Deoria, Epicentre for a Social Enterprise
The Jagriti Yatra, a 15-day train journey that takes 450 budding entrepreneurs around the country, is a large enterprise in itself but it is just one layer of a larger vision to promote social enterprise. The key to understanding this larger idea lies in Deoria, a district in eastern Uttar Pradesh, which will act as an epicentre to put this plan into action.
Deoria is a district with a population of about three million and with an average annual per capita income of about Rs 10,000.
It is here that the team behind the Jagriti Yatra plans to set up and operationalise the Jagriti Enterprise Network (JEN), an ecosystem of entrepreneurs and facilitators, who will kickoff the process of building up what the team refers to as middle India, or the collective of tier-two and tier-three towns that account for more than 50 per cent of the country’s population.
Why Deoria? The team behind the yatra has previous experience in this district, having set up the Jagriti Sewa Sansthan, a non-profit foundation here in 2011. The foundation has already done work with skill development, notably working with women to develop handicraft skills but the JEN is something altogether bigger.
“Over eight years of doing the Jagriti Yatra we have built up an incredible ecosystem of about 3,700 people,” explains Amit Raj, executive director of the Jagriti Enterprise Network. Mr Raj is a yatri from the previous year, a former engineer with Infosys, who joined the train as one of the older facilitators who guide the younger yatris aged between 20 and 27.
“The ecosystem consists of the role models we visit, senior people from corporations who have come along as facilitators and several ex-yatris. They all want to continue to be associated with us in some way,” he explains.