Social Startups

Jagriti Yatra : Learn About India’s Startup Train

There is a famous quote of Thomas Edison which I truly believe in when it comes to starting something new – “I find out what the world needs, then I proceed to invent” – T Edison.

I was delighted to see that in India some people are actually putting this quote to the test, there is a massive initiative underway that’s designed to nurture entrepreneurship with this approach. The program called Jagriti Yatra (Journey of Awakening) is an annual train ride that takes hundreds of India’s highly motivated youth across the length and breadth of the country, exposing them to the needs and concerns of the masses with the idea that they would go back and start something that would serve those needs and contribute towards the overall development of the country.

Jagriti Yatra has been running successfully for the past 5 years and is highly sought after. In 2012, for 450 spots, the organization received more than 17000 applications. These numbers speak highly about the enthusiasm amongst India’s youth to serve the country. The yatra has sparked the growth of hundreds of enterprises, specially in smaller towns and villages of the country. You can read more about these enterprises here.

We were eager to learn more about this coveted train journey and how one can participate. We caught up with Jagriti Yatra’s Director of Selections, Vibha Joshi to get more insights.

 Dutiee (D): Can you tell us about the Yatra and the kind of exposure participants receive?

Vibha Joshi (VJ): Jagriti Yatra is a nationwide initiative which channels India’s young energy towards enterprise. It is an ambitious train journey of discovery that takes hundreds of India’s highly motivated youth on a 15 day national odyssey.  The focus is on promoting Enterprise-Led-Development among youth of India, by taking 450 selected young participants on a specially chartered train, going to 15 destinations across 8500 kms in 15 days. During the journey, the Yatris are exposed to and inspired by entrepreneurs, both social and economic, who are shaping India in new ways.  The Yatra seeks to unleash the hidden potential of youth and inspires them to become “job creators” instead of “job seekers”.

On the journey the yatris meet role models who have developed innovative solutions to transform India in many ways. Yatris get to listen to their stories of building an enterprise, their dark days and how they overcame all odds. To name a few the yatris meet : Dr Narayan Murthy, Dr. R. A. Mashelkar, Bunker Roy (Barefoot College), R. Elango (Kutumbakkam village), and Anshu Gupta (Goonj), Joe Madiath (Gram Vikas, Orissa)

We now have a vibrant alumni network of over 1500 of which over 130 have started entrepreneurial initiatives.

D: How did the idea of Jagriti Yatra come about?

VJ: The story of Jagriti Yatra began in 1997, when Shashank Mani Tripathi, our Chairman, thought of an innovative way to celebrate India’s fifty years of independence. A train took off in Dec 1997 taking 350 youngsters who were keen to see and understand India. After this journey, Shashank wrote a book on the journey“ India – A journey through a healing civilization”. People who read the book and the 1997 yatris then came together in 2007 and decided that something as inspiring and as innovative as the Yatra should happen again, should happen annually. The Yatra has been happening annually since 2008.

D: Who can apply, is it open for foreigners as well?

VJ: We have two profiles of participants on the train, Participants and Facilitators. Participants are in the age group of 20-27 and facilitators are above 25 years of age. Facilitators are experienced professionals who are keen to join the movement for enterprise led development. They may be entrepreneurs, teachers or mid-career employees seeking to switch to enterprise.

Our goal is to select youngsters that are potential social and business entrepreneurs as participants and facilitators who can be the entrepreneurial leaders and build India through enterprise. We have a carefully planned and tested process which we use to evaluate the applications. While aiming for the best candidates, our focus remains the economic middle of India. In addition we aim for equal representation of male-female candidates and an even regional spread within India.

We also seek applications from international candidates whose global exposure adds to the richness of debate on the journey. We have about 10-15 % international candidates every year. For Yatra 2011 we had 24 states of India represented and participants from 23 countries.

D: When will the Yatra take place this year and when can one apply?

VJ: Registration for Jagriti Yatra 2013 is open. Interested candidates can apply here . The online application can be filled out in English or Hindi. For those who have issues with access to internet, we accept handwritten applications as well. The yatra will take place in December.