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Start believing yourself, the rest will follow

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Gaurav Joshi

Throughout my academic life, I was always an extrovert student. Participating in college events and managing them always caught my attention and interest. The quality of being proactive, adaptable and self-motivated also helped me win a lot of inter-college events and this has continued to manifest in my work as well. The ability to think on my feet has done my confidence a world of good. The purpose of me writing this blog is to share a story which I believe changed the course of my life, it changed my approach towards situations, it taught me very early on in my life that self-belief and passion will always earn you success and lastly, it has taught me to never settle because the moment you do that, you will never be able to come out of your comfort zone.

How it all started

When Ignite 2015 (an inter-class social entrepreneurship competition conducted by Jain University in Bangalore) was announced, my friends and I were extremely excited to do something we had never done before: to serve the underprivileged community. Each class had to come up with an idea and the most sustainable idea will take the trophy home, and that idea would further be sent to the national competition conducted by Enactus (An international social entrepreneurship forum) in Mumbai. Initially, it was tough to get the entire class together, but the moment they got to know they held a chance to go to Mumbai, nothing stopped them from participating. After multiple community visits, we finally got an idea of setting up a library in a government school in Panditanahalli near Tumkur district considering the students in that school faced a lot of difficulties in getting access to books. Again we faced a lot of challenges while executing our idea: How do we source the books? How do we segregate books? How do we convince authorities? How do we set up the infrastructure? But we soon figured out a model that would work. When multiple minds come together with a vision, then nothing stops them from reaching the end goal.

Day 1- Ignite 2015

The first round of presentations of Ignite had begun, and we were supposed to present during the second half of the day. Three friends of mine, including me, were part of the presentation team while the rest of my team members were raising funds by setting up stalls in the college. Five teams had finished presenting and it was our turn, there was a lot of nervousness as teams who presented before they caught the attention of many. Our first round of presentation was satisfactory, we were able to tackle all the questions posed by the judges. The first-round results were announced and our team along with four other teams got selected. We were elated but we knew it wasn’t the end. Now it was time for the final round which was supposed to happen the next day, and that night I still remember getting a call from my teammates saying “Gaurav, we’re sorry but we will not be able to make it tomorrow, let us back out.” I cannot mention here why my teammates backed out but as part of the rules, it required a minimum of three members to present and none of them in my team were ready to present. I was absolutely dejected and almost called my class mentor to inform her that we can’t take it forward before my brother came and told me, “It is your project, it is the hard work you put in- you decide what you have to do”. I made the decision to present alone regardless of what the result would be.

Day 2- Ignite 2015

I remember walking into the conference hall with a high level of anxiety, my hands were trembling. I was asked by many about my teammates but I conveniently ignored them. The final round had begun and when my turn arrived, my confidence was high purely because the attention of everyone was going to be on one single person and that was me. I believe that day my presentation was above par but due to the rules and regulations of the event, we, rather, I couldn’t get through. In fact, we were not even in the top 3. I was disappointed but at the same time, I knew I wanted to keep this project going.

What next?

The top three teams who were selected were supposed to scale the project and the most scalable project would be taken to the national competition in Mumbai in 2016. They were given enough time but most of them gave up because of lack of interest and the glamour they saw in other literary forums. On the other hand, I along with a couple of my friends, we're on a mission. We were clear we wanted to go to the national competition. We kept visiting the school and were trying to understand their taste in terms of reading books. Once we figured that out, we sourced the books from a distributing house in Bangalore at a nominal cost and in fact, they later agreed to provide these books for free. We kept expanding and the library now had over 175+ books for all age groups which were regularly updated. The management of the school was happy as their kids got to read something apart from the textbooks. The best part here was that the management of our college started observing the work we were doing and deployed some seniors to keep a track of our project which we called it “Project Akshara.” The seniors were amazed at how we could scale so quickly and I remember getting a call from one of them saying “Your team along with few seniors will be going to the nationals.” At that moment, I could relate to the song by Drake, “Started from the bottom, now we’re here.”

Key takeaways

We might not have won the national competition in Mumbai, but had I given up like most of the teams did, I would have been just another participant of Ignite 2015. The journey from getting rejected in the final round to representing my college at the national level was nothing short of a roller-coaster ride. Our project also got featured by Zee Business in the year 2016. This is exactly what I would like to convey through this blog, the moment you start believing in what you are doing, then there is absolutely nothing that can stop you plus the joy of doing something that most of them thought you wouldn’t is priceless.

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