Thirty-three years old Aditi Nair is the founder - chairperson of the Pet Owners and Animal Lovers (PAL) Foundation.
Watch 2 mins video to get glimpses of her life journey so far.
Please do read her full interview with Inspirational Beings team to know what all challenges she had to go through during her journey, what is her mantra, what keeps her going, and what is her message to our readers.
Please tell us your background and childhood?
I am a production engineer by qualification. I have briefly worked in the Manufacturing and IT sector before exploring and finding my passion, which I did while I was pursuing an MBA. I dropped out of the MBA course, began PAL and a startup in market of research & social media. My passion and love for animals make me work for them against all the odds. I am an animal lover since childhood and have had a wide range of pets while I was growing up. I have raised more than 15 pets as a child, and currently, my family consists of my husband, five dogs, four cats, and a rooster.
Growing up, my dad was a filmmaker and had a small dairy farm because of which I have a good understanding of the dairy industry and animals. The impact animals have made on my life is immense. They have influenced my lifestyle, my belief system, ethics, and every aspect of my life. They have taught me that pain and suffering do not go away if we turn a blind eye on them. Things only change when you make an informed choice to do something about it. I am a vegetarian for 21 years now and vegan for six months – the choice was rake out of my love for animals, not because I don't like the taste of non-vegetarian food. Adjusting my lifestyle has not been easy, especially since I was brought up with a different lifestyle.
Tell us about your mission and PAL?
To work ethically and without bias towards creating a better world for animals by using techniques such as Peace and Ahimsa (Non-Violence).
We work to create an animal-friendly world to ensure the quality of life for animals by bringing together, guiding & training pet owners and animal lovers in better ways of caring for animals.
My mission is to do as much as I possibly can, through every aspect of my life to help animals.
Tell us about the inspiration of starting PAL and what was your thought process behind leaving the stable job to start PAL?
While I was pursuing my MBA, all of us were asked to pick up a sector for a research project. I pondered for long time about the things I am passionate about - music and animals. I chose the animal sector for this project, and for one year, I worked very hard on researching it. I realized that animals were a part of every aspect of our lives - be it food, clothing, entertainment, make-up, tourism, pharmaceuticals - to name a few. One of the undeniable players in the animal sector - the pet and dairy industry. So I started by researching the pet industry & divisions - Pet Food industry, Veterinary Science, Pharmaceuticals, Pet behavior and training, Grooming, Pet accessories, pet service providers, etc. And all of this varied from animal to animal - cats, dogs, horses, goats, fish, turtle, guinea pigs. The list is endless.
I analyzed all these aspects of the industry in detail - studying their pain points, history, comparisons, marketing campaigns - performing all possible analysis such as SWOT, FMEA, etc. on all of them. During all of this research, one thing I noticed was the condition of the stray animals. Even though the animal industry was making so much profit, most of the stray animals went to sleep at night without food. This made me resolve to do something for them. It seemed like people were doing things with animals only for personal gain of some kind and the animals such as strays who did not offer anything in return was doomed to lead a horrible life. At the end of one year of working on the project, I came up with some ideas which I thought were feasible, and presented the project report. After going through my project, the external examiner was not happy with it and told me very clearly that I had not done enough research in the sector and that my ideas were very naive. This really made me upset; my mentor saw that & encouraged me and told me for further research. Then came the phase of the MBA, when one must go for an internship. Once again, it was a decision I had to make - whether to apply to companies or to further the project. I decided to take up the project and continue working on it.
By this time, one thing I was clear about was the fact that I wanted to do something for stray animals. So, I decided to travel all over India and visit as many states as possible and study animal welfare organizations and veterinary hospitals working in each area. I visited animal welfare NGOs, pet accessory shops, veterinary hospitals - private & government, animal activists, animal welfare workers, rescuers and even met some people who laid the foundation of animal welfare in the country. This first-hand exposure to sick and injured animals who needed help and meeting people from all walks of lives who were helping them, many of them who had chosen animals over everything else in life, helped mold my path greatly. I noticed that most animal activists and NGOs lacked public support and focused on fighting with people and asserting the rights of animals. Once I was back from my research project, I was not in a state of mind to return to studying further, it felt like there was so much to do and I could not devote one more moment of my life on finishing the degree and doing something which would benefit only me and my life. Hence, I decided to quit my studies and start volunteering for animals full time. I began by working with local organizations in and around Mumbai, and soon, I decided to start something on my own.
