March 2nd, 2014, witnessed the culmination of GEN’s pilot in India – Udaan – with the graduation of its seventeen outstanding fellows at LaunchPad Delhi, in Chanakya Puri, New Delhi.
After over four years of helping build successful businesses in Nigeria, the GEN voyage landed in India in March 2013 with its pilot Udaan (Hindi for flight) in collaboration with Dhriiti as its on-ground implementation partner. Nine months, 200 screenings, 16 training sessions, and 18 test phase ideas (six of which continue to be active businesses beyond the test phase as well) later, the fellows got together as official graduates of the Udaan program.
Dhriiti and VYK’s “Launchpad” – an incubation center-cum-office space for startups – was an ideal location for the event that got entrepreneurs from different stages of their journey together to learn, celebrate, and inspire our fellows.
Sanjay Gupta, an industry veteran who recently decided to tread the social entrepreneurship route through EnglishHelper™, talked about his own journey as an entrepreneur and the process of tiding through challenges. He shared with the fellows his advice on what every entrepreneur should swear by – not being fearful of challenges, having confidence in oneself, the importance of teamwork, refraining from adopting unfair means and most importantly to remember the virtues of patience. Munna, one of our star fellows, who runs his coaching center in Geeta Colony, resonated with his point when he said, “confidence in myself has helped me so much in the face of the many road blocks that crop up on a daily basis.” Dr. Zeenat, through her long history of working with young people across the world, talked about some of the extremely personal challenges a young entrepreneur might face, in terms of ego and managing multiple, often diverging, expectations through careful introspection and calm.
In a candid chat with Mukul Gupte, the head of Vishwa Yuva Kendra (VYK), one the oldest NGOs in the development sector empowering youth in India and an important partner in project Udaan, the fellows shared some of their memorable moments and learnings. Rachana talked about how this experience has helped her explore her skills and gain a sense of independence beyond the four walls of her home. “This experience has opened doors to new possibilities and even though my idea in the test phase failed, I am ready to get out and try again,” she said. Kapil, who has been successfully running his momo stall for the last four months, agreed when he said, “My belief in myself has increased, and I realize that being confident is the biggest force against most challenges.” Pooja and Sanjana shared how the trainings and test phase helped them realize what it means to transform an idea into something tangible and real: “We have started understanding the basics of running a business and feel confident that our hope of opening a jewelry store need not remain a hope for too long–we know where and how to start,” they said. The bond that they now share with Aleeya – BDO of Udaan who has been a friend, philosopher, and guide all throughout – was evident as they fondly remembered the training sessions and the weekly check-ins.
As Isabel, MD of Udaan, and Nidhi, CEO of Dhriiti, handed out the graduation certificates, the fellows gleamed with joy. Isabel highlighted how by being successful entrepreneurs the fellows are not just empowering themselves, but empowering their communities too and that with GEN, Dhriiti, and VYK, they are a part of a much bigger community that is always going to be there to support them.
The celebratory afternoon had a perfect ending as the fellows indulged in tea and snacks with the Dhriiti team and the GEN volunteers. The sense of pride and the spark in their eyes made it evident that their entrepreneurial journey has just begun!
Written by Divya Sachdev, GEN Volunteer and MC for Udaan Graduation