Tycoon Stories

Explore inspiring leadership stories from diverse backgrounds and industries on Tycoon Stories. Gain valuable insights, learn from real-world experiences, and cultivate your own leadership skills.

Bunker Roy, Indian social activist and educator, Social Entrepreneur, Bunker Roy Biography,
Social Entrepreneur

Bunker Roy: Visionary of Rural Development and Founder of Barefoot College

Early Life and Education

Sanjit “Bunker” Roy was born on August 30, 1945, in Burnpur, West Bengal, India. Growing up in an affluent family, Roy attended the prestigious Doon School, followed by St. Stephen’s College at the University of Delhi, where he excelled academically and was a top-ranking squash player. Despite his elite background, Roy’s career path took a dramatic turn after a life-changing experience during a famine relief project in Bihar.

Bunker Roy

The Turning Point

In 1965, Roy volunteered to work in the famine-stricken state of Bihar. Witnessing the severe impact of drought and poverty on rural communities, he was deeply moved and decided to dedicate his life to improving the lives of India’s rural poor. This experience catalyzed his decision to move away from his privileged upbringing and conventional career prospects towards grassroots development work.

Founding Barefoot College

In 1972, Bunker Roy founded the Social Work and Research Centre, now widely known as Barefoot College, in Tilonia, Rajasthan. The institution’s goal was to empower rural communities by providing training in various sustainable technologies and self-reliance initiatives. Unlike traditional educational institutions, Barefoot College focuses on practical skills, including solar engineering, water management, healthcare, and education, taught primarily by and for the rural poor.

Philosophy and Approach

Roy’s philosophy is grounded in the belief that solutions to rural problems must come from within the community. Barefoot College operates on principles of simplicity, sustainability, and decentralization. The college’s model challenges conventional education by empowering individuals without formal degrees, emphasizing traditional knowledge and skills. Women, particularly grandmothers, are trained as solar engineers and health workers, playing a pivotal role in transforming their communities.

Impact and Achievements

Barefoot College has had a profound impact on rural development, both in India and internationally. By 2020, it had trained over 3 million people in 93 countries. The solar energy program alone has equipped thousands of villages with solar lighting, reducing dependency on kerosene and improving quality of life. The college’s water management initiatives have also helped address critical water shortages in arid regions.

Recognition and Awards

Bunker Roy’s work has garnered global recognition and numerous awards. In 2010, he was listed in TIME magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world. He has received accolades such as the Stockholm Water Prize (1997) and the Clinton Global Citizen Award (2010). Roy’s innovative approach to education and development continues to inspire social entrepreneurs and policymakers worldwide.

Personal Life

Despite his extensive travels and international recognition, Bunker Roy remains deeply connected to the grassroots communities he serves. He lives modestly in Tilonia, leading by example and staying true to the principles of simplicity and sustainability that define Barefoot College. Roy’s personal commitment to rural development extends to his family; his wife, Aruna Roy, is a prominent social activist and founder of the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS), a grassroots organization that champions the rights of workers and peasants.


Bunker Roy’s legacy is one of empowerment, innovation, and enduring change. By challenging conventional paradigms and championing the potential of the rural poor, he has redefined development work and demonstrated the transformative power of community-driven initiatives. His life’s work, encapsulated in the ongoing success of Barefoot College, stands as a testament to the belief that lasting change begins from within the community.


Bunker Roy’s journey from an elite upbringing to becoming a pioneer in rural development is a powerful story of empathy, dedication, and visionary leadership. Through Barefoot College, he has created a model of sustainable development that has positively impacted millions of lives. His work continues to inspire and pave the way for future generations committed to making a difference in the world.


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *