Ashoka India’s Youth Venture Celebrates 15 Young Social Innovators and Entrepreneurs

By Nafisa Islam

The World Bank in its latest Global Economic Prospect report says that India will remain the fastest-growing economy in 2016. However, according to the recently released Census 2011 data, nearly 120 million people in the country are unemployed, out of which the educated youth is the worst hit. What this goes to show is that though the economy is growing, there is a disparity in the rate at which jobs are being created. While employers complain about the lack of adequate talent, job seekers face the challenge of competition. In this scenario, taking into consideration the deep rooted spirit of entrepreneurship in India, there are entrepreneurs emerging at a fast pace from various corners of the country. But how many of them do we see thriving or even sustaining in the long run? Unfortunately not too many. 

Ashoka India, with its Youth Venture program, has recognized this as a challenge, that will only grow in this ever changing growth story of India, if not addressed. With an aim to provide a solution to the problem of both unemployment and the lack of sustainability in the entrepreneurship sector, Ashoka’s Youth Venture selected its cohort of 15 young social innovators and entrepreneurs, within the age group of 12 to 24. 

The Youth Venture program shares the Ashoka vision of an “Everyone A Changemaker” world, a world that responds quickly and effectively to social challenges and each young individual has the freedom, confidence and social support to drive positive change.  Making this vision its fundamental platform, the Youth Venture program has identified, connected and will support these young change makers who have made a positive impact in their communities with the help of their initiatives across the country. 

Social entrepreneurs work with the economically underprivileged communities. By supporting early stage young social entrepreneurial skills, this initiative aims to ensure both their success and in turn, the success of those who they work with- belonging to disadvantaged communities, by creating employment opportunities. Thus, addressing the challenges with a holistic and inclusive approach. 

Ashoka India has identified these young achievers as young leaders who have been selected on the basis of their demonstrated passion and commitment towards social change, their leadership potential and their aspiration to become change representatives for their society. 

These youngsters are working on projects as diverse as starting a newspaper for positive journalism, skills training for small town youth, creating market linkage for micro enterprises, bridging rural urban divide through immersion programs; water harvesting, educating underprivileged slum children and so on. The program will mentor these young leaders with the help of extensive interaction and engagement sessions with experts from different sectors and in turn help create a network of young leaders in the country.

Ashoka realizes that with the constantly changing environment, there is a growing need for the education system to change and advance to the next level. The curriculum can no longer be restricted to being mere knowledge centric. It is imperative that it includes other change making life- skills of empathy, leadership, teamwork and creative problem solving for the youth to succeed in life, amidst a dynamic environment. While employers need to effectively understand the environment and various stakeholders- both internal and external, job seekers and employees need to develop leadership skills and together they need to collaborate to overcome challenges and succeed. This is possible if children and young leaders are provided with an education system that imparts such skill sets. 

Know Ashoka’s Young Leaders: 

Kshitija Chavan and Revati Pote, Founder, We are Change- It creates awareness about the environment by talking to people ranging from 11 to 25 years of age in schools and colleges.

Vipul Chavda, Founder, Me to We- It supports teenagers from difficult and economically backward strata of society reviving their confidence through training and life-skill sets

Shravil Christian, Founder, Badlav- It has cleaned 4 areas near by locality: Nizampura, Fatehgunj, Sayajigunj, TP-13. Guided around 62 under-privileged kids for education.38 citizens took the oath to quit the addiction. Planted around 84 trees. Around 220 blood units successfully donated.

Piyush Ghosh, Founder, Optimist Citizen- The Optimist Citizen is an online and print media newspaper that focuses on presenting positive news ranging from inspiring stories, to stories of unsung heroes, to good governance, acts of courage, and everything that can create optimism and bring back hope in society.

Tanishi Gola, Founder, Saanjha- It creates awareness among under-privileged communities about the lack of basic amenities like lack of space for living, lack of food and clean water, lack of education facilities, unemployment and poverty need to be addressed. 

Aanchal Gupta, Founder, Tinbox- At Tinbox, social science is taught in a unique manner by linking stories of senior citizens to the curriculum of secondary school students.

Aayush Kedia, Founder, Sanjeevani- There is a lack of market information among village women regarding consumer preferences, pricing, product standardization, cost minimization, etc. which leads to lower revenue. Sanjeevani aims to provide a market linkage programme to connect food products manufactured by the rural women in the Shyampur village of Hapur district, Uttar Pradesh to the untapped potential markets through a diversified distribution channel.   

Rishi Ram Lakshman started an initiative to create hand-made recyclable Folders and Library cards for the school.

Manisha Manik, Founder, Darpan- It organises monthly meetings between teenagers and counselors along with organizing visits to Anganwadi and local clinics to educate them of the physical and mental changes during adolescence. 

Yuvika Motwani, Founder, Maya- Disrupts the traditional method of jewellery selling for artisan crafts women, by creating an e-commerce channel for distribution that increases their income and provides them a market from the comfort of their homes.  

Aditi Parekh, Programme Director, Student Think Tank for India- It aims to provide a structured institutional effort to promote a culture of involvement and inquiry into the range of issues we know as the civic sphere.

Nandhini Sambasivam started N'KaNa (My Sister and Brother)- This program revolves around developing a goal-oriented relationship between a child and a mentor who induces a critical guiding force making the children become fruitful in their respective dreams.

Ashweetha Shetty, Founder, Bodhi Tree Skills- It endeavours to equip rural college graduates with professional skills in order to empower them to explore and choose best career option either joining workforce or pursuing higher education.

Inderpreet Singh, Founder, I responsible Amritsar- It mobilizes the youth for civic and public policy issues and aims at deploying a mechanism to assist traffic department in Amritsar.

Radha V Subramanian, Founder, Grey Water Harvesting- It creates awareness about and implements ways towards optimum utilization of water.


About Youth Venture

Youth Venture enables young people to learn early on in life that they can lead social change. Ashoka developed the concept of Youth Venture from understanding a key insight of Ashoka Fellows in the field of youth development: one of the most effective ways to improve the lives of youth is to empower them to realize their own ability to make positive social change.


About Ashoka

Ashoka is the largest association of social entrepreneurs in the world — men and women with system-changing solutions for the world’s most urgent social problems. Ashoka pioneered the field of social entrepreneurship and generated opportunities for social entrepreneurs around the world to connect, collaborate, and provide value to one another, multiplying the capacity of each social entrepreneur to improve more lives and to change the world. Since its founding over 30 years ago, Ashoka has provided living stipends, professional support services, and connections to a global network of almost 3,000 leading social entrepreneurs in more than 70 countries.


Editor’s Note: Nafisa Islam is Ashoka India's media and public relations consultant.