Chennai caterer follows Tony Blair, gets US fellowship


Chennai: A roadside idli seller’s son here, who made it big with his food catering business, has been selected for a one-month US fellowship programme which was earlier attended by former British prime minister Tony Blair.

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E. Sharath Babu, the 30-year-old BITS-Pilani and an IIM-Ahmedabad graduate, is the only entrepreneur out of the four Indians selected for the Legislative Fellowship Programme organised by the US State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, Youth Division.

The programme was also earlier attended by Nobel Prize winner and founder of Grameen Bank Muhammad Yunnus and several other global leaders.

As many as “24 persons have been selected across the world to participate in the progamme. I got the opportunity to participate in the programme last year also, but I was contesting the Lok Sabha elections and also had to manage the business, so I declined the offer”, the budding politician told IANS.

Babu took to entrepreneurship in 2006 with his Foodking Catering Services which is into the institutional (industrial, corporate and educational) catering segment.

On Saturday, he was busy making last-minute arrangements here for campaign to raise awareness about hunger in the country and also call Oct 10 a Hunger Free Day.

Babu said he wants to change the Tamil adage ‘pasi vandal pathum parandhu pogum’ (when hunger comes, all the 10 values would fly) to ‘pathu vanthal pasi parandhu pogum’ (on Oct 10, hunger will fly).”

“On 10.10.10 the Hungerfree India Foundation will feed around 15,000 children in 50 orphanages across the country with special food,” he said.

“I have experienced what special food means. In the slum where I lived as a kid, a Brahmin family used to feed around 70 poor kids on every full moon day. After having that tasty food, we would be counting the days for the next full moon day,” Babu recalled.

Queried about his decision to join DMDK party floated by actor-politician Vijaykanth, he said: “As an independent candidate in the Lok Sabha polls, I got around 16,000 votes. These voters want me to continue in politics. While dynastic rule prevails in other parties, I found DMDK to be different.”