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‘Our Mission Is To Connect Education And Entrepreneur Ecosystem In India’

Without entrepreneurial education, the enterprising spirit of children dramatically declines over time and is almost non-existent by the time they graduate from high school

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Serial entrepreneur Devika Majumder is currently busy with Youngpreneurs, a program that trains and guides young students in India to become entrepreneurs.

In an interaction with BW Businessworld, Majumder, founder & CEO of Youngpreneurs, talks about her journey as an entrepreneur, the entrepreneurship ecosystem in India, and the details of the program, among others. Edited excerpts:

Tell us briefly about your journey and what led you to start Youngpreneurs?

I left the country at 17 and I feel that the exposure I got in the US through project-based curriculum and independent studies was invaluable. That tremendously shaped my thinking - the pattern of thinking out of the box and not adhering to bookish knowledge at all times.

‘Thinking creatively’ has been my mantra – after graduation, to pay off my student loans, I took a dive and started an IT consulting firm and started consulting with many Fortune 500 companies. During this time, I started first mobile day spa company called mobileSPA, bringing the entire experience of relaxation and pampering to the employees at their workplace.

Now, lack of Indian made brands globally has always pained me. In that quest I started a bags and shoes company (Hautetotes Etc) which will be launched in December after extensive testing for quality globally. It also provides a unique platform for aspiring designers. The manufacturing unit is in Kolkata, for which I have had to shuttle back and forth.

It is in fact during these visits when a realisation dawned in me that this is definitely the right time for introducing entrepreneurial education among children at schools in India. So, that is what we want to offer – shaping the thinking of young children. It is really the mindset that matters in the end.

Our mission is to connect education and entrepreneur ecosystem in India so that we can have Mark Zuckerbergs coming out of India and not just Indian kids wanting to be a Facebook or a Google employee.

Why did you decide to focus on young entrepreneurs of India?

Cultivating entrepreneurship in the young is vital, as children are born imaginative, energetic, and willing to take risks, but without entrepreneurial education, the enterprising spirit of children dramatically declines over time and is almost non-existent by the time they graduate from high school. When you really start interacting with kids of this generation, you get to know how curious and capable a 12- or 13-year-old’s mind can be. Kids of this age are bursting with ideas and energy, and at this stage of their education, they’re perfectly placed to excel in a practical group environment.

The 21st century challenges that the youth today will be faced with, will require a very different set of hard and soft skills than what was needed 10 years ago; so we must re-adjust the focus of our education to prepare them to solve these complex challenges. That’s why it’s the perfect time for them to take part in the YP program, and get a practical taste of real-world experience that’ll stand to them for life. By harnessing vital aspects of English, Math, Visual Arts, ICT and Drama, YP education is ideally designed to blend seamlessly into the school curriculum.

What is the traction you are seeing in terms of students' participation and overall interest in the ecosystem?

The students are amazing. There is a huge transformation that we have seen in the children after they have done our camps. Their MVPs, their pitch decks, - I have never had a more fulfilling experience in the recent past. As far as the schools go, the response is great. I am glad that we are seeing such visionaries as educators now, where we are not really having to ‘sell’ any concept. Most of them see the value and the importance of it. Of course, it is a new concept, so to incorporate it, takes some time. But we are enthusiastic seeing the response.

What is the innovation quotient in India as compared to the US? Is there anything that needs to change here for the better?

That would not be a fair comparison. Presently education in India is not structured to promote innovation. It is a more a test of your memory. It is limited to classroom passive learning.

Entrepreneurs are not ‘born’….rather they ‘become’. Research has shown that entrepreneurial mindset is a malleable characteristic that can be taught and learned. So, to help unleash the full potential of youth, the learning should encompass with top-quality mentorship, feeding the natural creativity of young minds, promoting experiential learning, encouraging an initiative spirit and a balanced risk-taking attitude. So if we educate our children to wear their creative gear and have their 'original' thinking hat on - they will automatically start seeing an opportunity to every problem in any society and work towards the betterment of the community and make the world a better place. An entrepreneurial outlook empowers youth to recognize their own potential and act as responsible global citizens.

In this regard, I would like to emphasise that Youngpreneurs does not interfere with school curriculum, it enhances it. Now I do have a message for parents / educators that entrepreneurship is more than a set of tools – Education is for a lifetime. Real-world experience that’ll stand to them for life.

Please share some details of the program? How will students register and should they have any pre-requisites?

The curriculum of the Youngpreneurs was developed by entrepreneurs, educators, and business professionals and is easily understood when broken down into three major components: (1) idea generation and opportunity recognition, (2) business plan development, and (3) launch of the new enterprises. The curriculum is specially designed for the active teenager's mind. It offers the best in teaching through a “learn by doing” approach that combines mini-lectures, group activities and project based learning.

We have taken a holistic approach and the main elements that are woven in the program are: leadership, public speaking, financial literacy, and entrepreneurship. There are no pre-requisites. We ideally want a blank paper. The shaping of the mindset is better that way than having someone unlearn their ‘theories’ first and then ‘do’ our curriculum.

What are your future plans?

Our vision is to transform India’s future by creating the next generation of globally competent, creative, entrepreneurial citizens. That will happen with our program being introduced as a curriculum / co-curriculum / after school programs / entrepreneurship clubs – across India. As long the educators and the decision makers are ready to embrace change and see the value in what we have to offer, there will be a shift in the way things happen here now and the transition to the upcoming entrepreneurial economy will be a lot smoother. Also, after the launch of Youngpreneurs, we have received a lot of requests from the college goers about a similar concept, so we are working towards that as well.

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Devika Majumder Youngpreneurs innovation education