Vodafone makes a difference at Atma

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When I first signed up  for Vodafone’s ‘World of Difference’ program, I knew that it was going to be a great opportunity to donate my time and skills for a non-profit organisation. What I did not expect, was that these 7 weeks were going to become one of the most cherished memories of my life.

As a part of the Atma-CFLI project, I was approached by Atma to conduct a  2 day workshop on entrepreneurship for 30 young women from marginalized and low-income communities. At first,I thought to myself that I’ve conducted many entrepreneurship trainings & workshops before and have mentored several budding entrepreneurs in the past, so this can’t possibly be rocket science right? Wrong! Training students from mainstream colleges or professionals aspiring to be entrepreneurs is one thing. Talking about entrepreneurship to an audience who is young (16-20years), hasn’t undergone formal higher education, are from marginalized & low-income backgrounds and haven’t even possibly ever heard the word ‘entrepreneur’ is a totally different ball game! My challenge was not ‘what’ I was going to tell them, but ‘how’ I was going to present this complex subject.

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To address these issues, I decided to keep it simple. I thought of how most Indians are entrepreneurial in their outlook and great at ‘jugaad’. For the uninitiated, jugaad is a colloquial Hindi word for ‘a creative or innovative idea providing a quick, alternative way of solving or fixing a problem.’ So essentially, the skills exist somewhere deep within everybody, and I only had to find a way to help these young women draw out their hidden potential.

So there I was on the day of the workshop, with less than a week of prep and lots of jugaad, taking up the task of creating young entrepreneurs! I started with a simple ‘show of hands’ exercise to tell who really wanted to be self-employed. A couple of hands reluctantly went up – possibly without even knowing what that really meant.

The first day of the workshop involved fun team games, group activities, some theory and a lot of introspection. The focus of the workshop was to make the girls realize their own potential and to have them think through the simple opportunities that exist around them. When I look back now, the best part of the workshop was the girls’ hunger to learn and the desire to feel worthy.

On day 2, we asked the girls to put together their ‘Business Plans’ and present them to mock investors. This taught them to think through their business model, their distinct product or service, their unique selling points, their target market, their budgets and costing, their marketing & communication plans and the works! The energy was beyond infectious with each girl working enthusiastically with their groups to develop strong business plans.

Anyone who heard them present could tell that they weren’t simply selling their ideas, they were selling a part of their dreams! At the end of the session I asked how many of them felt they could be self-employed. To my surprise, each of them raised their hand. They felt that the workshop had instilled in them the confidence and motivation to be ‘something’ in life. They now had their thinking hats on and understood ‘what’ it takes for them to set-off!

So will each one of them really become an entrepreneur? May be, may be not. What I do know is that given the right direction and support, this generation can secure a bright future for themselves and for our country.

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