Day 8 — New Year began with Inspirations Galore: Jagriti Digital Yatra 2021–22
4000+ kilometres of journey, full of learning, through 8 states of South and Central India, 7 destinations, brings us to Nalanda, the intellectual capital of Ancient India:)
The Jagriti Yatra has been designed to instil a sense of urgency in the young Yatris to take action for solving India’s problems through entrepreneurial ventures in Middle India.
“Arise, awake, and stop not till the goal is reached”
Swami Vivekananda, who took inspiration in a sloka of Katha Upanishad, made this slogan the very essence of Youth Movements across India be it for recognising the nation within India or modernising our scientific thought process or re-discovering our rich heritage. It is in Kanyakumari , on Day 2, that we revisited this beautiful beacon of a thought to energise ourselves about being Indian and inherently entrepreneurial. Makarand R Paranjape, ex-JNU professor and author described in detail with Shashank Mani about Vivekanand’s life journey and the insights into that visionary’s thoughts. This was followed by a captivating conversation around Yoga’s uses for illnesses and nation building by Padma Shri Dr H R Nagendra reinforcing the hidden treasures of Indian knowledge.
Each morning in the Yatra has been filled with some beautiful entrepreneurial gyan taken from our ancient texts like the Mahabharata and modern day startups and unicorns stitched together in beautiful story telling by author, Vinay Kanchan, who, each morning, tells us one of the 5 principles that entrepreneurs need to adhere to religiously. After learning from the mighty popular and truly amazing Dabbawalas from Mumbai, we got inspired by the movement called Aravind Eye Care System, headquartered in Madurai on Day 3. If you have not yet read about them, please do. It has been a privilege just listening to their 45+ years legacy and impact, making them the best in the world at providing low-cost and high-quality ophthalmology services to those who can’t afford them or don’t have access to them. It was followed by an energetic panel discussion among Doctors Rajani Bhat, Ashwin Naik, A Vaidheesh moderated by Dr Ruben Mascarenhas. I remember listening to Ruben’s work during the migrant crisis during the lockdown last year through his NGO, Khana Chahiye on the podcast with Amit Verma.
Day 4 brought us to Bangalore. The city, which in my opinion, has contributed more than any other in shaping the entrepreneurial spirit of post-liberalisation India. One of the most pivotal times in my life came after experiencing Bangalore for 2 eventful months in 2009, after I graduated college and took on a “Market Research” internship with LeadCap ventures, on the suggestion of a friend and college batchmate. It sounded much better than teaching and mentoring engineering students in rural Jalandhar, which is very ironical considering what I do now. I guess for a young engineering graduate, the hunger to know more superseded his lifelong passion at that moment. I quit my teaching job and took a train to Bangalore to join a market research startup, for practically no money and no ‘useful’ work experience. Boy, was I in for a surprise. Apart from meeting retail industry big wigs (Levi’s, Future Group and such) who were humble enough to meet startup reps (such a pleasant surprise), I got to work and learn directly with Sangeeth Verghese, a global authority on Leadership. The journey also took me to Kalpetta in Wayanad, Kerala to participate in the world’s first Leadership Village. I was hooked. I wanted to be a social entrepreneur and being an engineer, passionate about renewable energy, I went straight to the offices of SELCO to apply for a job; any job — sales, operations, whatever. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be as they weren’t hiring at that time. But the Yatra brought SELCO to me in the form of a Role Model with its founder, Harish Hande sharing SELCO’s 25 year beautiful journey.
Day 5 was at Sriharikota, the Spaceport of India, a barrier island in the Bay of Bengal, home to the Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) under the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). Day 6 took us to Visakhapatnam and the massive Akshay Patra Foundation, which feeds 1.8 million school students in various parts of India and has so far provided 3 billion meals since 2000. Day 7’s role model was the inspirational Gram Vikas Foundation in Ganjam, Odisha. Gram Vikas has been working on multiple areas such as education, sanitation, disaster relief and more to improve lives in rural Odisha since 1971.
Apart from these role models, the Yatra, through panel discussions, Enterprise Melas and special sessions, provided us the opportunity to interact with Women Entrepreneurship pioneers, musician tech entrepreneurs, YouTube creators, Ayurveda technologists, and many start-ups working in food tech, agri tech, healthcare, education, and so on. Jagriti Foundation has been in the process of setting up an Enterprise Centre in Deoria in Eastern Uttar Pradesh, and their team from Deoria kept sharing with us about what they are doing in this under developed district and how they are tackling all the challenges they face while encouraging local entrepreneurs in all the feasible sectors.
The participants, under the guidance of facilitators like myself, have done detailed SWOT analyses of role model organisations and presented in front of panels to get feedback. A beautiful surprise came my way on the last day of 2021, making it a perfect New Year gift when I saw one of my YPro mentees from last year, a student from Delhi University, in the same SWOT presentation group. And she said that it was due to my encouragement last year that she is a participant in the Yatra this time.
They have been taught business tools like the Business Canvas to present their ideas and also given knowledge of types of companies and other such information. Dr Darshana Vithalani, one of our co-facilitators in the group, the founder of Divyathha Consultation which is incubated at NSRCEL IIM-Bangalore is leading the charge. She has developed a beautiful 5 pronged curriculum for life skills.
Half the Yatra is over and we’re moving into the next phase. We have been inspired and now we need to develop an idea. An idea that will try and solve some of the problems of middle India and create more opportunities. Our group is working on thinking of how to make a for-profit life skills institute in Deoria which can be replicated in other similar districts across India. We have a very big vision but the beauty lies in details.
We are at Nalanda today, the home to the largest university of the ancient world. We have been inspired, time has come to put it in action.