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People Of Goa: Ashley Delaney – A man of many talents

Ashley Delaney is a man who dons many hats. He is a computer wizard who runs a computer sales and service firm in Saligao. He is also the founder of Group TenPlus, Goa’s first e-waste management company. Apart from this, he is also a marathon runner, a competitive cyclist, and an active social worker. He played a major role in blowing the whistle on the acute shortage of oxygen supply at GMC during the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in May 2021.

In a brief chat with Its Goa, Ashley gave us a few insights into his life, his career as an e-waste warrior, his accomplishments in the field of social service, and much more…

Excerpts

Hi Ashley. Thank you so much for taking time out to join us for this interview.

The pleasure’s all mine.

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Tell us something about yourself.

I am a gaunkar from Saligao. I was born and brought up in Goa. I did my schooling at St Britto’s High School in Mapusa and then pursued my higher secondary education in science at Dnyanprassarak Mandal’s College and Research Center, Assagao.

In the year 1998, when I was in my 12th standard, I got involved in a project called the Goa Schools Computer Project. The project was started by a Goan NGO based in the USA called Goa Sudharop. The project entailed shipping used computers from the USA to Goa, repairing them, and putting them to use in schools across Goa. 

The initiative being the first of its kind in the country, also became the first of its kind in the world when the school computers were run on the free Linux operating system instead of Windows to save costs. The project ran for two years from 1998 to 2000 and brought in over 1000 computers for Goan schools. 

The project which I did with Goa Sudharop was recognized as the first of its kind in the world by the UN. The same project had been tried out in Mexico but it did not succeed. The UN then sent me to Bangalore to speak about the project and also funded a tour to Bangladesh in the year 2000 to emulate the same project over there. We brought in used computers, trained a lot of people as well as students, and helped to get computers in many schools in Bangladesh. We did quite well and achieved a decent amount of success.

As I was so engrossed in this project, I missed out on my studies and failed my Class 12 board exams. I had to repeat the entire year and after clearing my Class 12 board exams on my second attempt, I decided that I no longer wanted to study further. I wasn’t very interested in my studies. I wanted to become an entrepreneur, and since I was so much into computers, I decided to start my firm at the age of just 18. The firm, which is called Devine Computers, deals with sales and repairs of IT products and peripherals.

During this project, who were the people who supported you?

The then Chief Minister, Mr. Manohar Parrikar helped us a lot during this project to get all the necessary permissions to ship the used computers from the USA to Goa and to let them pass through customs very easily without any hassles. The USA liaison, a Goan named Daryl Martyris remains a close friend to date.

While the project wound up in 2000, It demonstrated to the CM and his government how much the project has benefited students in Goa. When we showed them how our project helped in introducing computers to students in Goa and the impact computers made in transforming schools, it inspired them to start the cyber-age scheme for school and college students in Goa. 

Did you face any opposition from your parents and other members of your family with your decision to not study further?

I did face a lot of opposition from my parents as well as other members of my family with my decision. Even 5 years after I started my firm, people used to tell me to study something simultaneously. They used to say that you are setting yourself up for failure by venturing into entrepreneurship with no educational qualifications and no prior experience.

Almost all the members of my family are very highly educated. My father was a graduate of IIT Powai and the principal of a Higher Secondary School as well. He also authored a book related to physics. A couple of my aunts were gold medalists from Bhopal University and also Sr. Secondary School principals. So, you see, education was given a very high priority in my family. Hence, my decision to discontinue studies after passing my 12th standard and jumping into entrepreneurship straight away was not received very well.

Tell us a little bit about the work done by your e-waste firm Group TenPlus?

Group TenPlus was born in January 2010. The reason behind the name is due to our founding principle: ‘When you rate something as good, you give it a ten. We go beyond.’

In 2009, almost 10 years after I had completed the Goa Schools Computers Project, many of the schools to whom we had supplied computers under the Goa Schools Computers Project, started to contact me saying that the computers have broken down and are now beyond repair. So what is to be done with so many computers? That’s when I felt the need for a proper facility to handle e-waste in Goa. All this led to the birth of Group TenPlus, which was Goa’s first and only company that dealt with the collection and disposal of electronic waste at that time.

We do e-waste collection drives and also conduct awareness campaigns across Goa regarding e-waste management. Our company collects e-waste both electronic and electrical, from companies as well as certain localities across Goa and disassembles them into smaller components. These are then sent for further processing to other states where they are processed into new raw materials which are used to manufacture new products.

An e-waste collection drive organized by Group Ten Plus at Deccan Fine Chemicals, Corlim.
(Image Credit: Group TenPlus Facebook Page)

What were the major challenges that you faced while pursuing this career in computer maintenance as well as e-waste management?