One afternoon in late November, I was looking at my computer and wondering in what way I would be able to do something substantial for animals. I thought, why not bring my love of animals and social media together. Back in 2010, Facebook had just about started taking roots in India, and people were beginning to get used to posting and being online. So, I made a group on facebook called Pet Owners and Animal Lovers (PAL) – Thane, to understand their problems and for identifying ways to solve these issues together and for helping stray animals as a community. This would create a win-win situation for both animals and humans, and we would have a good chance of living in a harmonious world. The facebook group did not just remain as an online group. We had our very first offline drive for stray animals on November 21, 2010. Following that, we had a drive every Sunday. The momentum gathered and pet owners and animal lovers from all over Closely following the start of PAL, I had the opportunity to go on Tata Jagriti Yatra (TJY) - a train journey which takes young social entrepreneurs on a journey throughout India, meeting social entrepreneurs and inspiring individuals who have made an impact, working in different fields. This was an eye-opening journey where the amount of work that goes into running a social enterprise or charity was evident. Once I came back, I tried to implement all the learning from TJY into our work as well. PAL continued working as an informal group till 2013. We put in our papers for registration at the end of 2013, and by the beginning of 2014, we were a registered charity.
What are the challenges you faced in this journey, and how did you overcome them? Any learning out of those challenges?
One of the biggest challenges I faced throughout the journey was the social stigma attached to doing social work. My mother even now introduces me to people by saying - she is an engineer and left her job at Infosys and now runs an NGO (It is ten years since I am doing this, but people still do not accept it as a profession). I strongly feel that social work is everybody's business, and we all need to take pride in serving society.
Can you share your one good and one challenging experience in this journey?
One of the best things about my job is the amazing animals, birds, and living things I get to meet or see daily. I can sense their feelings, like empathy and understanding their body language comes easily to me, and by following what they feel and what they want, I feel pleased if I can fulfill what they truly desire. I bond with them very quickly too, sometimes I need to look at their pictures or videos, and I can sense what they feel. This makes it very hard to say goodbye when they die or when they have to go back to where they came from or sometimes, even when they find new homes and get adopted.
The hardest part of my journey has been understanding and dealing with death. The gift of being a part of their journey called life was given to me, and it took me quite some time to understand my role and place in the grand scheme of things. However, one can never be prepared for separation/death, and it is always deplorable.
How PAL works and how you support animals?
PAL administers free treatment for animals residing on the streets in Thane. An animal ambulance operates six days a week attending cases registered via a helpline number. For critical cases, animals are brought into a hospital PAL has a tie-up with for treatment. PAL does around 300 cases of sick and injured animals on the street per month and over 3,000 animals every year.
In some cases, when the injuries are extreme (accidents, human cruelty), the dogs and cats are put up for adoption. Senior mother dogs are also abandoned by breeders, often with chronic health issues, and PAL works towards finding loving homes for them. As a result, we have found homes and families (India and abroad) for animals who are blind, paralyzed, amputees, and have permanent and life-changing injuries.
PAL also focuses on arranging awareness programs to change the mindset of people regarding animals positively and about animal care and welfare.
What’s your plan for extending Pal’s jurisdiction beyond Mumbai?
I plan to expand PAL's line of work using online resources. Our team is currently small and being a charity; money is always of the essence. I am looking to scale up using inexpensive methods so that we can reach out to more animals in areas where there are no charities or NGOs to help animals out physically. I am hoping to establish a pan India helpline where we can help animals remotely through state of the art technology. I am currently working on it and hope to roll this out in the next six months.
What’s your mantra in life?
Just keep on doing what you like to do. Don't bother about the world or anyone else. Follow your heart and what you truly desire. Even if the world turns on you, know that you can do it. Even in your darkest hours, continue doing it. Take time off /regroup/ask for help when you need it. There is no shame in asking for help. It will only get you to where you want to be.
Your message to viewers?
We are connected to animals and living things in the world around us in ways we do not even realize. Hence, their welfare is our welfare. Animal Welfare and the eco system’s welfare is everyone’s business. And it is never too late to change and start doing something differently. Better late than never.
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