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Facebook And Youth Ki Awaaz Organise #MyStartupStory At Maharaja Agrasen And IIFT

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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!

After I turned 4 and started going to school, anyone I would meet would ask me the question – ‘What do I want to be when I grow up?’ To every person, I would give a different answer – because I was fascinated with everything new I would come across. My ideas ranged from having a daycare center for dogs, having my own clothesline, and running a bakery because who doesn’t like cakes.

‘How do you realize that an idea has the potential to be scaled to be a business?’ – did not clearly worry the 4-year-old me. But this is a question many young people budding with great ideas seek the answer to. When is a good time to start pursuing your business idea? Am I simply reinventing the wheel? What if I fail miserably? Where should I start and what should my first plan of action be?

In hope of answering these questions, the second edition of #MyStartupStory, a series of interactive workshops, hosted by Youth Ki Awaaz and Facebook are back – this time in colleges and campuses across India. With job markets and employment models evolving at a fast pace – entrepreneurship, aided by the Internet and social media, is playing a critical role in job creation and economic growth.

The idea behind these workshops at colleges is to build a space that cultivates ideas and fosters innovation. The #MyStartupStory workshops aim to create a stepping stone towards building a culture and ecosystem where all ideas find the space and support to grow.

This year we kick-started the workshops at Maharaja Agrasen College and Indian Institute of Foreign Trade. The workshops saw some great conversations and insights, from both experts and upcoming entrepreneurs. The event was conceptualized by FB and YKA in a manner that helps students and young entrepreneurs with best practices and relevant strategies.

2017’s first #MyStartupStory workshop was held on 4th March at Maharaja Agrasen College and was attended by over 80 students pursuing courses in advertising, journalism, and commerce. The first session saw an informative exchange of ideas and learnings from young entrepreneurs: Muheet Mehraj, Founder – Kashmirbox and Devika Srimal Bapna, Founder – Kanabis. The conversation kick started with the eminent question – Why and how did these two decide to startup and how did they see the startup ecosystem?

(L-R) Muheet Mehraj and Devika Srimal Bapna, Students of Maharaja Agrasen College.

From finding the passion and faith in your idea – to building the right team – and choosing a business model that works best for you – it was interesting to see how these two e-commerce entrepreneurs are finding their niche and scaling their business.

Through the course of the conversation, Muheet highlighted the importance of finding the right mentor. “The kind of business I was trying to build didn’t exist in MBA books – you need to go by trial and error and see what works.” Devika spoke about the challenges one faces in always ensuring that your product is up-to-date with the changing trends – “Fashion is fickle, sometimes it’s difficult to assess the market and the demand and think how to keep the business running at all times.”

One of the questions posed from the audience was directed at hiring the right people – “How can you convince your team to believe in your idea and hence find the right people?”

Both Devika and Muheet echoed the sentiment that to build the right team – “You need to dream together as a team. You need to motivate people, value them and make them feel important. Money isn’t as important as motivation to keep the team together.” In addition to this, both include all their workers and staff in all meetings to bring in inclusive and diverse ideas.

In response to a question on the role educational institutions in life and business, Muheet highlighted-Your degree doesn’t define if you will become an entrepreneur – all your experiences and learnings will help you. The kind of faculty and environment plays a key role in your support system. Don’t think that a degree won’t help, but don’t the let the degree limit you.”

Once you have the idea and the perseverance in place, it’s time to introduce your idea to the world. Rajat Arora, Policy Programs Manager at Facebook for India and South Asia, took the next session on how Facebook and Instagram are no longer platforms that are used for only keeping in touch, but also communicating your business idea, finding the right consumers and effectively running the business.

Some interesting insights Rajat shared through his session that are universally valuable for all businesses:

  • Where to find your audience – As the world is going mobile and now moving to wearable devices, you need to build your presence where your audience exists.
  • How to build a great product – People buy the idea and the dream when they buy a product – your idea needs to be expressive. No idea is a silly idea. All you need to identify the idea and pursue it.
  • How can you leverage platforms like Facebook and Instagram for business – 3 trillion photos were shared on Facebook over one year – people look for content that’s visually engaging than reading long text. There was 616% growth in mobile video views from 2012 – 2016.

The next round of an equally interactive workshop was organized at Indian Institute of Foreign Trade on 10th March and was attended by around 80 students who are now in the final year of their MBA.

In the world of Starbucks, Barista, Costa how does a startup take on the world of coffee? The workshop at IIFT started with finding the answer to this question. Arman Sood, co-founder at Sleepy Owl in conversation with YKA talked about how he is building his brand with cold brew coffee.

(L-R) Arman Sood (Co-Founder, Sleepy Owl) in conversation with YKA, Arun Duggal (Manager, Coinmen Consultants).

While sharing his journey, he spoke about how he had to make a business plan to show his parents why he was quitting a career in law, before making a business plan for investors. “Always implement your idea with a Minimum Value Product. We pitched our product to restaurants – one owner took it up – we sold 1 bottle in 3 weeks. That is when we realized that B2B won’t work for us. We realized that we should go directly to our consumer and pivot to B2C. Keep observing the market, if the idea exists already – think how you can do it better or add value.” For Sleepy Owl – Instagram and Facebook really helped in reaching out to a bigger consumer base, and that’s where people 1st discovered them.

What followed next was a session by Arun Duggal, Manager at Coinmen Consultants LLP – on how to ensure your business is financially sound. Some key takeaways from this session that can be extremely helpful for someone starting up:

  • After your idea is in place, it’s important to figure how will you scale it. Raising money is easy but it’s important to ensure you find your financial stability and sustainability.
  • Once you raise funds – spend wisely and track your spending to avoid getting bankrupt.
  • Ensure that in your pricing you get your money’s worth.
  • Angel investors invest in the business idea and it’s potential. An investor sees what is the real opportunity in your idea. The idea has to be disruptive and a game changer!
  • Bootstrapping is an important stepping stone. It helps you understand how to cautiously spend money.
    The disadvantage of bootstrapping is that if your idea requires rapid expansion and growth, you won’t be able to sustain it for long.

The session was illustrated with several case studies and instances of how several big companies are now closing down because they were unable to manage their finances well and where they went wrong. The session ended with 10 things that can help you make an awesome pitch that no one can refuse.

Next up Rajat Arora, Policy Programs Manager at Facebook for India and South Asia, kick-started the session on using Facebook for business by talking about how Rashi Narang, Founder – Heads Up For Tails and Bayiravi Mani, Founder – Kol Kol Baby Carriers identified a problem and scaled their business in the market.

Rajat Arora, Policy Programs Manager at Facebook for India and South Asia, takes the session on using Facebook for business.

The idea is to access the market and access information using Facebook for business. As the economy is changing from production based to consumption based – Rajat talked about how Facebook can play a critical role in building your business. He also introduced FB start, a program launched by Facebook to help entrepreneurs access tools and share knowledge. “While Facebook helps you broadcast your message, WhatsApp can help you build one on one relationship with your audience/consumer”.

In response to a question from the audience on how does a startup build the same traction as compared to a rich brand that can spend nicely on social media; Rajat responded, “People buy experience, not products. Find your niche and see how you can market your USP and attract the right audience. No idea is a silly idea. All you need to do is identify the idea and be passionate about it.”

It was heartening to see so many passionate ideas and enriching conversations. If you too have a business idea or would like to share your startup journey, do write to us here. YKA and Facebook are also taking the #MyStartupStory workshops to different cities across India. If you would like us to host a workshop in your college or campus, please do write to us at action@youthkiawaaz.com

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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.

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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.

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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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