Lessons go beyond just Profit For Udhyam Shiksha’s Youth
Updated: Nov 27, 2019
Youth of Udhyam Shiksha had their first successful venture this Diwali, but the lessons go beyond just profit.
Imagine you are a cricketer and have waited your entire life to represent your country in the World Cup. You’ve studied the pitch, batting and bowling techniques, imagined matches with the greatest players. There’s only one catch: You’ve never set foot on the ground before. You’ve only known about the game theoretically. How do you think you’ll fare in the World Cup then?
This is similar to what happens when students that come out of India’s schools. We’ve grown up learning history, English and trigonometry. We learn that the Earth is the third rock from the Sun in a solar system, in a vast galaxy called the Milky Way. But, we leave school without any hands-on, experiential learning to prepare us for the workforce. As a result, we arrive in the world - only prepared for a certain role, under-prepared to contribute and to succeed. But in this uncertain world with decreasing jobs and increasing technological interventions, is that enough? Udhyam Shiksha, a part of Udhyam Learning Foundation focuses on teaching students entrepreneurial mindsets from economically disadvantaged groups. Why mindsets? Because we believe in equipping our youth with an attitude to thrive in the face of opportunities, challenges and change.
As Diwali approaches, our team came up with an idea to set up a seasonal business, led by the 10 Udhyam Shiksha youth. With a seed-funding of Rs 1,000 provided by Udhyam, and under the guidance of our enthusiastic intern Kavya S, the students developed their own products, set-up a stall at an IT company, Version 1, in Bengaluru, pitched and sold their products to their customers. It was many firsts for our youngsters - they had never been to a corporate step-up, it was the first time they were meeting and interacting with IT professionals, running a business and the first time they would have made their own profit!
The real-life experience has taught these students collaboration, communication and problem-solving while empowering them to feel as comfortable in front of professionals of a leading IT company as they would have in their classroom, surrounded by their peers. Here are the lessons these young entrepreneurs learnt from their project. Could they have gained these through a book or a school project? I’ll let you be the judge for that.
1 - You need to get in the game
We focus on equipping students with real-world values and help them test it out through real-world experience. Our students had Rs 1,000 capital to invest, from which they procured goods such as diyas, colours and craft items to create almost 200 diyas. They had to market and sell these products to real customers and make real profits. Sure, in the beginning of the exercise, they were low on confidence, but soon they realised that talking to customers, asking them to buy more is beneficial to their business. By the end of two weeks, they made a profit of more than 200% after returning the seed investment! This exercise boosted their communication skills and increased their confidence. For example, after a successful sale, Balaveeraya, one of Shiksha Youth, thanked the CEO, Mr Srihari Vedante on behalf of the team for the opportunity. Unknowingly, Bala had learnt about investing in relationship building, an important aspect of being an entrepreneur or a good team player in a job!
2 - The power of a team
The experience taught the Youth to collaborate, respect and appreciate. When the project first started, everyone was working on their diyas individually. But after a successful sale, the second time around for a larger order, the youngsters started collaborating - they would ideate together to male their products look better - what colours to use, what styles, what craft material. With no teacher to pressurise them into working or performing, the youngsters collectively took ownership of the work and time to ensure that they delivered the products in time. Throughout the exercise, the youngsters realised how they could trust and depend on their peer’s strengths. Win-win for communication and mutual appreciation club!
3 - Believe in oneself
The success has made these youngsters believe in themselves and their capacity to succeed. For the first time this Diwali, these youngsters will have their own money. For the first time Harshavardhana will buy his mother a saree and Ashok will buy ingredients to make Karjikai, a sweet Diwali speciality of Karnataka. More than money, the stall has been a huge win for us because now our Youth see themselves as being capable of achieving and succeed no matter what situation they are in. Chaitra is confident that one day, she too will be able to help her elder brother to financially support the family.
4 - Dare to Dream
And more than anything else, these experiential learnings give the youngsters the daring to dream beyond the realities of their today and the mindset to help them achieve that dream. After the success of their first venture, these youngsters are already planning for something bigger and better because they finally have faith in their own potential to succeed in life on their own terms.
Could these youngsters learn so much from a make-believe exercise in the class? We can't expect students to succeed in the real world out there without first giving them opportunities to participate in it, firsthand.
Let's put real into learning, experience the game and dirty their uniforms so that these youngsters’ can be ready for their own World Cups and that they play to win - on their own terms!