Udhyam Learning Foundation: Developing and Empowering Entrepreneurial Mindsets

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Krishnan Ranganathan is the Director of Udhyam Vyapaar and the Co-founder of Udhyam Learning Foundation. 
Shyam Suryanarayanan is the Director of Udhyam Shiksha.

If we look at the formal job market, there is a huge deficit in the number of jobs available vis-à-vis the eligible youth-working population. With only one million new jobs created annually for a youth population surging at 12 million each year, the job availability deficit is widening at an alarming rate. To add more flavour to the argument, a staggering 97 per cent of young Indians entering the workforce end up in the informal sector, often due to a lack of formal education (73 per cent do not go to college). Udhyam Learning Foundation’s vision is to co-create a caring world where people fearlessly pursue their potential and Make Bharat Entrepreneurial. We see immense potential in this demographic by equipping them with entrepreneurial skills and allowing them to create opportunities for themselves.

One important reason we introduce entrepreneurial mindset education is that the high school adolescent phase (Grades IX to XII) is a crucial time in a child’s life. This is when they start making decisions that will shape their future. During this period, they begin to consider the subjects they want to pursue and the career paths they want to take, ultimately determining the opportunities available to them. By fostering agency at this stage, we empower them to make choices that align with their interests and goals.

With automation shrinking job opportunities further, India needs a massive surge in entrepreneurship to bridge the job gap. We recognise that becoming job creators and not just job seekers is the key to creating the 145 million new non-farm jobs needed by 2030.

By focusing on youth and entrepreneurship, we tackle challenges at their root cause, enabling young Indians to thrive in a rapidly changing job market.

Udhyam focuses on empowering youth through building entrepreneurial mindsets and entrepreneurship.

Udhyam Shiksha

Fourteen is a crucial age in a child’s life as it marks that stage when students begin to make decisions that shape their future, such as choosing subjects and potential career paths. Encouraging independence at this stage will empower them to make choices that align with their interests and goals. Moreover, evidence suggests that waiting until college to focus on career readiness is less effective because students are already committed to a certain pathway by the time they are in college. Their primary focus is acquiring skills for a job. The emphasis on employment at this stage is much higher due to considerable pressure, particularly among underserved segments, to start earning a livelihood.

Udhyam Shiksha is the education arm of Udhyam Learning Foundation that works on the belief that entrepreneurial skills must be instilled from an early age. The programme enables youth (between 14-22 years) to develop these mindsets and accentuate them with 21st-century know-how. The key pillars of this initiative to help students build entrepreneurial mindsets are: learning by doing, student autonomy and real-world experiences. By channelling real-world experiences gained from business projects and experiential curricula, the youth will have the agency and necessary skills to tread new pathways that can take them to higher levels of success and happiness.

Another reason for working with schools is the potential to influence the mindset of youth on a large scale, given that all youth undergo the school journey. This approach is particularly impactful because, statistically, only 27 per cent of students go on to pursue a college education. Therefore, the school years offer a critical opportunity to shape their mindset effectively.

Realising this need, we introduced Udhyam Shiksha. This is the education arm of Udhyam Learning Foundation that works on the belief that entrepreneurial skills must be instilled from an early age. The programme enables youth (between 14-22 years) to develop these mindsets and accentuate them with 21st-century know-how. The key pillars of this initiative to help students build entrepreneurial mindsets are: learning by doing, student autonomy and real-world experiences. By channelling real-world experiences gained from business projects and experiential curricula, the youth will have the agency and necessary skills to tread new pathways that can take them to higher levels of success and happiness.

Integrating skill development and entrepreneurship into school education aligns with the national education policy, which increasingly emphasises these aspects. This alignment presents an opportunity to make a significant societal impact, especially considering the scale at which the NEP is being rolled out across the country.

While traditional government schools might not have dedicated skill-learning programmes, this initiative’s partnership approach enables bridging the gap by introducing these valuable concepts at this critical developmental stage. 

