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The Why of Udhyam - Case for Grassroots Entrepreneurship


In a future with very few jobs and inability of the Education-Industry setup to use human potential - Udhyam focuses on Grassroots entrepreneurship & entrepreneurial skills with a hope to maximise human potential. When I started on my journey to explore Education, I was open to understanding all aspects, from birth to a good livelihood. It was a great expedition where I met a bunch of very good people, saw some good and not-so-good institutions closely and spent time in places of learning. All of these have influenced me a lot.There is a lot to be done in education - Student Motivation, Talent & Quality in Teaching, Personalised learning, Project based learning are some of the ideas that appeal a lot to me - and I try and support organisations working in these fields. But the more time I spent in this space, the more I was convinced that the bottom of the education funnel was completely clogged. 


Our education system's capacity reduces dramatically from Primary education to Higher Education - and when it comes to decent Jobs - the drop is extreme. Historically, Education and Industry make up a cycle - In Long term, good education leads to growth in Industry and good industry leads to good education systems coming up. Right now, Industry is going through a major transformation (that Germany started calling Industry 4.0). This cycle is getting broken - as Industry is becoming less and less dependent on people. 

Bill Gates, Elon Musk & Stephen Hawking - have spoken about the challenges offering suggestions like Universal Basic income, or taxing robots to deal with this new reality.


Enough has been written about lack of India's job growth. Our top 8 sectors created 1.35 lakh jobs in 2015, while about 1.25Crore Indians turned 18 - Let that difference sink in. The stats for the last 15 years don’t look good either. Our GDP growth is increasingly capital led - and not labour led. 

And having been a technologist and run HR at a place like Flipkart, I can say with high confidence that the future looks bleak for current jobs. 

Self driving cars, Drones doing delivery, Highly automated  factories & warehouses and more uses of technology & data - will play a role reducing jobs significantly: These are all a matter of WHEN not IF. 


The increased use of deploying higher capital & lower labour (hence more productive!) ways of creating value for a “For Profit” enterprise makes complete sense. In a country with very high disparity in wealth - (India trails only kleptocratic Russia) the rich will prefer to deploy higher end technology and capital to create value, instead of employing more people - There is nothing wrong with this - Its just a new reality that we need to face up to. 


Another large change happening - is emergence of platforms - which enable far more small entrepreneurs, than they have employees. Flipkart and other eCommerce players are a great example of this, so are Ola & Uber - where the eventual value/service is provided by lakhs of small entrepreneurs. Nandan articulates this well in his talk - An Alternate View of the Future 



For most families in India - education is seen as a ticket to a good livelihood - Unfortunately, that promise is fulfilled only for a very small percentage of people. For that small set - life is truly transformed - it is my story. But for the rest, education betrays that promise - that degree does not help them achieve a good life.  


With these as backdrop the thought going through my mind was - If Companies are not going to employ you, can you employ yourself?


While I landed at entrepreneurship - in this market driven and intellectual way - it resonated with an emotional part of me very deeply.


Most of our Education & Industry operate with a very rigid frame. They are based on slotting you and making you fit into their narrow definitions. For example - In 6th standard the topics in Maths you have to study are fixed - no more, no less … 


Similarly, as an accountant - you are only expected to do “your job” - don’t ask more questions or try other things. Neither places are you asked - What is your strength? What do you enjoy doing? 


Strengths that are very powerful in today’s world - like creating things with your hands, experimenting, networking, collaborating, public speaking and many many more - are completely ignored by our education system. This is a massive waste of human potential. We have created a very narrow pathway & we expect everyone to pass through it. 


Entrepreneurship allows you to create

value with your strengths. Dr. Saraswathy, who has been researching entrepreneurship for over 25 years, states that the first principle of expert entrepreneurs is that they start with who they are, what & who they know. In essence entrepreneurship allows you to express who you are through your business. Unlike education & industry, entrepreneurship can be very broad and allows for a large variety of businesses.

I have been a believer of working with your Strength - your talents. We experimented with Strengths based hiring at Flipkart with some interesting results. Marcus Buckingham’s books on the topic are high up in my list of books that influenced me. 

While possibly more challenging in the short run, as an entrepreneur you live a far more satisfied and meaningful life – if you are working on what your strengths are and what you enjoy doing. This is far better compared to those in a job, as most of them are forced to live a dual life: one person in their job, and a totally different person outside. (Assocham reported that 42% of Indian private sector employees face depression). In effect, I believe if more people were to start businesses with their strengths – we would have happier & more meaningful lives.


These 2 insights: jobs disappearing & creating value from your strengths have hooked me to entrepreneurship as my core focus area. 


Based on the fundamental belief in entrepreneurship as a powerful alternative to India's education-to-career gap, Udhyam was born. Udhyam means enterprise as well as hard work. These two meanings capture the organization's focus on grassroots entrepreneurship as opposed to the more recent association of entrepreneurship solely with tech and VC driven start-ups 


How will Udhyam work on these - we will experiment with different ways of youth (in & out of school) learning value creation & entrepreneurial skills.


Our first pilot is going live this summer in a few zero & low fee schools in Bangalore. More on that later.


Udhyam is being registered as a Section 8 company - A long debate I had with myself and close friends, before deciding on setting this up as a Not for profit - a For purpose Startup. A story for another time...


If the above resonate with you, consider joining us on this journey.

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