As far as my computer repair firm is concerned, the major challenge which I faced was starting to get people to believe in me. As I was just 19 years old when I started my firm and had no educational qualifications in the field of computers, many people were initially very doubtful about my credibility as a qualified person to maintain computers. The dress code mattered a lot during that time to get people to trust me.

Also, when I started Group TenPlus, the major problem I faced was a lack of awareness regarding the importance of recycling e-waste. In Goa as well as across India, there is a public perception that we need to get paid for recycling all our waste. However, in almost all foreign countries in Europe, Australia, and North America, the case is just the opposite. Abroad, people pay to get their e-waste disposed of and recycled properly. They understand the importance of proper disposal and recycling of e-waste and consider it to be a part of their social responsibility as citizens towards the planet.

So, to make people in Goa realize the importance of getting their e-waste recycled properly while considering the damage to the environment over getting a few hundred rupees; was one of my biggest challenges when I started Group TenPlus.

That’s quite interesting! Ashley could you tell us about your other interests and achievements.

Well, I am a very outdoorsy person. I do a lot of running, cycling, and trekking very often. I have taken part in many duathlons and Marathons, both physically as well as virtually. 

In a virtual marathon, your movements are tracked with an app. With the help of GPS, the distance that you have covered, the time that you take to complete the run, and your pace are all measured by a smart band / watch connected to your phone.

Physically, I have participated in events like the Goa River Marathon, and the Navy Duathlon while virtually I have participated in the New York virtual marathon, the Airtel Delhi Marathon, the Athens Marathon, and the Berlin Marathon.

Ashley Delaney  running at the Goa River Marathon in 2021
Ashley running at the Goa River Marathon in 2021
(Image Credit: Ashley Delaney)

Could you brief us on what happened during the pandemic at GMC when you helped expose, the lack of oxygen to many patients who suffered from Covid 19?

I am a member of various social welfare organizations including the Rotary Club of Mapusa. I am by nature, a socially active person, and have done a lot of work in my village of Saligao, North Goa and surrounding areas as well. I had worked previously with GMC, providing them with wheelchairs, as well as participating in and organizing blood donation camps. Health-related social welfare projects have always been very close to my heart. 

Ashley is being installed as the new vice president of the Rotary Club of Mapusa (Image Credit: facebook.com/rcmapuca)

In May 2021, during the second wave of the pandemic, I happened to be at GMC as my father-in-law had contracted the Covid virus. During this period, nearly 200 Covid-affected people were coming daily to the hospital to get admitted. People were helpless and there used to be a lot of chaos in the hospital as the admission process was not computerized. Being there 24/7, I used to help people with their registration and admission formalities, even pushing stretchers for patients who were on their own.

Then due to a shortage of oxygen supply, I would see many patients gasping for air and then just passing away. I vividly remember scenes, where monitors were beeping and nurses and doctors frantically making phone calls to arrange for oxygen cylinders. But many of them were afraid to speak out publicly and acknowledge that there was a shortage of oxygen at the hospital due to a fear of facing a backlash from the government. In a week nearly 20-25 people expired right in front of my eyes.

Other attendants had been reluctant to speak about the shortage as they feared a fallout on their relatives admitted to the hospital. Then one day, an entire ward ran out of oxygen. The ward, which had a maximum capacity of 28 people, was filled with more than 180 people (patients as well as their relatives). That’s when I said to myself that enough is enough. I decided that I have to do something. So I took to social media and put out a post mentioning the huge shortage of oxygen that the hospital was facing. I also put out an appeal for the supply of oxygen cylinders. The post went viral and I managed to arrange oxygen cylinders for many patients.

Ashley’s Facebook post helped save many lives. (Image Credit: facebook.com/ashleywiz)

That’s really commendable Ashley. I would like you to tell us about your role models.

There are two individuals whom I look up to as my role models. One is Mr. Bill Gates. I can connect with him in many ways because he was also a school dropout, a computer wizard, and a self-made entrepreneur just like me.

The other person whom I look up to with a lot of admiration is Mr. Warren Buffett. I like his way of thinking, his ideas regarding how one must lead their life, how things should be done, how various industries can be disrupted, etc.

That’s wonderful to hear Ashley. Do you have any message for all our Goan youth out there?

My message would be, “be the change that you want to see”. If you just sit back and complain about the system and all the flaws that exist in our society, nothing will happen. but if you go out there, see what problems are plaguing our society, and do something about it, only then will we see things changing. I have come across many people in Goa who think that to bring about a change in society, you need or have to be a very powerful and influential person like an MLA or an MP. But this is not always the case. You can bring about a change in society by being of help to someone in need. You never know how much of a difference your one small act can make in someone’s life. By doing such small acts of charity, you can gradually bring about a significant change in society and the world at large.

Alright then, it was a pleasure talking to you Ashley Delaney. We hope and pray that you keep up all the good work that you have been doing as a concerned citizen of the society and we wish you all the very best in all your future endeavours.

Thank you so much. 

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