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 founder of Youth Well-Being organization?

You are the founder of YWB. Tell us about the organisation.

YWB (Youth Well-Being) is a youth-run non-profit organisation that works towards all aspects of well-being for the young. It's also an Indian Under-18 Organisation working towards youth welfare.

What inspired you to set up YWB?

This journey started during the pandemic when I came across a research paper on how intellectual well-being is necessary for one's growth. I also read about other factors people may not be aware of. After a lot of research, I found out that there aren't many organisations for the well-being of youth in India that speaks about such aspects. That is what inspired me to start YWB.

What would you suggest to young people who would like to start an organisation?

There may be discouraging responses from society because of your age. You may not be able to set aside enough time towards it. But if you are interested in making a change, you should try to overcome these problems. Start an organisation with a small crew comprising neighbours, friends, and family willing to join the initiative, and slowly build it up. Before that, read up and acquire as much knowledge as you can. I went through many research papers, articles, and a lot of books before I set up YWB.

What is your learning through this journey?

Leadership skills. Leading a number of people at a global level improved my leadership qualities. Reaching out to like-minded people has taught me that age, gender, and other factors don't matter. The important thing is to do what we can to make a change for the better.

Tell us about your music band PAUSE. PAUSE stands for Perform for a Cause. We are a band of young musicians. We perform at public venues, carnivals, etc. These are all free concerts, and we are funded by donations. The funds that we acquire through these concerts are donated to a social cause. With it, we helped differently abled girls who can't afford education.

What role does music play in your life?

I started learning music when I was three. Both my grandmothers and my father are musicians. I was professionally trained in Hindustani music and also Carnatic music. Slowly, I started learning Western and other forms of music too. My hobby turned into passion. I took part in a lot of music competitions as a kid. As I grew, I started using music as a way to spread positive messages to people who face challenges.

What kind of volunteering services do you do?

Recently, I started working with the gender equality forum of the United Nations. This forum works towards fixing gender-based problems in Mexico and Paris. The memebers work on the right to equality and present it to world leaders. I was also part of the young feminist programme, and a member of the decision- and policy-making panel on global health, and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights for women and young girls. I also volunteered as a public speaker for the Gender Equality Forum as an adolescent panelist.

What is the one change you want to see in society?

The cultural norms that affect people's health. Some of them are really meaningful, and I respect them a lot. But some of them are pointless. It is important for people to know the scientific reasons for these norms.

What are your hobbies?

Apart from music. I like art. I enjoy writing personal anecdotes and poetry. As singing is my main hobby, I enjoy songwriting, and set my poetry to music. I also like baking and public speaking.

What message would you like to convey to people?

That our well-being is very important. Whatever we like to do, be it singing, writing, or whatever, will lead to our well-being. We should do what we love, and use it to help people.

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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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What is your role as a V-Force volunteer for United Nations Volunteers India?

As a V-Force volunteer, I have served in five campaigns since last year. These were related to youth, women empowerment, and Sustainable Development Goals. A major part of it was the 'Fight Against Corona campaign, which took place over a few months last year. We worked with Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan and NSS of the Indian government to support corona recovery in India.

What is Girl Up? What is your work as a member?

Girl Up is an initiative by the United Nations Foundation. Its aim is to spread the ideals of gender equality, and uplift girls and women by reinforcing their leadership and policy-making roles. I contributed in over 18 initiatives and projects under Girl Up in the last five to six months. The most significant one is definitely the campaign that commenced on Army Day 2021. A few veterans from the Indian Army, both male and female officers, were invited for the panel discussion on women in Indian Army and upcoming opportunities. After the session, we formed a decentralised community to assist young girls who aspire to be officers in the Indian Armed Forces.

What is StudoMatrix? What role do you play as its joint secretary?

StudoMatrix aims to provide holistic development to youth, especially in Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities. It was set up during the pandemic last year. A lot of talent lies unrecognised in Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities because not many opportunities are available for these bright minds. Over the last one year, through StudoMatrix we've reached over 25,000 students across 150 cities in India. As its joint secretary, I oversee the management, administration, and program ideation as part of the core team.

Tell us about your experience with the UN System Staff College and Peace Operation Training Institute, the U.S.

I've had a wonderful experience. I've completed over 550 courses offered by various prestigious UN Institutes such as the United Nations System Staff College, Peace Operations Training Institute, United States Institute of Peace, Ivy League Universities, etc. The courses have been on diverse topics, from sustainable development, health, and women's rights to human rights, peace keeping, good governance, administration, and international law. Recently, I was selected by the Knowledge Centre for Sustainable Development of the UN System Staff College for a course on Climate Change and Paris Agreement, with the UN Secretariat, government officials, and other stakeholders from around the world.

What is your motivation behind spreading peace?

My motto is ‘The time to think was yesterday, today is the time to act’. We have spent a lot of time just talking, and with climate change knocking at our door, we have to act now. My aim is to make this world a better place to live in. Peace is very crucial for attaining sustainability since security and development go hand in hand.

What do you discuss in your meetings with Presidents, Prime Ministers, ambassadors, and other stakeholders?

I have had meetings with over a thousand stakeholders, including policymakers, Presidents, and ambassadors from around the world. We discuss a variety of topics such as upliftment of youth integration of artificial intelligence and education, sustainable development, policy coherence, climate change, and bilateral and multilateral relations.

Any memorable recognition for your work?

In 2017, I was awarded the AWWA Award of Excellence for my work in science and technology and community upliftment through sustainable development. This included transitioning barren land patches of Thar Desert into green science parks made up entirely of waste and recycled material.

If you get a chance to change one thing in the society, what would it be?

Our attention spans are getting shorter and we are becoming meaner, and I would like to change that. A lot of people, especially teenagers and young adults are blindly following random trends for the sake of looking cool. Also, we aren't very good listeners. Most of the time, we listen just to reply and not to understand, and this is one of the reasons for instability in interpersonal relations nowadays. With these issues addressed properly, society can progress as a whole.

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