Sustainable future is not possible if the youth are not involved. They need to be aware to make the right decisions about their lifestyles. Be conscious of their actions. And above all be innovative for sustainable solutions. Are we providing them the atmosphere, the necessary stimulus to think in that direction? Anju discusses with Chintan Bakshi, CEO at Start Up Oasis, Jaipur
Anju: Conditioned by family, education, competition and peer pressure, today the youth’s primary focus is high packages. Interest, innovation, and actions for a sustainable future seem to be missing. If channelized, the young minds have great potential. Your thoughts?
Chintan: It is a thoughtful concern. Being a student in a certain college is not based on a very conscious process of deciding what he or she wants to do. People happen to be in a college based on circumstances- mostly the rankings are decision makers for the streams and colleges.
Talking about the entrepreneurial mindsets, the percentage is way too small – only 5 or 10% for various motivations- money, fame etc. Out of this may be only 0.5% would be those interested in sustainability or doing something for the community. It is very small percentage at this point in time.
Entrepreneurship happen when you are self-actualized! Once your mindset is put away from the basic insecurity, or the rat-race, you can be entrepreneurial. Till the time you are insecure or more worried about your classmate’s or neighbor’s wellbeing than your own, real entrepreneurship is not possible. Sustainability is rather a far cry!
Anju: Agreed! But there are some youngsters who have thought out-of-the-box to fill the gaps in the society. (Something like match-making app for disabled, or for gifting ideas for autistic children, or creating a weather app for fishermen). What I feel is that somewhere we are missing on building an ecosystem to prompt the youth’s thinking in that direction.
Chintan: Definitely, this is one thing that can be acted upon. We can’t change the education system. But we can build more awareness around the possibilities, exploring serious career options. Youth need not just take sustainability as a volunteer opportunity or a hobby. There may be some revolutionary ideas which can be funneled and fueled for bringing the desired change in the society.
Today, there are so many options such as crowdsourcing or some social impact projects that get substantial funding. I believe that the half a percent of these interested individuals can become a 1% in no time if we start acting NOW!
Anju: There are some small entities doing the awareness part. (Like through TryForGood I do some engaging workshops etc.) But the large organizations such as yours facilitate them with hands-on training for entrepreneurship and connecting them with investors too. Tell more about it.
Chintan: Yes, Startup Oasis has a process, right from idea validation for its viability and also incubation to connect them with the investors. Also, we are content rich with the industry people who come on our platforms to impart training and workshops. Typically any business idea has the below three steps.
- Prototyping and Validation: we focus on the lean startup process. We try to sensitize students and entrepreneurs on how do they convert an idea into a start-up. We discuss methodology, prototyping, and running pilots with minimum resources. Then validating the idea and create a business model.
- Business modeling-we discuss the business plan, customer segmentation, operating plan and basic revenue model
- Fundraising– we take up the cash flows.
Besides, there are specific workshops on customer segmentation, sales, and customers activation, building an operating plan, how to build a team. There are service providers or mentors who come to our platform. We also do these 3rd party workshops on a regular basis.
Anju: As you rightly point out, the youth gets kind of delusional to probably sit through the serious content. Maybe if there are some real stories shared by the people of similar age groups, they can be engaged better. But the bottom-line also remains about funding. So what is the scope of sustainable projects to get funded?
Chintan: As regards funding, there is enough interest in the social impact start-ups. We at Startup Oasis also fund about INR 15-20 lacs for the social impact projects. For example, for projects like providing healthcare in remote villages.
But if we look at the environmental impact or community benefits, something like students going and teaching in slum areas – such projects may be more voluntary in nature and may face difficulty in raising funds from conventional sources.
Clearly, there is a yes for for-profit social enterprise initiatives. But for not profit environmental impact or social projects which are not scalable, there may be very limited funding. There are other channels or platforms such as crowdfunding or more of informal funding rather than Institutional.
(Anju: Right! The environment is freely available so a price for intangible can’t be validated unless smart marketers come and package it like purified water or pure oxygen. Human psyche…)
Yes, such is the scenario. But it’s not completely that bad. There are social impact funds which keep Social Impact as the primary focus and financial return as secondary, like Acumen, Ankur Capital etc. They invest in scalable “for profit” startups, but are more focused on high social impact.
There are many people doing small business in areas like health, fitness, environment or other philanthropic purposes. For example, the growing interest in organic produce and natural farming. It is good for humans, animals, and environmental health. But it is tough to find investors there. They can try selling and building through an informal network of local investors. Such ideas do resonate in the local communities, but getting Institutional funding may be difficult.
Anju: What about the short term impactful activity. Like, may be some event or merchandise sales for short-term impact? There may be no investments for these but there may be the visibility sponsorships.
Chintan: As of now we don’t do that. But we would like to do it. Also, if one has some idea for a project which can generate social impact, we can mentor it. A lot of these people will need funding for the pilot.
If it is for a sustainable cause, we would need funding ourselves to take care of our costings and support such projects. I believe socially conscious people can come forward for it. We will be more than happy to catalyze such initiatives.
Anju: I think investors and people of high net worth anyways look for opportunities for investments. If there can be awareness programs to bring about more consciousness for “net positivity” (profitability along with positive social and environmental impact), there may be more interest.
Chintan: I agree. Awareness building has to happen at both the levels- Entrepreneurs and Investors.
Also, there are many organizations doing one or the other things in their silos. The struggle is about reaching out bigger and wider. Such a platform needs to be created.
I am involved in one such initiative i.e. Jaipur Mera Shahar, where various collaborators come for diverse activities including sustainability and offer information for the outreach program.
Hope that we have rising interests in this arena.