This is the first of a two part story on the Delhi government’s initiative in introducing Entrepreneurship Mindset Classes for school students of classes 11-12
Between June and December, when a satellite TV channel first aired its promo for the Indian version of the popular American entrepreneur reality show Shark Tank, scores of class 11 and 12 students from Delhi government schools had pitched to “sharks” business ideas they had executed and discussed investments needed to scale up their enterprises. Many came out with flying colours in interviews that were no less gruelling than those faced by candidates who made it to Shark Tank India.
The students successfully sold stakes and got investments, were offered mentorship and discussed their future plans. Almost all the students had quantified their profits and highlighted the number of jobs their projects would create.
They did all this before the camera, with audiences watching them on “Business Blasters”, a recorded weekly television programme first aired on November 28th in prominent channels including NDTV and India Today. It is scheduled to be telecast at 7 pm on Sundays for eight weeks, and gets uploaded on YouTube too. Newspapers in the capital also carry a full page advertisement of this on Sundays.
The Delhi government has been projecting Business Blasters as the world’s biggest start up programme. Launched on September 7th, it is meant to be the practical component of the “Entrepreneurship Mindset Curriculum” (EMC) for students of classes 11 and 12, which the Delhi government had begun in 2019.
The government allocated Rs 60 crores for this programme that will, among other things, provide seed money of Rs 2000 to each student and involved three lakh students.
The EMC became part of the classroom curriculum for students of classes 9 through 12 in over a 1000 schools from July 2019, after piloting it in 24 schools in April and May. According to the Delhi government’s education department, the pilot programme was evaluated by teachers as well as external experts.
The lockdown was not allowed to interrupt teaching of EMC and its practical components. EMC teams comprising teachers and business coaches designed activities that were communicated to students via teachers’ WhatsApp groups as posters, video links and text messages. The response from students was encouraging.
Read more: Locked down, but not out: Women entrepreneurs in Ahmedabad
A science teacher of classes 11 and 12 explained the philosophy of what they expected to instil in students by way of entrepreneurial mindset: “The EMC has been launched to prepare students to be future ready. The idea is that they recognize their skills and talents, polish and hone them and take responsibility of their career, professional journey; they must face challenges, dream big, innovate and recognize the opportunities around him. That is our idea of an entrepreneur, and that is the mindset we want to develop in our students.”
EMC classes are held daily with stories, activities and exercises to help students learn and understand concepts like mindfulness, self-awareness, joyfulness, confidence, try new challenges, be curious and observant, think critically, recognize opportunity, be creative, communicate and lead effectively and be a lifelong learner. There are no written examinations, marks or grades, with the focus being totally on the process and not the outcome.
Job seekers to job creators
Delhi’s Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia who also holds the education portfolio is credited with being the brain behind this idea. Under his watch, government schools in the capital have transformed enough to give top private schools a run for their money. Among Sisodia’s first innovations was the introduction of the now much-appreciated “happiness curriculum” in schools.
Sisodia never misses an opportunity to talk about the EMC arguing that the absence of such subjects in school curriculum so far has been one reason why India was a developing country when he was in school, and continues to be one after so many years.
“The majority of school curriculum prepares children to be job seekers, their education becomes useless for them,” said Sisodia as he launched the EMC at a school. “There were vacancies for some posts of peons, where candidates had to be 8th class pass. Over a 100 post graduates and many PhDs applied for it. If they had an entrepreneurial mindset, if nothing else many of them could have opened coaching centres.”
Read more: Future of jobs: One Person Corporation ahoy!
Joblessness is the country’s biggest problem. Around 2.25 lakh to 2.5 lakh students pass the 12th board exams in the capital every year. Sisodia reasons that if even 40,000 to 50,000 of them could develop the mindset to work on their own, create jobs and not seek jobs, “Delhi’s quota of job creation will be accomplished”.
The government conducted a pilot study before launching the project-based Business Blasters programme for all students of classes 11 and 12. At the school in Khichripur, students were asked to come up with innovative ideas, and given Rs 1000 each as seed money to “get into business”. The quality of ideas nudged the government to double the seed money when they rolled it out across the capital. In all 51,000 student teams pitched their ideas, worked on projects, undertook marketing and sales in their neighbourhood and earned decent profits to boot.
Ideas born from COVID and online classes
Many ideas were born out of the students’ personal experience in coping with COVID, and online classes.
At the Shaheed Hemu Kalani Government Sarvodaya Bal Vidyalaya in Lajpat Nagar, Nitin Saluja, an IIT alumnus used his love of tea to turn founder of the very popular outlet Chaayos. Seema Bansal, Asia Pacific Head and Director of Boston Consulting Group was one of the “sharks” to whom he had presented his idea.
Sukhsagar, leader of an eight-member team that goes by the name of “Mobisite”, first went to a mobile repair shop to learn the job, repaired his friend’s phone, and presented that as an idea. The team bought for small sums old, dead and unused mobile phones from their neighbours, borrowed equipment from a local repair shop because they did not have the money to buy them, and refurbished these cell phones.
The team has a mobile refurbisher and team manager, a data interpreter, a marketing and app and website manager, a promotion and advertisement manager, a content design and accounting manager. They had sold 12 refurbished phones when they faced the “sharks”. Online classes showed them that many students didn’t have phones, so was born their idea. The team gives six months warranty and charges a little more for long warranty. They invested Rs 8,000 and made Rs 32,000! Each totally refurbished phone costs Rs 1500.
As they expand, they plan an app to help owners of old phones assess the value they will get for the device which would otherwise have gone into a landfill or e-waste bin. Talking business, the team said they needed Rs 90,000 for a month, but could trim it down to Rs 50,000.
Right now, only one of the eight can actually repair phones, but if they scale up, they would consider employing people to do that, may even rope in engineers, said team member Amrita Mishra who now looks after ads and promotion. That sounded like music to Sisodia’s ears. Sisodia who is part of every team of judges seeks a commitment from the students: that they will be job creators and not job seekers in the future!
Seema offered them half of the Rs 50,000, and threw in mentorship. Nitin committed the remaining amount, and internship opportunities to the entire team.
Another group of students, the Team Techup has developed software with which they can upgrade the humble old PC. They have also used this software to make low cost computers. The idea is to offer an affordable PC that gives good performance.
Again, the problems many students faced with online classes sparked the idea. After brainstorming over technical details as well as copyright issues and costing, the “sharks” viewed it as a breakthrough idea, and offered the six member team money and orders — for new computers as well as upgrades.
Afifa, Gulnaaz, Dhruvi and Asghar, a group of four dynamic students of Sarvodaya Co-Ed Senior Secondary School, Moti Bagh, presented ‘Silai Mitr’ an app-based stitching service that allows the end customer to get clothes stitched from India’s best tailors.
The idea stemmed from a personal experience of failing to get a dress stitched on time due to the packed schedules of tailors, especially during festive seasons. Online sari-and-blouse portal Suta co-founder Taniya was impressed. “This is a simple and effective idea as it solves a challenge that people face on a day-to-day basis, i.e. finding a tailor. With a little bit of a nudge, this can go really big, not only in Delhi but in all of India”.
(To be continued…Watch out for the concluding part, where we talk to more participating students and look at the long term vision for this programme)