I for Indya wants a new India, one which is more energetic and optimistic, and the organisation aims to deliver by helping people achieve their career goals.
by Priyanka Shankar
A twenty slide presentation and a will to empower people set the ball rolling for Raashid Navlakhi’s business ‘I for Indya‘. The Bangalore-based social entrepreneur sensed an atmosphere of frustration among several people with respect to their careers. He felt most people lived for the weekends and failed to achieve a true sense of satisfaction when it came to their jobs.
I for Indya seeks to overcome this by empowering people with the appropriate skills and mindsets needed to achieve personal goals and satisfying careers. It also aims to fill a void in the Indian education system which prioritises academia over all other aspects of knowledge, leaving people unaware of prominent social issues.
INKLINE spoke to I for Indya’s founder, Raashid Navlakhi, to understand how he implements concepts like “design thinking” and “experiential learning”, to help people achieve a satisfying career whilst having a social impact.
INKLINE: You named your organisation ‘I For Indya’. Tell us the story behind this name?
Raashid: There are a lot of organisations trying to do a lot for India. But we found that overall, they are not transforming the country to a new type of India. So, that’s what our objective is. We don’t want the same old India where there are a lot of problems and everyone is talking about what’s wrong. We want a much more positive spin on the country on what’s happening and how it impacts the world. “I for Indya” signifies our movement towards a new type of India which is more youthful, energetic and optimistic.
I: Why did you set up this organisation?
R: I used to work in consulting for about two and a half years, at Accenture in London. It was a challenging job with a great atmosphere and people. But one of the things I did feel was that there was a lack of satisfaction. It was like I lived for the weekends and didn’t feel this job was truly sustainable for me in the long term. So I started thinking about how I could pursue that level of fulfilment. I realised a lot of people have big dreams, to begin with, but they don’t know how to get there.
So, they tend to do two things. One is they change the dream completely. The second is they lower the expectations of their dream. However, the approach I like to follow is that if you’re not able to get from X to Y, then don’t bring Y down, just change your approach.
So the reason I wanted to start this organisation is to learn myself and help people figure out how to approach their goals.
I: What makes a career fulfilling?
R: The main goal of our organisation involves finding a new way of helping people reach fulfilment. So this involved figuring out what skills and mindsets people needed to achieve their goals.
We found three skills namely: understanding people around you, creativity which essentially boils down to can you creatively problem solve and innovate, and how do you execute and implement your plans.
On the mindset part, it broke down into three again. One is embracing uncertainty. Normally when there is uncertainty, people either run away from it or deny it. The second mindset is not thinking in terms of pass and fail. We believe in something called “versioning”. If I am committed to something it means I will be okay with failing in the first few versions and learning from them. And the third is creative confidence. Creativity is a skill and people can be coached in that particular skill.
I: Your business functions on a concept called “Design Thinking”. What is this all about?
R: The concept of Design Thinking was pioneered by David Kelly, the founder of the Design School at Stanford University. It is something which is applied in businesses worldwide, where people are taught to feel, think and then do. In our organisation, we have a design thinking gym where people come into a room for two hours, and we design a design thinking workshop for them.
For example, in the first design thinking workshop we did, we split them up into groups and decided to focus on their skill of creativity. Every group was given the task of building their own board game.
So, these are done at different co-working spaces around Bangalore and the invitation is open. We have students, people who have just started working, people who are in their 40’s. The bigger picture is to also help people attain a sense of fulfilment by creating a social impact.
I: What are the future prospects for ‘I for Indya’?
R: We really want to dream big. By the end of 2018, we want to impact 100,000 lives in some form or the other. This could be through impact or empowerment.
We are a customer funded organisation. We are looking to partner with schools and want to take the educated graduates and teach them how to apply their skills and mindsets for a social cause. It is challenging, but I am very clear about the purpose of this organisation. So even if there are tough times, I know we are going towards a bigger purpose.
I: If you had to give three tips to young entrepreneurs, what would they be?
R: Firstly, I genuinely think the entire design thinking process has been created for entrepreneurs. Embracing uncertainty, taking risks and not believing in pass-fail, helps. You also have to be very optimistic. Secondly, don’t go for it alone. I might be a single founder, but I have a solid support system and that is important if not the challenges could be exponential. Lastly, go for it, life is too short!
Priyanka Shankar is a journalist currently based in New York. She has reported for UN Radio and Reuters among others. She lives for an adrenaline rush and enjoys reporting stories that make markets move. When not working, you will find her rambling through mountains or scuba diving.