Last year I received a random e-mail forward from a friend that for some reason I read (I usually just delete forwards). That’s where I heard about the Yatra and today, more than one year after that mail, I am glad I read it. Being a participant on the Tata Jagriti Yatra 2008 changed me more than I expected it would.
What is the Yatra?
TATA Jagriti Yatra is an 18-day train journey across India with an aim to awaken the entrepreneurial spirit among youth of India. The Yatra takes 350 selected participants on the journey to meet successful social and business entrepreneurs. In the last Yatra we visited 11 locations and met 18 role models, after covering 8000kms through the length and breath of India.
What do we do on the Yatra?
The idea of the Yatra is to discover the changes entrepreneurs are making in the country and to discover oneself while at it. Hence we are made to live in the train for the entire period, which lets us reflect on the changes within ourselves along with the changing landscape outside.
The key activities on the yatra are the role model visits, where we visit established institutions and meet the leaders who started it. We learn about their inspirations, their cause and their journey to build that organization. The role models share their personal journeys with us, tell us how they started, sustained and scaled these organizations, the challenges they faced and what keeps them going.
Post the visit, our train heads out to the next destination. During this time, the yatris work in teams to analyse the visit and share learning in the train. (The train has dedicated AC chair cars that serve as discussion rooms). At some stops, we had CNBC TV 18 panel discussions with eminent people to discuss the social challenges India faces like healthcare and poverty.
Influential role model visits
It would be unfair to say some role models were more influential than the others. Each of them was unique and had displayed creativity and strength at some point in their lives. But after an year, I still remember some visits which have impacted me the most, and those I would like to share with you.
Aravind Eye Hospital, Pondicherry (www.aravind.org)
A large scale enterprise built professionally with a vision to create social impact, but with a sound financial model. Optimizing the use of surgeons enabled them to cross subsidize the cost and 53% of their services are offered free of cost to the poor. They have already treated over 2.3 lakh outpatients and performed 2.8 lakh surgeries.
Naandi Foundation, Hyderabad (www.naandi.org)
Naandi undertakes large scale public-private partnerships with focus on nutrition, education, health and safe drinking water. What resonated most with us was the founder’s personal journey, his clarity, confidence and boundless passion
Barefoot College at Tiloniya village, Rajasthan (www.barefootcollege.org)
Founded in 1972 by the Ramon Magasaysay awardee Mr.Bunker Roy, the college has trained 1.2 lakh rural people across 110 villages, making them capable professionals who solve rural problems like drinking water, health, electricity, and so on.
The two words I would use to describe my yatra experience would be learning and fun. It makes people learn while making learning exciting. The obvious learning came from the role model visits and the panel discussions. The subliminal learning came from the informal interactions with 350 other young dynamic people from diverse backgrounds. The yatra ensured participation from cities and smaller towns, students and professionals from different fields. We learnt about one another’s ideas and perspectives which enriched us in ways nothing else possibly can.
Living in a train for 18 days with 350 people is inherently fun. By this I mean eating, sleeping, bathing, literally living on the train. We faced some hiccups which just made the journey more interesting like being stranded on an abandoned platform in Kerala without electricity, or having to spend the night sleeping on the platform in Bhuvaneshwar. There are million such little incidents that made the journey colorful, gave us special memories that we will all cherish forever.
One question that most people ask me is “what do you do after the yatra? How do they measure the impact they created?” This might seem a difficult question, but to me it is simple. A year later, I feel the yatra impacted me personally and has induced a desire in me to become an entrepreneur some day. And as for the rest, there is a very small percentage of yatris who have already started their own business ventures at this young age. But what is strikingly clear is that many, in fact most of the yatris have come back and started taking smaller initiatives in their own communities. Smaller groups of yatris in different cities across the country are trying to create change, be it to save the environment or to improve voter turnouts. The yatra was just the beginning- beginning of a larger journey of discovery in our own lives.
Though we may not be able to quantify the impact, the results are quite palpable. Having understood a little about the non-profit sector in the past few years, I am today certain that initiatives like this, that may not show quantifiable results immediately are crucial. They sow the seed in people to become change makers and the results will be manifold. For instance this yatra was an initiative of participants on the first such yatra in 1997. But this will take time, like most public change initiatives do. But that is the nature of change.
While there might be many who may not agree, there are some who have belief in this process. One of them being the TATA group that has extended massive support to this yatra. The yatra has the unflinching support of the 350 yatris who came back changed and are willing to stay the course. As the yatra moves from year to year, we are certain more people will get convinced. Till then we need to have faith.
For more info visit www.jagritiyatra.com