I'm just back from India Inclusion Fellowship and it has been an amazing experience.
The first time I got to know about the Inclusion fellowship, I thought to myself that this might help me to connect a few more schools to make my playgrounds in. I applied and was accepted to be a fellow with 5 other people. But I did not know what I was in for. I did not know that at the end of the five days of the immersion programme I will go back with a tribe that believes in my idea as much I do. I did not know that I will meet people whose stories of struggle and impact will inspire a new energy in me. I did not know that my idea will be accepted and our journey be celebrated. I did not know that I will get an alternative perspective at looking at things and also my own venture. I had not the slightest idea that I will get to receive so much positivity that I will be overwhelmed.
So, what happened in the fellowship and the summit? After a written application, there were a few rounds of telephonic interviews by curators Anusha Reddy and Aman Srivastava after which they selected 6 fellows who in their own unique way were working in the space of inclusion and disability. I must say that the fellows were well-curated as we were all at similar stages in our businesses inspite different years of being into them. It also consisted of a good diversity yet complimentary skill sets.
During the course of the week, we met different people who brought their different ideologies to the table and thus, helping us look at the problems we are trying to solve differently. What was interesting was that the entire week we were communicated to put our heart into the business. Of course, there were business model canvas sessions and all of that. But one major take away for me was that faith precedes all of that. I am not talking about blind empty faith, but a belief that this can happen and has to happen no matter what. When there is that kind of belief, one can go any lengths to make that happen.
Any entrepreneurs journey is a difficult one. It becomes slightly more difficult considering the space that we are trying to manoeuvre in. But over the week we heard stories from GVR who shared his journey of leaving a plush government job to start his consulting business and how he established NISH with sheer smart hard work. We heard from Pavithra about her story of setting up Vindhya when she was a mother of a 6 month old baby. How piece by piece she built it from ground up when she had nothing but faith in herself and the people around her. We learnt from Major DP Singh how to turn misfortunes into opportunities. It blew my mind when he says that he didn't lose anything in the war (inspite of the fact that he had to get his leg amputated) and that it only moulded him for the better. Then Anshu Gupta told us about the mind numbing incidents that eventually gave birth to Goonj, a story of impact and social change like no other.
They all were success stories that inspired me and will stay with me for long. Then of course there was Feroze, the driving force behind all of this, who made the most dramatic surprise entry of the year.
Also another interesting thing that happened over the week was bond between the fellows. We could all see it with our group task of cooking. We were asked to host a dinner for 14 people within a 4-5 hours on a very tight budget. It was interesting to see each of us find a role for themselves and do that gracefully. In the end we had a welcome drink, soup, 2 starters and main course and the apple crumble. The last minute planning and coordination really helped us know each other better. And over the next 3-4 days as we got acquainted with each others' ideas, we began to appreciate them. So much so that at the end of the fellowship when we were given stalls at the summit, I found myself not only talking about my idea but also pitching about the rest of them. In no accelerator or incubator would you see people pitching for each other. But this was different. I truly believe that each of the fellows have a really powerful idea. And I would like to see them unfold.