Friday, January 20, 2012

[G] Jagriti Yatra: a journey of entrepreneurship through India

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Official Google Blog: Jagriti Yatra: a journey of entrepreneurship through India

As part of our ongoing commitment to entrepreneurship around the world, we recently took part in a worthy experiment crisscrossing India. Jagriti Yatra is an annual train journey that takes more than 400 of India's highly motivated youth (ages 20-26) on an 15-day trip to introduce them to India’s challenges, and to the individuals and institutions that are developing unique solutions to those challenges. The goal is to inspire these young people to develop and lead social and economic entrepreneurship in their own communities. Each year, around 50 experienced professionals also join the Yatra to serve as mentors, and this year, I—along with four other Googlers—went along for the ride.

This year’s “yatris” (participants) came from all four corners of the country—rich states and poor states, urban, semi-urban and rural. A large portion came from low-income rural families, and many of them (especially the women) had fought great odds to get a good education. Now, they wanted to give back to their communities.

The trip, which began in Mumbai on December 25 and returned on January 8, covered 8,500 kilometers and made 12 stops in a route that circumnavigated the entire country. Our days began at 5:30am and ended at 11:30pm, and the majority of time was spent pounding the pavement, from villages in Orissa and Uttar Pradesh to the suburbs of Madurai and Patna.

These visits brought us face-to-face with India’s major challenges. Confronted with the stark reality of youth abandoning their farming traditions, vast open-air garbage dumps in town centers, girls dropping out of school after eighth grade and unemployed undergraduates scrounging money to bribe their way into government jobs, the yatris were even more motivated to become agents of change in their country. The Yatra has led to a diverse range of startups, both planned and pre-existing—for example, I spoke with participants taking up organic farming in their villages, and to others who were inspired to establish career mentoring programs in their communities.

As first-time sponsors of this year's Yatra (which focused specifically on issues in healthcare, agribusiness, water and energy) we provided not only financial support, but also WiFi for the train journey and an SMS channel for Jagriti Yatra followers to get updates on the Yatra over SMS. We also helped set up the organization with a YouTube channel and a Google+ page so they could chronicle and share their journey with the wider world.

Throughout, the energy of the group was incredible; everyone was infused with the feeling that all things are possible if you persist. Jagriti Yatra has become the event for college students and would-be young entrepreneurs to participate in (this year, the organization received 3,200 applications for less than 500 spots). It was great to see so many young people focused on making a positive impact on society through entrepreneurship.

For more personal stories from the journey, visit the Jagriti Yatra Google+ page. To register for next year’s journey, visit Jagriti Yatra’s registration page.

Posted by Adhi Kesarla, Principal, New Business Development

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