Meet the brains behind Hult Prize India, a Clinton global initiative

The Hult Prize India last few years have been an interesting journey. The seed was sown with formation of Aravindam Foundation for education of slum children and rural women in 2008. Ewelina Janus, management consultant from Poland, visiting India, joined hands with Lokesh Abrol, Specialist Physician in Gurgaon to establish the Aravindam Foundation Gurukul for slum children in Kamdhenudham Gaushala, established by Dr. Abrol and awarded as a model in the country. Abhimanyu Abrol, then an Architecture student at IIT Kharagpur, created the design. They were soon joined by a regular stream of volunteers, both Indian and foreigners. Ewelina applied social enterprise techniques to minimise expenses and develop revenue generation plans. Within two years, the India faction we had two centres and several courses running.

Hult is the family name of Swedish born entrepreneur and billionaire, Bertil Hult, one of Europe’s leading entrepreneurs who founded EF Education First, the largest private education company in the world.

Excerpts from an email interaction with Lokesh Abrol

How did you get involved with the Hult Prize Foundation?

Abhimanyu and his team at IIT Kharagpur prepared for The Hult Prize in 2015. They turned to Aravindam for inspiration and mentoring. It was exciting to work with bright youngsters full of energy, confidence and ideas. The team represented India at the San Francisco Regional finals. Abhimanyu got a special invite to The Hult Prize Retreat at London, where he met Ahmad Ashkar, the Hult Prize founder CEO and proposed an India chapter. One year later, we got a call and Hult Prize India was born in August 2016 with Ewelina (Aravindam Managing Director) as the India National Director and Aravindam Directors, Abhimanyu and me as the Hult Prize India Directors.

What does your job entail?

The Hult Prize India was born when the 2016 action was already on. We had to play catch up, running literally round the clock, against time. There was the first task of reaching out to campuses to enhance participation. We managed a 400 percent growth. The campus director applications had to be screened, appointments made, webinars organised, questions answered, volunteers and mentors gathered and motivated, website and Facebook presence and content created, agreements prepared, discussed and signed. While this was still happening, the next round of guiding campus directors to create teams, run seminars and organise jury and campus level events, started. We sought out students with past experience, for assistance. There was the additional challenge of each one of us investing full time in addition to our existing full time occupations. It became double full time for each one of us.

How has it been working with the Hult Foundation?

Before we could catch our breath, the responsibility of organising the national event came up. We started shortlisting and approaching prospective sponsors, partners and judges while planning logistics and event format. Simultaneously, regular meetings, brainstorming and discussions had to be on with the central team across time zones, almost always squeezing in hours taken from our regular jobs, meal times or the ever scarce sleep hours, to ensure that Delhi, London, Boston, San Francisco and Mexico members could be on video call at the same time. There were situations when Cesar would be at a Mexican airport, Ewelina at Krakow city centre, Abhimanyu pacing outside his office in London, Amanda waking up in San Francisco and me trying to keep awake in Gurgaon! It has never been short of an exciting roller coaster with barely a minute to spare ever since the Hult Prize swept us like a tsunami. Do we love it? Of course, we love surfing the great waves. We love being at the heart of action, creating the next wave of social entrepreneurs.

How are the India directors and judges selected for this prize?

The Hult Prize Foundation has partnered with the Aravindam Foundation to establish the Hult Prize India. The India Directors are Ahmad Ashkar and Cesar Delvalle from the parent body in USA and Ewelina Janus, Abhimanyu Abrol and me from the Aravindam in India. There is provision for two directors from sponsors of Hult Prize India.

The campus directors in universities are students selected after a process of online applications, screening and finally interviews in person or tele and video conferencing. Judges are academia, entrepreneurs, Impact investors, financial experts, corporate leaders and social activists invited on the basis of credentials.

How many colleges are participating for Hult Prize 2017?

Around 50+ colleges are participating. The number of colleges was 4 in 2014 and 12 in 2015.

What has been the reaction of colleges and students?

The premier Indian colleges are the most enthusiastic about the Hult Prize. The Hult prize participations are led by students. As the word spreads, we are approached by students from other campuses asking about participation. We do not have to approach college administrations in most situations. The students take it upon themselves to involve their professors and directors. They, in turn, are more than willing to get their students the great international connect, outlook, network, learning and real life experience of Social and entrepreneurship that comes with the Hult Prize.

We have nearly all the IITs, IIMs, all campuses of ISB and BITS, XLRI, SRCC, MDI, IIFT, Jadhavpur University, Christ University, VIVA college, Manipal University, Welingkar, NMIMS, Somaiya institute, Symbiosis and more on our roll.

How many Indians have won the Hult Prize in the past?

Several Indians representing colleges in India and abroad. Manish Rajan, representing an Indian College – ISB Hyderabad won the nanohealth in 2014. Nanohealth from ISB Hyderabad in 2014 led by Manish Ranjan

Akanksha Hazari from M.Paani won it in 2011.
M.Paani 2011. Akanksha Hazari

Sonia Kabra from Earlham College, Team magic Bus, won it in 2016.

What does it take to be a Hult prize winner?
The ability to build as opposed to identify great social ventures is what differentiates the Hult Prize from any other platform in the world. The Hult Prize winners bring entrepreneurship skills to social objectives. They make ‘Purpose’ with ‘Profit’ their objective. It is not charity. It is doing good while enhancing dignity. The winners understand and believe that ‘doing good is good business’. Those motivated by bottom lines while being concerned about those at the bottom, have it in them, to be Hult Prize winners.

Hult Prize winners have gone onto create the largest alternative protein industry in micro-livestock, the world's largest distributor of solar lights, health access to all and India's fastest growing loyalty and rewards program targeting the world's poorest.

What has surprised you about Indian students participation?
Participation is on a scale far beyond anywhere else. There is remarkable awareness of social issues, a great motivation to do good and innovative ideas to achieve the objectives. The ideas are close to ground reality and practicality.
The next step of packaging the ideas into salable and scalable models will happen effortlessly as the students open up to mentors and peers around the world. Indian students quickly adapt to the international environment of the Hult Prize and leverage their knowledge and experience of ground realities of deprivation.

Which innovation/s, even though it did not win the prize, stood out or resonated with you? Why?
A few them were interesting. Tembo (Elephant in Swahili) from University of Tampa, USA proposed using cellphone air time as currency to motivate parents in Africa to learn lessons sent by text messages and teach them to their kids. The parents get free air time if they pass a quiz each week.

The Kajoli model of self learning by Prof. Shamsul Bari coupled with mother’s skills and loyalty program proposed by Team Veditum of IIT Kharagpur where kids learn by the Kajoli at a centre while the mother’s learn, produce and sell traditional crafts through an e-commerce platform while they wait for their children.

The Hult Prize is about ‘empowering business minds to pursue purpose’ says Ahmad Ashkar, the Founder CEO. We empower brilliant minds to invest in doing good and to have healthy bottom lines so that the doing good is scalable and sustainable. That is the way to bring the benefits to many more people in under-served communities. There is greater dignity in empowerment than in charity. This is what the millennial generation understands. These are the generation of achievers who are in their finest when helping others while enhancing themselves. The ‘larger good’ and the ‘bottom lines’ become mutually complementary rather than ‘mutually excluding’.

Updated Date: Dec 15, 2016 17:05:05 IST