Q&A: Uday Varma, Tulalens Customer Relations Manager
By Kathleen Pointer and Priya Iyer
Uday Varma comes from a family of problem-solvers, making his position as the Tulalens customer relations manager a natural fit.
If one person has a problem, everyone else tries to help solve that problem," he said. "My family is very supportive." He has two brothers, a sister, a brother-in-law, and his parents, and enjoys making meals with them.
Uday, who is based in Chennai, India, is responsible for a range of tasks for Tulalens, not limited to training our India team and planning next steps. Previously, Uday supervised a baseline survey at Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab for the Tamil Nadu Skills Development project. He holds an MCA in Engineering from Anna University and a BCA from the University of Madras.
What do you like about where you live?
I love my city -- Chennai -- very much because it is a land of people from many different states in India and of different religions. Many of my friends are Christians, and many of them are Muslims. Nobody looks at what caste or religion you are. They’ll come together to help you in times of need. To give you an example, during the flooding in December, a mosque flooded. Members of a Hindu temple said they’d convert their space into a mosque (so people would have a place to pray). When I hear these things, I’m proud to be from Chennai.
What would you do on an ideal day?
I’d go to the temple with my family. I’d spend time with my family and friends. We’d make some delicious dishes like on New Year’s Day, when we made biryani. In the evening, I’d tutor poor children in my area, like I usually do. The children are 15-16 years and I tutor them in all subjects except Tamil. I’ve been doing this for eight years.
What do you wish more people knew about you?
Everyone thinks I’m very quiet when they first meet me. Once I know you, I’m very, very outspoken and very friendly.
What are three words that describe you?
Hard worker. Simple. Dedicated.
What’s a hidden talent?
I’m an average student. I didn’t study much during my school days. Once I started tutoring, I realized I was good at teaching students and that I should study more. I got a master’s degree in engineering. Another hidden talent - when a situation arises I handle it with an open mind.
Who is someone you admire?
Mahendra Singh Dhoni — he’s the current captain of the Indian cricket team. His story is very inspiring. He’s also portrayed as very simple and very open.
What do you do for Tulalens?
I train our customer relation agent to survey women and share information with them, and sometimes I collect and share information. I double check all of our data, collect data from the hospitals that women are attending, map out slum areas and decide what areas we should go to next. I also identify the important people in each area and explain Tulalens to them. Some people feel happy when I talk to them, and others don’t want to help us. Sometimes people speak rudely because they don’t understand what we’re doing, so I patiently talk to them.
What was your initial impression of the organization?
I thought Tulalens was a very good service. I’d worked with J-PAL (Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab) before, and wanted to continue to do something useful for under-served people. As a man, I was a bit nervous that pregnant women wouldn’t respond well to me, though.
How do you feel about working with us?
I really feel happy because I like helping people. At first, I wondered how people would react if we gave them this kind of information. Then, I realized it makes people happy. I also like it because I have the freedom to decide what areas we work in.
What do the people you work with say about Tulalens?
People always say it is good to know information on health clinics because they do not know about it currently. People always feel happy knowing information on prenatal care.
What do you hope the future holds for Tulalens?
I hope Tulalens will be a well-known social enterprise organization throughout the world.
Kathleen and Priya edited Uday's responses for length and clarity.