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At Start-Up Workshop, IIT Delhi Students Hear It From The Horse’s Mouth – Entrepreneurs!

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Facebook logoEditor’s Note: With #MyStartupStory, Facebook and Youth Ki Awaaz are coming together to help you scale your business. Share your startup story and write to us if you want to host a workshop in your college!

By Siddhant Nag

Nestled in the concrete jungles of Delhi, is the beautiful IIT Delhi campus, harbouring ideas, perseverance and vast amounts of passion. On August 20, we at YKA made our way to this dream campus for our next #MyStartupStory event.

The third of its kind, these workshops attempt to make this initiative useful for budding entrepreneurs. At these events, those interested, get to learn about stories of other entrepreneurs and different aspects of ‘starting-up’, along with receiving expert advice on using social media channels like Facebook and Instagram to scale up a business.

And so it was at IIT this time, that Vishwakarma Bhawan played host to executive MBAs, automobile engineers and students of multiple disciplines from IIT, all looking to gain insights into the fascinating world of entrepreneurs.

First up, we had three entrepreneurs from diverse industries discuss evolving business models, scaling up, selecting the right sales channels, and more.

I had the pleasure of moderating this discussion, and I flagged it off with a question to Rashi Narang, Founder of HeadsUpForTails, whose business had evolved since our last conversation in April, with new product lines, fresh funding and an eye for larger markets.

We also had CA turned shoe entrepreneur Devika Srimal, Founder of Kanabis, who spoke about her progress with her niche vegan footwear brand. In our pursuit of catalysing entrepreneurial progress, a new pioneer had joined us – IIT Delhi alumnus Ritesh Singh, Founder of Eckovation, an app-based service that integrates all stakeholders of education on one platform.

Adapt And Grow

HeadsUpForTails had a shift in the way it saw itself. “I want it to be more than just a pet shop, it needs to be an experience for my customer,” said Rashi, who is now focused on building her company’s new vertical – Tail Lovers Company into an international pet store chain. Devika stated that for her products, she uses a hybrid approach of offline and online components, at times, strapping shoes onto potential customers herself!

By being hands-on during a purchase, Devika gets instant feedback and forges a deeper bond with her customers, which helps the brand create more traction through word-of-mouth.

Our third panellist Ritesh, hailing from Chapra, a town in Bihar never actually envisioned himself as an entrepreneur! Once he started studying at IIT Delhi and was bitten by the entrepreneurial bug, soon enough he was asked, “Yeh toh (entrepreneurship) theek hai, asli job kab karogey?”.

However, Ritesh observed that with the support of government policies and growing penetration of the Internet, these narratives were quickly changing. An interesting nugget he shared was Eckovation’s participation in Facebook’s ‘FbStart‘ programme, which gave his company access to technical assistance worth lakhs, Facebook credits and advice from a community of mentors and like-minded entrepreneurs.

A universal sentiment across panel was this – businesses must constantly adapt to its consumers and prevalent market conditions. And on that note, we moved onto the next session.

Money Talk

Pranay Gupta, Co-Founder of 91Springboard, an alumnus of the IIT and the IIM, ran a session that was less of a talk, and more of a simulation! Like any well-mannered guest, he also brought a special gift along – Arpit Agarwal, the principal at Blume Ventures, to offer insights into the investor side of things.

Pranay kicked off the session by pretending to throw 30 lakh rupees to the audience, putting them in the investor’s shoes. A playful ‘jugal-bandi’ between Pranay and Arpit followed, with attendees receiving insights both from an entrepreneur’s and investor’s perspective. Arpit brought to light an important insight from the investor side of things. “Investors prefer hockey curves, to linear graphs,” to which Pranay quickly retorted, “Everybody thinks their growth is a hockey curve!”

In the style of a well-scripted play, Pranay also assumed the role of an entrepreneur, asking Arpit the exact questions that plague every entrepreneur: “What does it mean to have a great team?”, “Should I drop out of college to Start-Up?”, “Is it important for my idea to be scalable or profitable?”, “Should I meet as many investors as possible or go for the ones suited to me?”

Our audience comprising of IITians posed an eclectic mix of questions to the duo.

This Q&A more or less resulted in a crash course on all things funding that too from someone who has led over 40 investments in startups and helped 15 raise follow-on rounds. From assessing an investment by looking at growth curves to identifying the right investor, Pranay and Arpit brought much value to the table.

Social Media, Not Just For Creative Businesses

Facebook’s Ritesh Mehta was up next, using impactful data and examples of high-quality content, to talk about how entrepreneurs can leverage Instagram and Facebook for business.

The focus of this session was to help users communicate effectively through a visual medium, and ensure user-acquisition by posting high-quality content. He also emphasised the need to focus on a single objective for a piece of content to achieve; which celebrates the feel of the brand and its uniqueness.

Whilst questions from the audience, were aimed at Facebook’s larger vision, ideals and stand on trending issues, the session retained the essence of Youth Ki Awaaz’s and Facebook’s collaboration – an honest effort to give the entrepreneurial energy of the country some wings, through knowledge, advice and a big chunk of inspiration.

In case you missed this workshop, #MyStartupStory will soon be back with the next edition. So, watch this space. In the meantime, if you believe you have a compelling startup story to share, write in and tell us your story!

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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