‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house. Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse — there was however a train filled with fiery young people with big dreams and bigger ideas. I was fortunate to be there on the launch day of Jagriti Yatra a 15 day train journey sponsored by Google For Entrepreneurs that takes 450 young people with startup dreams around India to meet top entrepreneurs and learn from them.
I want to bring the internet to the common people – the rickshaw drivers, the vegetable seller. Internet access is still a luxury for the majority of Indians – Ankit Gupta, 2013 JY Participant
I want to start a grassroots helpdesk movement to assist people who have difficulty using the web and tech devices – Gaurav Ketkar, 2013 JY Participant
Almost every young “Yatri” (Traveler) was bursting with great ideas, they were very excited to be able to meet and learn from top entrepreneurs across the country who have been solving some of India’s big problems at scale. The participants will be in the train for 15 days, everyday stopping at a new city and covering distances in the night. The famous Bunker Roy of Barefoot College, Ankush Gupta of Goonj, Founder of Aravind Eye Hospital and 12 other notable entrepreneurs have offered to provide their time and share their success stories.
2013 is the sixth year of the Jagriti Yatra, started with the aim to foster entrepreneurs that could take on India’s big problems. The Yatra has gained tremendous popularity over the years, this year alone 18000 people applied and had to go through a highly competitive selection process. Some of the participants I spoke to shared with me that they had to answer about 20 essay style questions designed to judge entrepreneurial potential. Also it costs around INR 50,000 to participate, but there are scholarships for those who can’t afford to pay. You can learn more about the selection process and who can apply from our previous post on Jagriti Yatra as we interviewed the Director of Selections.
What I really liked while interacting with the participants was that they were beaming with ideas and solutions. They already seemed well versed with problems ordinary people face as most of the participants were from middle income backgrounds, from small towns and villages of India. The key driver for them to take this train journey was to learn from the entrepreneurs they were to meet and their early days of growing the company.
I also like Jagriti Yatra’s slow approach to creating entrepreneurs, allowing enough time for participants to understand, discuss, reaffirm, learn, test their ideas instead of straightaway launching into a startup. And the model has been working – Out of 2000 people who have undergone the train journey to date, 47% have started their own enterprises and 20% have opted to work with other successful social ventures like Teach for India and Goonj.
Learning from the success of Jagriti Yatra and its role in building startups that matter, other countries have taken to conducting similar train journeys. A Jagriti Yatra alumnus started Millennials Train Project in the US which completed their first transcontinental train journey from San Francisco, CA to Washington, D.C. in August 2013