Startup eSeries: The Great Indian Train Journey for Entrepreneurs - Common Sense Living Newsletter
Common Sense Living India

Startup eSeries: The Great Indian Train Journey for Entrepreneurs

Nov 29, 2014


The British built the railways in India for easy connectivity. Little did they know that many years later, young and dynamic nation builders would give it a whole new purpose - to connect entrepreneurs across the country.

And that's exactly what the NGO Jagriti Yatra does! Its mission is to "build India through enterprise."

It was in 1997 that the founder of Jagriti Yatra, Shashank Mani, first had the brainwave to start a rail journey for the lesser privileged and give them exposure to the India they had never seen. He was inspired by the Hindi movie song, Aao Bachchon Tumhen Dikhayen Jhanki Hindustan Ki from the film Jagriti. Like the song in the movie, he wanted to show young India the progressive changes in the nation.

Together with a bunch of students he got on a train that departed from Mumbai and took a 22-day trip visiting sites like the Golden Temple in Amritsar, Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi and Anna Hazare's hometown in Ralegan Siddhi, Maharashtra.

Yatris at the platform
The effort was then called Azad Bharat Rail Yatra. Thereafter, the founder returned to his job in London, and in 2007 published a book of his experiences on the journey - India a Journey through a Healing Civilization. The idea was revived once again in 2008 when the Yatra's alumni were keen to restart, but this time with a focus on entrepreneurship and youth employment. They found their first sponsor and thus began Jagriti Yatra, an NGO that steers the journey of many entrepreneurs.

Recognizing passion and spirit

Jagriti Yatra follows a simple format. They hire an 18-coach train from Indian Railways, plan a 15-day entrepreneurship program for its 450 beneficiaries and traverse more than 8,000 kms across the country. Their program starts with a selection process wherein Jagriti ambassadors (alumni) reach out to more than 50 Tier 2 and Tier 3 districts and villages in the country, through regional newspapers and other initiatives, and invite participants who are already entrepreneurs or aspiring entrepreneurs.

The Yatris, as they are referred to, comprise of 'participants' - aspiring entrepreneurs who are in the age group of 20-27 years and 'facilitators' who are over 25 years of age and willing to mentor and manage a group of participants.

United in entrepreneurship
Jagriti Yatra sieves applications from more than 70,000 participants every year, out of which 450 Yatris are finally selected. Ashutosh Kumar, Executive Director, Jagriti Yatra says the key factor that helps them select candidates is their "passion and desire to become entrepreneurs."

The annual Yatra has a structured program designed by a dedicated team. It includes Yatri interactions that bring out plenty of learnings, panel discussions, role model visits and a business plan competition at the end... like a management school on wheels!

Learning from the experienced

The route travelled is more or less the same each year, stopping at cities and villages across India where Yatris can meet and interact with role models and see how their enterprises work. The role models are those who have themselves been change agents, created innovative solutions for the country, displayed remarkable entrepreneurial spirit and redefined their respective industries.

Narayan Murthy, founder of Infosys and Subroto Bagchi, founder of Mindtree, in Bangalore, Joe Madiath, founder of Gram Vikas in Berhampur, Orissa, and Dr. S. Aravind, Chief Medical Officer, Aravind Eye Care System in Madurai, are some of the illustrious names of role models who address the Yatris.

The Yatris also visit rural areas of eastern Uttar Pradesh, assess the issues of the villagers and come up with probable solutions for them. A panel selects these ideas and the chosen teams revisit the areas again after three months to try implementing them with the rural people.

Creating a space for innovation

The experience for these Yatris is invaluable. They interact with their peers from all over the country. They exchange ideas, share stories, live together, learn together, sing, dance, and even compete with each other on business plans. All in a healthy spirit of learning and sharing.

While they visit the cities of the role models, they not only hear CEOs and founders speak about their own entrepreneurial journeys but also get a chance for hands-on work experience through field trips. They understand how companies work and conduct their various initiatives.

For the duration of the journey, the Indian Railways train is spruced up almost like a corporate office with a conference room complete with a projector, microphones and internet connectivity. These are created in the two AC chair-cars and used for panel discussions and presentations.

