Nandika H, co-founder of Iksha Foundation

Tell us about the Iksha Foundation

The Iksha Foundation is a youth-Run non-profit with the objective of helping people facing various challenges in life Our organisation believes in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, focusing on poverty, gender equality and education We are currently working on the CovACTION Project. During these trying times it provides essentials such as rice wheat etc. to less privileged people and those who have lost their employment and families. Our project also has an outreach team contacting them later for other ways in which we could help them, such as providing them employment or a helping hand with their monthly expenditure we recently upgraded our project and included the provision of reusable sanitary napkins for women and educating them on sanitary health.

How did you raise Rs. 80.000 for this project? Did you expect this much?

We didn't really expect to raise Rs. 80,000. We had just aimed to raise as much as we could. Hats off to the team, including the founders and volunteers who worked hard to launch and support the project. A big thanks to our generous donors too. I take pride in stating that most of our volunteers range from 13- to 15-year-olds. It took just two months for these teenagers to provide essentials to about 600 people from 80 families, and proving that youth can be instruments of change.

Tell us about your team.

The Iksha Foundation was set up by three teenagers-Jigisha Hota, Kalvin Richards, and me- to reduce poverty and help the youth. We have a very diverse team working for us, consisting of about 40 volunteers in various departments from many countries including Singapore, Turkey, and Switzerland, and various States in our country. We try to inculcate humanitarian values in our volunteers and show them the path to make a difference.

What are the future plans for Iksha?

The various factors that lead to poverty are what we aim at tackling lack of education unemployment, healthcare, climate change etc. The COVID- 19 pandemic has had an effect on people from different walks of life. The factors leading to poverty hove worsened and it's time we focused on improving them. As teenagers, we are enthusiastic and have a plan for cur foundation for the next 10 years. We hope we can help as many people as we can The most recent project launch was Project Ayushka, which aims at supporting senior citizens and COMD-isolated people by providing them the company of young minds

Why did you want to start this foundation, and why the name Iksha?

As teenagers with a global perspective/ the three of us observed the problems the world is facing, and felt we needed to do something about it. We found poverty was the root cause of various problems. It took us hours of video calls, midnight chai, and designing to finally set up the basic structure for our Foundation, which we are currently building on Iksha is the Sanskrit word for vision

What are your hobbies?

Model United Nations is one of my favourite hobbies. I have represented India on various international platforms, fighting for causes such as gender equality, eradicating poverty, fighting climate change, etc. These competitions provide a platform for me to voice my ideas and improve my public speaking and leadership skills. I am also passionate about karate, and currently hold a black belt it has provided me focus, discipline, and fitness throughout my life. ‘I’m pursuing piano at Trinity College London, and I am an avid reader I am a huge Harry Potter fan and love Kaz Brekker.

 

Who is founder of The RoadSide Bookstore?

What prompted you to set up The Roadside Bookstore?

From a young age, I have been buying books from the famous roadside vendors of Fort. Mumbai, close to my school During the pandemic I continued reading numerous books bought from these vendors, but these vendors themselves were struggling to make ends meet due to the lockdowns. I came up with a system wherein these vendors could sell their books online at half the prices the big bookstores sell. I realised that people tend to buy products online due to the comfort of home delivery. And during the pandemic home delivery has become an asset for conglomerates to make greater profit. Therefore. I introduced the system of dropshipping, wherein a person could place their order on the website, after which the details would directly go to the roadside vendor. Consequently, they packed and shipped the books to the customers using shipping providers I had tied up with. This system has worked efficiently, as I have expanded the vendors reach from just small areas of Mumbai to more than 10,000 people per month from 40 different countries. I ideated this start-up also to help millions of booklovers throughout India. Rather than buy books at MRP from big stores, they now get books with at least 50 % off MRP, delivered straight to their homes. This is how The Roadside Bookstore came into being.

What is your role as founder & CEO of The Global Investing Forum for Teens (GIFT)?

My fascination for the stock market began at a young age. At the age of 10, I started investing in online stock simulators, which enabled me to explore the world of investing without risk. Gradually, under the guidance of my father, who is an investment banker, I started investing. With the seemingly promising markets of 2020, many individuals have ventured into investing, solely on the basis of speculation. With personalities such as Elon Musk tweeting about cryptocurrency, teenagers too have been investing without any fundamental understanding or technical basis. Witnessing the dearth of resources for teenagers wishing to learn about the stock market. I launched GIFT, along with a classmate, wherein we teach teenagers fundamental, technical analysis, and the principles of value investing, as financial literacy. Till date, we have had students from five countries, including India, the U.S., UAE, Switzerland, etc. utilise our articles, newsletters, and website. We are also organising talks from reputed traders and investors, and even hosting our own stock simulation competition soon.

