy Life
When Swapnil started to work with the Bank of India and later Reserve Bank of India, he thought life would be easy.
But one day, the unimaginable happened – when he called an artisan, his daughter answered the phone and told him Daddy is Dead. Further, the little girl confided, “the Pradhan of the village started taking away my mummy at night and dropping her back in the morning. Since then, my mummy has only been crying.” This phone call completely changed his life.
Swapnil Tewari quit his job. He went to Madhubani, almost getting shot down by the goons in the village, but managed to save the girl and her mother and relocate them to Delhi. His journey in social work started, and Naked Colours was born.
Swapnil started a company called Naked Colours in 2011 as a socio-creative venture for tribal artisans. The purpose was to support struggling endangered tribal artisans of India by selling their work and giving them a fair share of the credit. Naked Colours had a business model called Sarv Mangalam. Here, 1/3rd of the total profits go to tribal artisans, 1/3rd used by Swapnil to sustain the company, and 1/3rd given to schools, orphanages, and old-age homes.
After giving several Madhubani, Tanjavur, and Gond artisans a sound base and livelihood, Swapnil knew he wanted to do more.
He was only 23 when he thought India’s Naxalite community needed a change. Despite having heard stories of the area, he went ahead with his reform plans. But, the Naxalites even abducted him – not once but thrice. But it did not frighten the young lad. When the Naxalities released him, Swapnil would continue his reform initiatives in the region. During his last abduction, he was even afflicted with third-degree torture and left to bleed out and die. But in the face of adversary Swapnil recalls, “Those guys would torture me for several hours and then go out. And while I was still there, I would teach their kids and spread awareness about hygiene among the ladies. I think they gradually started accepting me. They realized they have captivated a wrong man and finally freed me.”
By the time he returned to Delhi, at the age of 25, he had rehabilitated 24 endangered tribes in the violence-stricken Naxalite region of India. Soon after, he shut down his venture Naked Colours to start yet another called LiveMad.
Swapnil Tewari calls himself a madman who has been on many life-changing journeys. LiveMad works in three areas, namely education, social change, and innovation.
Education: Under this pillar, Swapnil conducts courses on Madness Hypnosis at schools, colleges, institutes like the IITs and IIMs that is a self-exploratory journey programme. He also has a program called the Superhero Program to help students come out of depression. He also has an initiative called the Invention School for the disabled to harness their potential.
Social Change: Swapnil has mentored 537 social entrepreneurs around the world to take up local causes. He has worked with different social change programs like Save my Innocence for child safety and Beat the Blue Whale Challenge. He has converted poachers in Rajasthan to medicinal herb suppliers and provided tools for financial independence to ostracized war widows and acid victims through social business models.
Innovation: Swapnil Tewari initiated The Pink Whistle Project. The project aims to develop a whistle in a bracelet with a two-inch knife to keep women safe.
Through LiveMad, Swapnil has touched over 10,000 lives.
From being rejected by a prestigious B-school for his disability to giving a talk in the same school in front of the same person who insulted him, Swapnil, the Madman, Social Innovator & Reformer, has come a full circle. He is a Padmashri Award Nominee for 2021.
Swapnil who is ‘more able’ than most, is the torch for a New Better India.