Mindset Curriculum

The Mindset Curriculum aims to inculcate four entrepreneurial mindsets: Independence, Self-Awareness, Grit and Trying New Things as well as 21st-century skills like Creativity, Critical Thinking, Communication and Collaboration. One of the core objectives in designing a curriculum at Udhyam is to drive entrepreneurial action in learners through real-world engagement. This Curriculum integrates gamification principles and enables students to pick personally meaningful projects, work in groups and evaluate their growth.

While some government colleges have reserved seats for these outstanding students and their business projects, our focus goes beyond immediate college admissions. We equip these young minds with the entrepreneurial mindset and skills to thrive in their future endeavours, regardless of their chosen path.

Udhyam’s Beneficiaries

We focus on empowering students from underprivileged backgrounds who attend government schools across India. The programme targets students enrolled in public schools, ensuring accessibility and broad reach.  We recognise the challenges faced by students from underserved communities. Many of our beneficiaries are first-generation in their families to pursue education beyond the 10th standard. We provide crucial support and guidance as they navigate this new chapter.

While some government colleges have reserved seats for these outstanding students and their business projects, our focus goes beyond immediate college admissions. We equip these young minds with the entrepreneurial mindset and skills to thrive in their future endeavours, regardless of their chosen path.

Divyanshi Chitransh
Providing Innovative Education through Padhai Vadhai
Divyanshi Chitransh always wanted to start her own business but, coming from an economically-reserved background, she knew there would be many challenges she would have to confront. She studied Udhyam’s Entrepreneurship Mindset Curriculum in high school and learned about social entrepreneurship along with other entrepreneurial, implementation and execution skill sets. At 16, she brought Padhai Vadhai to life after going through Udhyam’s Real World Business Projects in Delhi. With Padhai Vadhai, Divyanshi, now 18, has set out to create an inclusive educational firm encompassing two key aspects – Padhai and Vadhai. Padhai caters to conventional education, and acts as a support system for formal academic pursuits. Vadhai supports skill education, ensuring students acquire the skills necessary to excel. This app provides students free access to YouTube videos through queries submitted on the app. Starting with a nominal seed funding of just Rs. 2000 to each team member, the business is at a growth stage with four-plus offline centres, generating revenue of Rs.1.5 Lakh per month, and Rs 8.5-9 Lakh profit per annum with a user base of 750+ students from weak socio-economic backgrounds.

What is Taught

Problem-solving: The foundation starts in the ninth grade where we teach students to focus on identifying and solving problems within their schools and communities.

Career Exploration: We teach students in Grade X to explore various career possibilities, broadening their horizons beyond traditional job paths.

Business Projects: In Grade XI, students are then led to put theory into practice by undertaking a business project. This allows them to learn by doing and gain valuable real-world experience.

Portfolio Building: By Grade XII, students create a comprehensive portfolio showcasing the projects they have undertaken since Grade IX, demonstrating their growth and entrepreneurial journey.

Udhyam Shiksha fosters the ‘freedom to fail’ environment. We encourage students to learn from mistakes and view them as valuable stepping stones on their entrepreneurial journey. This is especially crucial for underserved populations, who often lack a sufficient safety net to take risks and experiment with new ideas.

Approaches

Student-Centric Approach: Through this initiative, we prioritise student autonomy. Students can choose projects that ignite their interests, fostering a sense of ownership and engagement.

Learn by Doing: This initiative emphasises a ‘learn by doing’ philosophy. Student workbooks guide them but, the focus is on hands-on experience and putting their learnings into action.

Stepping Outside the Comfort Zone: We encourage students to take calculated risks and venture outside their comfort zones. This fosters resilience and a willingness to learn from both successes and failures.

Supporting Student Growth

Seed Grant: To make this experience as real as possible, certain State Governments empower students to experiment with their ideas by offering seed grants of up to Rs 2,000 per student for their business projects. The seed grants from all team members are pooled together into a fund to kickstart the teams’ business ideas. This allows them to explore and gain valuable insights by putting their plans into action. 

Embracing Failure: Udhyam Shiksha fosters the ‘freedom to fail’ environment. We encourage students to learn from mistakes and view them as valuable stepping stones on their entrepreneurial journey. This is especially crucial for underserved populations, who often lack a sufficient safety net to take risks and experiment with new ideas.