Tell us about your consulting start-up MicroCurve Consulting, and the impact it has had.

MicroCurve is a social entrepreneurship start-up that I established alongside two teenagers from Delhi and the U.S. During the pandemic, high school and college students have struggled to get internships, and simultaneously, a lot of small businesses and MSMES (Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises) have struggled to transition to the digital age. Given that most of them had only physical stores, they needed to develop an online presence to sell their products, which required various services such as marketing, graphic design, and web development. We launched MicroCurve, a non-profit organisation that provides these services to MSMES, non-profits, and student-led organisations on a pro-bono (free of cost) basis, while also providing internships and and experience to numerous college and high school students. Starting off in April 2021, we have already secured 12 dients from four countries, while boosting their revenues by $600,000 and increasing their reach to 1,00,000+ people per month. We have provided internships to students from various IITs. and top engineering colleges in these months. In effect, we provide a long-term solution to the internship crisis while helping small businesses who cannot afford highly priced services.

You've been given the young entrepreneur award. Do you think entrepreneurship should be given more priority as a subject?

I have been awarded the Young Entrepreneur Award 2021 by the Indian Achievers Forum, Government of India. It is a huge recognition! And, yes, I believe entrepreneurship is a very important aspect of life. While running my start-ups, particularly The RoadSide Bookstore, I learnt a few important skills in life. While negotiating prices and rates with the booksellers, shipping providers, and payment services providers. I learnt the skill of diplomacy and negotiation. While solving more problems with my start-ups, I also learnt the Indian method of jugaad' or adjustment. I strongly believe entrepreneurship must be included in every curriculum One can learn various skills in life when one works with people at the grassroots level, who do these negotiations on a daily basis.

What challenges have you faced in your journey?

While launching The Roadside Bookstore, I faced numerous struggles. My primary concern was that the vendors didn't have faith in me. I believe this is something numerous teenage entrepreneurs face while starting off People presume we're doing this for fun, or to enhance our resume. However, I genuinely had a passion to help these people, and I chalked a plan for them to earn their trust. I promised these vendors I would get 50 of their books, sold online within a month, which was more than their usual sales. I worked so hard to upload hundreds of books and market them to booklovers all over India that we managed to sell 100 books in just two weeks! Even with MicroCurve, I had to come up with similar plans to prove myself to my clients. I think getting people to have faith in me was one of my greatest challenges as a teen entrepreneur.

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Who is the founder of The Cinnamon Chat?

What motivated you to start The Cinnamon Chat with Nethila?

When I started to help my dad with some work, I happened to interview a CEO. That was my first interview, and I decided to start a video channel, where I interview successful entrepreneurs and CEOS. I usually interview them such that the younger generation can have an idea of their ways of being successful. This channel is now The Cinnamon Chat with Nethila.

How many successful people have you interviewed to date?

I have interviewed a bunch of people, and have learned new lessons from each one. Each one is different from the other, and I gain a lot of knowledge from everyone.

What's your role as the brand ambassador of Child Action Lanka?

Many children don't have access to shelter, resources, and they live below the poverty line. They are less privileged. Being a brand ambassador of Child Action Lanka, I speak up for homeless children who require help.

What kind of challenges have you faced in your journey?

I am lucky I didn't face many challenges while preparing for my podcast, launching my academy, or while creating videos for my channel. When it comes to preparing for my videos, I use all kinds of techniques on my camera. Some could think my childhood is not being spent joyfully and that instead, I am working on my entrepreneurship. But I don't consider it a big hurdle, and just keep moving.

What are your hobbies?

I play badminton, tennis, and the piano. And I am crazy about building sets.

Who is your source of inspiration?

I look up to my dad. He is my mentor and teacher on all aspects of entrepreneurship. Another great inspiration is Elon Musk. I look up to him; I want to be like him. He is a great entrepreneur. His goal is to make trains that run on magnetic energy, which is only one of his brilliant ideas.

What change do you want to make in society?

I would like to educate children on entrepreneurship so they become successful at a very young age. I am launching an academy soon to teach kids about developing skills for entrepreneurship. I would like all young children to come forward and learn entrepreneurial skills.

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Tamil Nadu girl’s NASA dream a step closer to reality

Tell us about your chance to visit NASA.

At school one day, I saw a newspaper on the floor. It featured the photograph of a girl and a rocket. Interested, I read the paper. It was about a girl who had gone to NASA after writing an examination for a company offering online tutoring services. Seeing that, I too wanted to go to NASA. When I asked my teacher if I could attend it she said yes. Those who were playing with me said it would be too big an achievement for me to think about. But from a very young age, I have always proven such people wrong. When someone says I can't do something. I always attempt to finish it. So I challenged my friends. I went home, used my uncle's phone to understand what the examination was about, and gathered all related information. Then I wrote it. It was the first online examination I ever wrote: it was a very new experience. I won the second rank in India, and a chance to visit NASA.

