Jadavpur Uni: Young Minds Align To Come Up With Startups Ideas For The 2020 Hult Prize

On the 10th of November, the E-Cell of Jadavpur University, like every other year, organised and hosted the Hult Prize, an international entrepreneurship competition under the Bill Clinton initiative (presented by the Hult International Business School in partnership with the United Nations Foundation). This event is an annual entrepreneurship contest that crowdsources startup ideas from students who have the potential to solve a current pressing issue of global concern.

The Hult Prize was founded by its CEO Ahmad Ashkar in 2009, and this year marks its 10th anniversary. It is one of the world’s most acclaimed entrepreneurship programs operating on more than 1500 university campuses in 121 countries and has become a benchmark startup challenge for social entrepreneurship. The challenge statement for this year was “Building Startups That Have A POSITIVE IMPACT ON OUR PLANET with every revenue generated with the goal of reaching 1 million consumers within a decade.”

When aspiring young minds work towards a social goal and piece together their vision, sparks are bound to fly. Dr Sayan Chatterjee, the University’s Startup Co-ordinator, stressed on fresh thinking as the need of the hour.

Students presenting their ideas.

Jadavpur University witnessed the participation of numerous aspiring teams who graced the event with a myriad of dynamic ideas. They were divided into three rooms, each judged by a panel of accomplished judges, who had made a difference in their respective fields. The teams that qualified in this round were directly promoted to the finals, following which, the winners were declared.

The students came up with diverse ideas. For example, one team pitched the proposal of designing a drone run by solar energy that could be utilised for quick transportation of medicines under emergency. Another team proposed the use of a certain material that could absorb the heat from the exhaust of a car, which would then be used to generate energy to power the rest of the car further. Thus, essentially saving fuel.

One of the honoured judges Mr Debashis Ghosh, offered some valuable advice to the participants, he said, “Four key areas should be kept in mind: What are you going to do? Why are you doing it? How are you going to do it? And, when will you be ready with your product or strategy?”

The Pro Vice Chancellor, Prof. Chiranjib Bhattacharjee, called Jadavpur University a product of an enterprising venture by a few nationalists during the colonial era to produce home-grown engineers and has ever since always encouraged innovation among students and strongly supported events like the HULT foundation.

The winning team had the unique vision and as admitted by the judges, were unanimously voted on. They came up with the idea of collecting organic waste and synthesizing it to extract ingredients that would allow it to be moulded to create a new material with biodegradable properties, making it more eco-friendly, and hence, sustainably replacing the harmful polythene.

Out of the 65 participating teams, one winner and two runner-ups were declared. They will get a chance to represent their vision internationally, and if chosen, they will receive a million dollars to kickstart their entrepreneurship scheme.

Special mention must be given to the Jadavpur University E-Cell for not only successfully pulling off the event on the D-day but also for conducting several boot camps and informative workshops with separate sessions for pitch, business model, networking/team building etc., before the event. The HULT Campus Director Abhishek Gupta coordinated the event.

The event was covered by the Jadavpur University official students’ media body, JUxPress.

The very idea behind this initiative is remarkable. It deserves applaud for not only getting together young minds to discuss and debate over pressing issues in the world today but also for getting them to act on it.

Prof. Amitava Gupta is the president of the newly-constituted Institution’s Innovation Council (IIC)  at Jadavpur University. It is one of the few institutes in the country where faculty members involve themselves in development of cutting edge technology serving the nation’s needs in critical application areas, with innovation as the mainstay, and students get an opportunity to work on some of these modules.

Every year, this competition witnesses the overflowing of ideas and encourages aspirations in line with the Sustainable Development Goals. Such endeavors deserve to be supported and valued as important to our society, and all participants, judges and organisers must be commended for their involvement in it.

Wishing the winning teams from Jadavpur University who will be flying to Tokyo and other international cities for the next level of the competition, the very best!

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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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