Mandar Apte felt called to create peace. But first, he had to give up his dream job.
In early 1959, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King took a five-week tour of India to see the results of Mahatma Gandhi’s nonviolent movement.
While in India, Dr. King said, “I am more convinced than ever before that the method of nonviolent resistance is the most potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for justice and human dignity.”
A Sexy Job
In 2016, the story of King’s trip to India caught the attention of Mandar Apte. “I was a senior executive at Shell with a sexy job, ‘Manager of GameChanger Social Innovation,’” Mandar explains. “I managed a multi-million-dollar investment fund on innovations. The fund created shared value – both social impact and business returns.”
His work was recognized globally. He has spoken at TEDx, Wharton Business School, Social Innovation Summit, London Business School, and more. His work was recognized in publications such as FastCompany. He was the winner of the prestigious Ashoka League of Intrapreneurs.
But then, Mandar read the story of Dr. King’s trip to India.
“I was on a month-long holiday in India when I read Dr. King’s biography,” Mandar says. He was immediately struck. “The calling was, America needs another reminder of nonviolence.”
Mandar called several friends, including his friend Sarah. When he told Sarah about what he was learning, she challenged him, “Why don’t you lead a delegation to India?”
Mandar found thirty-five victims of violence in America. Of the thirty-five, six people joined him in India. He hosted parents from the Sandy Hook Elementary School, former gang members, and leaders in the Black Lives movement.
“I used that month to produce a documentary film about victims of violence from America, walking in the footsteps of MLK’s journey.” The film is From India, With Love.
After his month vacation, Mandar went back to his sexy job. But the problem of peace would not leave him alone.
“I could not go back to work,” Mandar says. He quotes Dr. King’s words, “Today we don’t have a choice between and violence and nonviolence. It is either nonviolence or nonexistence.”
Mandar is both a peace activist and an innovator. “I am an engineer. I look at the problem and work toward a solution. The problem I had taken on was how to reduce violence of all kinds. How can we promote peace and compassion?
“So, I quit my job.”
From Filmmaker to Peace Activist
After leaving his job, Mandar began to screen the film across the United States. “I went to the south side of Chicago. I went to inner-city schools, prisons, and juvenile halls.”
One screening was on the campus of George Mason University. The Dean for the School of Conflict Resolution had been to India. In a conversation, Mandar proposed creating an innovation lab that would look at the business case for peace.
“For cities like Los Angeles, every homicide costs the taxpayers between one and ten million dollars,” Mandar explains.
In 2019, Mandar started Cities4Peace, a peace consultancy that works with civic leaders to promote peace in cities. The flagship project of this initiative launched in Los Angeles. Mandar worked with the Los Angeles Police Dept (LAPD) and the LA Mayor’s Office for Gang Reduction & Youth Development (GRYD).
“Everybody can get involved,” he says. “You don’t have to go to South Sudan or Iraq. There is violence in our communities.”