Sunday, June 19, 2011

Indian Village Changes Its Name to Nagar

Residents of a remote village in northern India have few connections to the outside world. They live in mud dwellings with thatched roofs. Electricity is available just two hours a day. And a computer -- well, what's that?

Yet, this week Shiv Nagar, named after the Hindu god Shiva, became Nagar (nagar means town), after India's answer to Groupon, the online coupon giant.

The residents, none of whom own designer watches, eat at restaurants or use computers, wanted to thank SnapDeal for giving them something that they consider a luxury - water.

The Indian e-commerce company installed 15 hand pumps, so villagers no longer have to walk for miles to quench their thirst. There was no source of potable water.

That was until Kunal Bahl, the founder of, decided he would use some of the profits from his burgeoning business to do something good.

The philanthropic project came about after a water-cooler conversation in SnapDeal's offices in New Delhi. One of Bahl's colleagues told him that his family hailed from a cluster of villages about three hours southeast of the Indian capital, where the people had nothing.

Bahl, 28, went down to Shiv Nagar, met with the village leaders and paid to install the 15 hand pumps.

"It cost us $5,000 max, but it was quite life changing for residents there," he said.

But Bahl had never imagined just how life-changing. It sank in after the villagers voted to name their hamlet after Bahl's company.

"The intention was not for us to ask for money or anything. They just wanted to express their gratitude," he said.

Their act stood as testament to Bahl of how little the government had done for the people there. He said they told him they only heard from their parliamentary representatives before elections. Then, they were forgotten, people whom a booming India has left behind.

The villagers were so grateful for the pumps distributed throughout the city, they decided to change the name of their village, formerly known as Shiv Nagar (named after the Hindu god Shiva), to Nagar.