Just a few days back, I was looking at the very first presentation I made for Involve. It was the first time I had used PowerPoint for anything non-academic. Twenty-one slides and not a single picture. Hundreds of words trying very hard to mask the colorful background. Back then, I was not aware of the wonders a presentation can do. Fast forward one-and-a-half-years, I was presenting Involve to a jury of six at the final pitch of a global summit on Social Entrepreneurship at Chicago. The presentation had evolved, to say the very least. It felt special! (More because it was my first trip abroad and a funded one, partly though 😉)
About those five minutes of the pitch – I can say only this much. I don’t remember a single word that came out of my mouth. I was nervous… very much! And I was nervous for the entire time till the results were announced (I was so anxious that I forgot to eat my cheesy spicy American sandwich! Oh, they are just delicious.). “After a lot of discussions, we have decided to give the prize to Div. We all hope that Involve achieves its mission.”, the judges announced in the hall where everyone was waiting for the results. I remember those lines clearly even now. I live that moment every second. I understand if this doesn’t sound too appealing, but trust me, it was one of the best moments of my life. When young and passionate people from various countries believe in your idea, understand the kind of change you want to bring, it empowers you in a way that words can’t describe.
Since the inception of the idea, 18 months back, to now it has been a roller coaster ride. We completed two pilots and are gearing up for a strong foundation. We haven’t achieved much yet. There is a long road that lies ahead of us. Whenever one talks about starting up, people tell that it is not easy. And that’s not a lie. There is 100% truth in it. But every time when you step up a little, climb up the ladder, get close to the destination, whatever it be for your enterprise, it feels great. The rush that it gives is the fuel that lasts so long. Definitely, we have had a lot of setbacks and we will continue to have, but the appreciation and feeling of doing what you are passionate about are incomparable. Allow me to showcase some of our achievements since the Delhi pilot, the project that kicked off our participation in competitions.
As I had already mentioned, we won the pitch competition at The Global Engagement Summit organized by Northwestern University at Chicago, which had more than 40 delegates from various countries. At the International Conference on “Social Entrepreneurship as a means for attaining sustainable development”, I presented a paper on Peer Teaching, the model on which Involve is based, for which I was awarded the first prize. Till date, there hasn’t been a single social entrepreneurship competition where we have participated and not been to the finals. We were one of the 6 finalists against more than 400 applications in Abhyuday, a competition organized by IIT Bombay. We were the top team from Chennai to be selected for Sandbox Competition organized by the Deshpande Foundation and we were the youngest team in their finale at the Development Dialogue at Hubbali, Karnataka. We also 3rd in Pitchfest 2017, organized by IIT Madras.
I don’t know if we have that “revolutionary idea” that everyone keeps talking about, but what I am sure of is that Involve has the passionate and committed team that it requires to build a successful enterprise. Energy is our working capital. We challenge each other in our abilities and are always ready to become better than what we are today. Surely we have lost certain battles, but we always get back on our feet. After all, it’s the learning that counts, right? All of us started as amateurs and are now trying to be the best in our job. And this is what I call success at the end of the day. Also, passion and purpose magically attract resources. In the process, we have gained a lot of friends who are ready to help us in any way possible. This fuels our passion and makes us feel complete.