Meet Mihir Menda, a social entrepreneur redefining housing possibilities for disadvantaged
Mudhe Gowda, a housekeeper, who moved to Bengaluru 20 years ago, lived in a rented space devoid of electricity, sanitation and water.
Mudhe Gowda, a housekeeper, who moved to Bengaluru 20 years ago, lived in a rented space devoid of electricity, sanitation and water. Likewise, A Gurappa, a security guard earning Rs 6,000, shared a cramped single-room house with three others. In the vast urban landscape of Bengaluru, a young MIT graduate has kindled hope in the hearts of people like Gowda and Gurappa, giving them a shot at owning a house. Meet Mihir Menda, a second-generation social entrepreneur, whose groundbreaking social housing project, UrbanUp, is redefining possibilities for the disadvantaged.
UrbanUp is India’s first sustainably engineered social housing project to meet 11 of the 17 UN’s Sustainable Development Goals such as good health and well-being, climate action, affordable and clean energy, etc. The first phase of this initiative has just concluded in Kada Agraha, Sarjapur Road in the city. A total of 48 homes of 474 sqft have been handed over to families with a monthly income of Rs 15,000 or less. As the project embarks on its second phase, the 23-year-old businessman says, “One-fourth of our building materials are sourced from recycled products like construction waste, discarded cement bricks, etc.” Besides solar panels, rainwater harvesting systems and low-flow water fixtures are some of the innovative elements incorporated in the project.
During his teenage years, a visit to a watchman’s house with its dire living conditions and lack of basic amenities in Bengaluru left an impression on Menda. Determined to restore dignity to vulnerable communities, he embarked on a journey to create green housing societies. Thus was born UrbanUp in 2014 under the guidance of Rahul Mehrotra, the founder-principal of the architecture firm RMA Architects. Menda met Mehrotra when he interned under him in Mumbai. Together, they designed UrbanUp on
a 1.5-acre plot.
With each housing unit costing Rs 7 lakh, Menda introduced a unique payment model. Beneficiary families only pay Rs 2,500 per month for 10 years, amounting to Rs 3 lakh. The remaining is sourced from donors, impact investors and the UrbanUp Trust. The grassroots initiative shortlisted buyers by conducting a demand survey, inviting applications and implementing a rigorous screening process based on financial status and compelling need for housing, with priority given to the differently abled, senior citizens and single women.
Menda’s ambitious vision of housing 2,500 individuals within the next three years goes beyond Bengaluru. After completing all units in the city by 2023—totalling three blocks with 126 units and impacting over 700 beneficiaries—his sights are set on expanding to Chennai and Hyderabad this year. Nurturing homegrown hope keeps him busy.