One thing I'm super proud of
The most joyous moments for me on this journey have been when people have surprised everyone around them by doing things nobody expected them to.
It is these occasions when our belief in human potential - stops being a belief - becomes reality.
1. There have been business teams, in the Shiksha program who faced a loss in the early part of the business, didn't give up, worked hard to just wipe out the losses & end at a break even.
2. Our model of providing students with an advance for doing a business project, I was warned is fraught with risks.
People had told me young teenagers aren't to be trusted, and more so - they definitely don't have the capabilities or skills to make a profit and hence, return the advance.
I had been told that only 20-30% of the money we give out would come back. I was more optimistic and had pegged my hopes and budgets at 75% of the money being returned.
Post this summer, we have now worked with 560 students. 95% of the money we gave as advance came back! This is a validation of our belief in their intent, ability to work hard as well as a potential to create value for their customers in a period as short as 2 weeks.
3. There have been Vyapaaris like Anjanamaa, about 45 years of age, who have been open to trying new things - and with experimentation and grit have been able to grow their business from ₹ 200/day to ₹ 600/day in a couple of months.
We have a lot to learn and work upon. The one thing I am super proud of is the team that has come together at Udhyam.
Amongst the most adventurous and satisfying parts of last year was the team coming up with our vision, guiding principles and our 3-year goal together. We started with a blank canvas - with complete freedom to rewrite what we wanted to do at Udhyam.
While I was a wee bit disappointed, that we didn't completely move away from what we have done so far, I am very proud of the simplicity that we have now been able to provide to our work.
Our Goal for the next 3 years - is to increase agency amongst 3 lakh individuals.
The guiding principles that we have decided to work with are Belief in Human Potential, Ownership, Long Term Focus, Hard Work, Experimentation, Trust & Caring.
The team was self-aware enough to also list guiding principles that we may not be practising all the time, but aspire to- Scale focus & Excellence. The set of customers we see ourselves working with are government and low-income schools through the Udhyam Shiksha program and urban and rural vyapaaris through the Udhyam Vyapaar program.
We intend to start experimentation with SHGs.
Our focus for the next couple of years will continue to get our work to create impact at the atomic levels - at the individual student, school and vyapaari and SHG levels, before we press the accelerator hard for scale.
The early shoots of scalability are starting to be visible to me:
▪ We have started training facilitators from remote areas like Kashmir & rural MP, to come to immerse and learn our program, and then go back and implement it locally.
▪ We have built a simple tool for vyapaaris who are unable to read and write, to be able to keep accounts.
As I look ahead, what I am most excited about is learning more about our customers - students as well as Vyapaaris, experimenting with different models of our offering, figuring out the product-customer fit, building scalable products all eventually leading to higher independence and action (our definition of agency).
We have a lot to do - guide us, support us, join us on our mission...