Igniting Young Minds to Become Change Makers

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The young population of a country is the custodian of its future as much as it is the harbinger of change. They are innovators, they are restless and they are in a hurry to taste success. When many countries struggle with increasingly aging populations, India is blessed to have a high percentage of young. As per the 2011 census almost 41% of Indians are below the age of 20 years. If they are provided with proper education and employment skills, the International Monetary Fund estimates that they have the potential to add 2 percentage points to the annual economic growth of India till 2031. This is the demographic dividend that could make the country an economic superpower in the coming years.

The young innovators of today are curators and custodians of a digitally empowered society and are steering technology on the right path to achieve the deliberated goal of a digital future for India. The youth bring enormous energy, superhuman effort and a fresh perspective to the table. These qualities play an immense role if a change has to be brought about in any society or nation. Mentoring and nurturing this young talent will help the nation address the myriad problems that it is facing today.

Realizing the potential of the country's young, aspiring individuals, several enterprises as well as educational institutions have launched initiatives to harness their capabilities at a very early stage and are providing them with the right platform to take their ideas forward and ensure success in life. Premier educational institutions, such as the IITs, have dedicated incubation cells to help young entrepreneurs with brilliant ideas. Multinational organisations also have their own initiatives to encourage and boost the entrepreneurial spirit.

In several parts of Asia-Pacific and now India, forums are being provided so that youth can exchange experiences and ideas to enhance their participation in the process of social and economic advancement, especially around issues important to them, including health, education, employment and corruption. Overall, the challenge in this region lies in opening up new spaces and establishing innovative mechanisms for constructive engagement of youth in different fields or sectors.

As a responsible telecom operator, we have also launched initiatives to connect our brightest and tech-savvy youth to address challenges facing the society. We run Telenor Youth forum in collaboration with Nobel Peace Center, through which our endeavor is not just to bring together young leaders to collaborate around social challenges but also to foster understanding, prosperity and ultimately peace in the societies we operate in.

India's young are gradually bringing about changes in society that they live in and are ready to experiment with new things and put their dreams to reality. Right from mobilising communities to addressing issues plaguing our society to creating solutions/applications that can benefit the society, young Indians are transcending all imaginations in innovating for society. When it comes to technology innovation, there have been several success stories. A case in point is Ajit Narayanan, age 29, who was trained at the incubation centre of IIT Madras. Through his innovation Avaz -- an affordable, tablet-based communication device for the speech-impaired -- he has given voice to many.

Another social entrepreneur, Akanksha Hazari founded m.PAANI that uses mobile phones to provide basic services, like safe water, education, healthcare, energy, and nutrition to underserved communities. The users are awarded loyalty points based on their day-to-day expenditure on products which can be redeemed later and can be shared with family members as well.

There are several such examples in India and the number is growing, with impetus from different enterprises as well as the government. These instances will not only foster a culture of innovation and free thinking but also will create resurgence in the fraternity to take up more such initiatives in health, safety, unemployment, e-commerce and other pressing social and economic issues. Indian government's Digital India vision and Start-up India initiative have given a fillip to several young minds to think beyond traditional career choices. The country's youth today feels that he or she can bring about change in society and is working towards that.

While today young entrepreneurs are actually coming to the forefront and contributing to the changing society, what is required is that this movement reaches beyond metropolitan cities. There is immense talent in small cities of the country which are often ignored as the students of metro cities take all the limelight. While initiatives like Start-up India are boosting the entrepreneurial ecosystem of India, the movement will gather its actual momentum only when it reaches the nooks and corners of the nation. This will not only spur the young entrepreneurial spirit of the nation but will also actually address grass root issues.

About the author: Sharad Mehrotra is the CEO of Telenor India, with 25 years of work experience in the telecom industry. With a BE in Electronics engineering from Pune University and MBA in Marketing management, he holds extensive senior management experience from telecom operations and infrastructure industries.

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