Did the win kindle your interest in Science, Maths, and Social Sciences?

If I remember correctly, these interests and the dream to visit NASA began when I was in primary school. The reason for that would be my teachers. At a time when students didn't have much access to mobile phones and other gadgets, my teachers gave me information they found on newspapers, television, etc. That's what kindles the interest in me. Not just these, I attend many competitions at school, including sports such as carrom, chess, and kabaddi.

Though you won the competition you were unable to visit NASA due to the COVID-19 outbreak. What happened then?

Once the examination results were out, I was told that I would have to provide the flight cost myself. I'm the breadwinner of my family, and do not have the money for that. But then, a few social workers offered to help by starting a fund. And so that need was met. After that a non-government organisation offered to pay for it. Since the flight cost was already paid, they offered to build a house for me since I live in a hut. I told them that I didn't want a house, and if they really wanted to help, they could build a public bathroom for my village since most houses didn't have one. So now, there are 126 bathrooms / toilets in our town.

You mentioned you're the breadwinner of your family. What work do you do?

I live with my mother and brother. My village Adhanakottai is famous for cashew nuts. I work at a factory that manufactures cashew products. In summer, I harvest cashew fruit.

What are your interests?

I read books, draw, play, and conduct tuition classes for students up to Class X.

What would you like to say to children who have big dreams but don't have the support to achieve them?

If you believe you can achieve your dream, you can do it. If there is a will, there is a way. If we can't do it, nobody can. To achieve our dreams, background, money, and status do not matter.

What course are you going to study after school?

I have just completed the academic year for Class XII. I have not yet thought about the course I am going to study.

How do you feel about supporting your family?

When someone imagines their work to be impossible, it turns impossible. When I want something, I put in my best effort. If I get it, great. If I don't, I am not bothered much.

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Naila Moloo , 15-year-old innovator from Canada is working on creating flexible solar cells and researching on coming up with better bioplastic

What do you like about nanotechnology?

All kinds of interests start with learning and research. I started with research myself. I started researching on the broad topic of our environment. I discovered that I was specifically passionate about sustainable energy resources, and through more and more exposure. I discovered nanotechnology. Nanomaterials are going to have an impact on every single field of work in the future, and I knew I wanted to learn about them on a more technical level. So I combined my interests in nanotechnology and sustainable energy. I think it's crucial to become strong in multiple fields of technology so you can intersect them to create game-changing ideas.

What is your mission? What action have you taken to get closer to it?

My mission is to end the global usage of fossil fuels. The amount of fossil fuels used by the world is huge, and we don't have much time left before we exhaust those fuels. Besides researching about this and educating myself, I want to build projects and do something about this problem.

Tell us about your journey as an author.

I have always loved writing. I love creating new things and putting my thoughts on paper, and I especially love fantasy. I started off by writing short stories. Those developed into chapter books of about a 100 pages, and finally, I ended up with novels. I love reading, and I love the impact that certain books have on me, and I wanted to have that kind of impact on my readers as well. I wrote my first Inovel when I was in Class III, and then in Class VI. I tried to get published another novel I had written, but got rejected by publishing houses and agents. I went back to the drawing board, wrote another novel in Class VII, and this one ended up getting published. It's called "Chronicles of Illusions: The Blue Wild", and it was released a few months ago.

You have won many awards. Which one is your favourite?

First of all, I don't think awards should define our success or happiness. I have won a few awards, but they don't define me. I think my favourite award would be my being given the second place for the national science fair because I got to help others. I worked on an intervention to decrease cellular screen time in middle school girls for about two years. I started off with my school science fair in Class VII which I won, and then I went to Regionals, where I didn't get through. In the next year, I got to Regionals once again, and got through to Nationals, where I got silver. It was something I was very passionate about. My result was decreasing cellular screen time in girls by two hours per day per person.

Who is your source of inspiration?

I have a few mentors who are my constant sources of inspiration. I am part of a programme called The Knowledge Society, where there are different directors for different cities. My director is lan Lockhart and he is absolutely incredible. He has helped me so much. I also look up to my dad. He is a huge role model for me and has given me many great opportunities that have shaped who I am today. And I have to mention my sister. She's only a few years older than me, but she's my best friend.

What are your future plans? Are there any projects you are currently working on?

I'm going to be building a prototype of the new solar panel I have been working on in a lab. This is exciting! I'm doing research on making better bioplastic. I'm also working on a sequel to my novel, and a children's book series on developing technology fields such as Al and nanotech. Emerging tech is going to play a huge role in the future, and children need to know about them earlier on. Speaking of the future and the next generation, I am going to be starting a podcast with my sister, for young people.

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