Six months back as part of Jagriti Yatra, I embarked on a journey around the country to understand different issues and perspectives of people that differ according to contexts and geographies. One night when we were staying in a small village called Barpar in Deoria district in UP, I asked two kids what they wanted to do when they grow up. They said they wanted to join IITs. I was surprised, I hadn't even heard the word at that age!!
I heard about IITs when I was in class 11th and that too when one of my friends was studying HC Verma for Physics. The only thing I knew about IIT's was that it is some big institute from where you go abroad.
Limited career options because of lack of knowledge and awareness is not uncommon with students in India. In early 2010, Kshitij Mehra set out to solve this problem and founded YuvShaala to bridge this gap among the youth of the country. YuvShaala works with schools in primarily rural and semi urban areas to educate students about the various career options after they finish school.
The journey and the process
Post his graduation Kshitij started studying for CA but dropped out in the final year and took CAT Exam in the same year. In 2007 he joined PT Education as a doubt faculty to solve doubts of student who were preparing for CAT. From the beginning Kshitij has been extremely passionate about education, which also worked as the main fuel for starting YuvShaala.
Kshitij was in between jobs when he got an opportunity to help formulate marketing strategy for his friend's startup, while working there he discovered the problem of Limited career options and decided to do something to solve it.
Yuvshaala works with students who are in 9th to 12th standard throughout the year to find their brain type. To do this the startup follows the following steps:
1) Interact with students by way of career counseling and telling them the importance of choosing a career at that age. They also encourage children to take up their passion in a professional way.
2) Conducting psychometric tests to find their brain types and evaluating children on parameters on how they learn.
3) Group students with similar brain type in a single group.
4) Then conduct 3-4 hrs workshops for each brain type, and give them a booklet of various career options which consists of eligibility requirements, average remuneration for a particular job, average fee charged by the institutes conducting different course, and top institutes in the country that are offering that course for the next 10 months.
In addition to the students, YuvShaala also counsels parents in separate sittings and later briefs both students and parents them together.
Talking about the challenges
Financing the startup and getting permission from Himachal Pradesh Government were the biggest hindrances, but a couple of meetings and presentations with the Government officials did the trick. Currently Yuvshaala is working with 11 different schools in Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh and Himachal Pradesh and has a team of 7 extremely passionate people, the startup also has plans to expand to Delhi and Madhya Pradesh as well.
Talking about different aspirations of children and parents, Kshitij recounts two diametrically opposite cases about the perception of parents:
"There was this Air Force pilot who wanted me to counsel his son, because he wanted his son to join Indian army, but his son wanted to become a hotel management professional. During the course of my counselling I realized that even if the son joins the Army he won't be happy. So I counselled the father, mother and son separately and then took a combined session with them. I explained to the father why hotel management was important to the son and why he wants to make a career in that field. They were of the view that agar hotel management karega to choti moti naukri lagegi (if he does hotel management he will get a small job), but through counselling I was able to show them the bigger picture," says Kshitij.
In another incident he counseled an Amritsar based student who wanted to become a lawyer, as her mother was lawyer. However her mother wasn’t very keen on the daughter following her footsteps. On digging deeper, the mother confided in Kshitij: “nahi law karke to district court main dhakke khane hain (after doing law she will get pushed around in the district court)."
What drives an entrepreneur when the fuel runs out
Like many entrepreneurs Kshitij had his fair share of difficult times and during that period they team supported themselves by taking
up various freelancing assignments. “All we have to do is to believe that things will get better and keep working. A text message or a call from a student or a compliment on Facebook is all it takes to get back on the track and start working with double speed,” says Kshitij.
McDowell’s No. 1 Platinum respects Leaders like Kshitij who had the courage to follow their passion and also encourages more people to follow their dreams and join them in their unconventional journey.