Since the Jagiriti Yatra flagged off on December 24 in Mumbai, the 450 social entrepreneurs travelling with it have come a long way. And that’s nothing to do with the distance they have covered so far.
They have, so far, studied the business model that powers Karnataka’s Kalkeri Sangeet Vidyalaya through solar energy, understood brand building through Chennai’s Royal Enfield factory and learnt operations and scalability at Visakhapatnam’s Akshaya Patra Foundation, one of the largest mid-day meal serving facilities, among others. Soon they will get a chance to apply some of the lessons learnt through an initiative called Biz Gyan Tree in Deoria district, Uttar Pradesh.
Started in 2009 as part of the Jagriti Yatra — a special programme that carries students from across the country on an all-India tour, familiarising them with small businesses to encourage social entrepreneurship — Biz Gyan Tree (BGT) is an initiative that allows these students to build their own businesses.
“This initiative allows hands-on experience of starting your own business with Deoria district as a setting,” says Shashank Mani, chairman of Jagriti Sewa Sansthan. “Now that the students have got a macro picture of India’s local businesses, it is time to work on-field, understand the problems of the villagers and come up with solutions,” he added.
Over the next two days, the yatris will spend time in eight villages of Deoria, talking to farmers, owners of small businesses, schools and come up with business proposals. Nearly 20 proposals will be selected to be executed during a four-month residential exercise in March. Based on innovation, feasibility and local inclusiveness, four groups will receive a grant of Rs 1 lakh each to help start their businesses.
Some of last year’s ideas included, a wheelchair that can go over stairs and a portable ‘sports tent’ that can roll out a field for different games. A former participant, Anant Deep’s project was aimed at bridging the communication gap between people and government.
“We built electronic vending machines that would operate in different centres and make announcements regarding different government schemes accessible in whichever language the villagers preferred,” he added.
At present, the participants are huddled in groups and brainstorming. Though still at a nascent stage, some interesting ideas have emerged. For instance, Hersh Shah wishes to build a knowledge centre for college drop outs. “The number of dropouts after Class 12 is very high in these areas. The centre will have guest faculties consisting of CEOs from big Indian companies. If not for BGT, we would have proposed such a centre in a more urban setting. To bring it to a remote area is the real challenge.”