Monitoring and Evaluation: Our robust monitoring and evaluation framework ensures the initiative’s effectiveness. We utilise accessible technology platforms, such as WhatsApp-based chatbots, to connect and engage with teachers and students. Additionally, we extensively use data dashboards to provide government stakeholders, principals, and teachers with insights, enabling continuous improvement in the learning experience.

By combining a well-structured curriculum with a student-centric approach, our initiative equips young people with the knowledge, skills, and confidence to thrive in the ever-evolving world.

Impact

Udhyam Shiksha has played a significant role in inculcating an entrepreneurial mindset among the youth who are the future workforce in India.

Our experiential programme, the Entrepreneurial Mindset Curriculum, has reached over 8,300+ institutions through a 60-hour curriculum for Grades IX-XII imparted by 37k+ educators. It equips students with practical skills, alongside theoretical knowledge, preparing them for the real world. 

We partner with government education departments across 12 States and government schools in Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka and Kerala. Partnering with government schools enables us to reach a vast population of students, maximising our influence in fostering a culture of entrepreneurship among young Indians belonging to underserved segments. We have a cumulative student-learner base of 29.5 million students.

Udhyam Vyapaar focuses on nano businesses in India, solving large problems faced by Vyapaaris who typically earn between ₹5,000 to ₹20,000 per month. Our flagship initiative, the Istri Project, has significantly benefited over 5,000 ironing Vyapaaris (Istriwalas) in Bangalore and Chennai. This intervention focuses on transitioning these workers from traditional coal-based iron boxes to more efficient LPG iron boxes, to enhance their economic prospects.
Ashish Kumar
EMC Success Story: The Rise of AK Logistics
Ashish Kumar, an alumnus of our Delhi EMC school programme, has seen incredible success with his company, AK Logistics. This young entrepreneur and his team have generated a revenue of Rs. 1.5 Crore for FY 2023-24. What began on campus through our EMC (Entrepreneurial Mindset Curriculum) programme, has now grown into a business employing 45 people and forming partnerships with three companies across India. With offices in Delhi and Bihar, the Company plans to expand to other States this year. We are extremely proud of Ashish’s achievements and the tangible impact of our programme. We wish AK Logistics continued success in the future.

Udhyam Vyapaar

Udhyam Vyapaar focuses on nano businesses in India, solving large problems faced by Vyapaaris who typically earn between ₹5,000 to ₹20,000 per month. We do not directly train unemployed individuals as our efforts work in tandem to empower underprivileged communities. We enable them to scale and succeed by implementing proven business growth tools such as technology, marketing, operational support, and design-based interventions.

Our flagship initiative, the Istri Project, has significantly benefited over 5,000 ironing Vyapaaris (Istriwalas) in Bangalore and Chennai. This intervention focuses on transitioning these workers from traditional coal-based iron boxes to more efficient LPG iron boxes, to enhance their economic prospects. It has led to a remarkable 27 per cent increase in their incomes, generating an additional ₹25 Crores annually by 5,300 Vyapaaris. Furthermore, this transition has helped reduce annual coal usage by 2,500 tonnes and has boosted productivity by saving 133 minutes per worker daily. This initiative’s success and impact have garnered attention from Azim Premji University, which conducted a study to validate these impressive outcomes.

Another initiative under Vyapaar, New Solutions, assists street food vendors in getting onboarded onto aggregator platforms like Swiggy and Zomato. Our interventions included helping vendors acquire FSSAI licenses, planning and managing discount campaigns, photoshoots, pricing, and menu creation. So far, between June and December 2023, our interventions have successfully onboarded 15 businesses, with Rs. 6.25 Lakhs of revenue generated online. Four businesses generated more than Rs. 25,000 in online revenue, while four others have received ratings of 4 or higher, with a cumulative total order of more than 3000 by December.

We dream of a future where our efforts will tackle diverse social issues while bolstering India’s economic vitality. By strategically nurturing the entrepreneurial spirit in young minds and empowering nano entrepreneurs to grow their ventures, we aim to harness India’s demographic advantage. Our focus on youth and small-scale entrepreneurs will nurture personal growth, foster economic prosperity, and pave the way for more fulfilling lives.