A must-see uplifting video on Jagriti Yatra

Assessing impact and value

Over the last six years, Jagriti Yatra has impacted more than 1000 participants. More than 200 have gone on to start their own enterprises while the others have gone back with new ideas to their current enterprises. Some have entered the corporate world, others, the social sector and still more have joined other educational courses to further their entrepreneurial dreams.

The case studies are many but the one that Ashutosh Kumar mentions, and that particularly stands out, is the story of young Amit Kataria, who was physically challenged, on a wheel chair, and had never travelled by bus or train or even left his village Choma in Haryana. But he was still determined to undertake the Yatra; he wanted to fulfill his dream of seeing the nation and learning more about entrepreneurship.

The organisers were worried about how he would manage but Amit did just fine. In fact, he went back very inspired and started his own computer center to spread computer literacy in his village. Today, Amit has scaled up to ten centers and his vision is to educate at least one member in every household in the village in using computers.

Building a world of entrepreneurs

Jagriti Yatra is a unique platform that has successfully aided the journeys of many entrepreneurs. This social enterprise has impacted a spectrum of entrepreneurs ranging from the budding entrepreneur to those who have gone on to successfully sell their enterprises for a profit.

In fact, Ashutosh informs us that, the model has even been replicated in the US in a train travelling from San Francisco to Washington DC. A similar one is present in France. And both have credited Jagriti Yatra for the concept.

The next step for Jagriti Yatra is to further sustain and aid enterprise through the formation of Jagriti Enterprise Network, a forum for Jagriti alumni who can come together and exchange notes. This forum will support the ventures of Yatris by helping them network as well as introducing them to funders and angel investors.

Jagriti Yatra aims to nurture 1 lac entrepreneurs by 2022. With a little more assistance from the Indian Railways to conduct more tours, its already growing team of volunteers and ambassadors and many more green flags of awareness, this destination may just be reached sooner.

The ultimate goal of entrepreneurship is nation building - to increase the economy of a country, to provide more employment and to give the next generation an easier and better world to live in. Jagriti Yatra does all this and more. May the train keep chugging on...


We request your view! Post a comment on "Startup eSeries: The Great Indian Train Journey for Entrepreneurs". Click here!

11 Responses to "Startup eSeries: The Great Indian Train Journey for Entrepreneurs"


19 Jan, 2015

My son and daughter both have participated in Jagriti Yatra and have immensly benefitted. Both are doing some service for conducting the yatra as alumnies. Their outlook and attitude towards the nation has changed a lot.It is really an inspiring programe.

Like (1)

Pradeep Modi

13 Dec, 2014

Excellent effort by Jagriti Yatra making youngesters aware of our great country and it's people. All the best and wish many more journies by it.

Like (1)


08 Dec, 2014

Very nice & inspiring article and the series as such.

Like (1)

Sanjay Deshpande

05 Dec, 2014

this is fantastic article. I never knew any such organization exists. My son is 17 year old and I will be keen to see him participate in this yatra in a few years. Thank you so much for sharing this with readers

Like (1)


02 Dec, 2014

Its an innovative idea,in bringing all enterpreuer spirit together.


01 Dec, 2014

It is a great concept and I would like to congratulate Mr. Ashutosh Kumar for conducting this 'Jagriti Yatra' for young entrepreneurs. I being a senior citizen would also like to take part in this project to share my knowledge and experience in building a world of entrepreneurs for nation building in tune with our honourable Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi is striving for.

Like (2)

Raj Krishnamurthy

01 Dec, 2014

@Mr.Mehta - you have a great inspiring story. We would very much like your support. Please contact us through the website and we will get back in touch with you @Mr. Ranganathan - yes we would very much welcome your help. You can be an assessors of applications or can participate in one of our events. Again, please get in touch through our website - - Raj Krishnamurthy, Board Member Jagriti Yatra

Like (1)

Ritika Bajaj

01 Dec, 2014

Dear All, It's great to see your positive responses to the cause. For those looking to contribute to Jagriti Yatra in some way, the Jagriti Yatra website has a page called 'Get Involved', it will tell you exactly what you can do and who you can connect with.

Kothandaraman Ranganathan

01 Dec, 2014

Very very useful program to build the nation. Is there any thing for the healthy retired senior citizens to take part in this project.

Rohit Mehta

30 Nov, 2014

I am now of 71yrs. of age! I started my earning career at the age of 10yrs. when my parents were not able to afford my monthly school fee of Rs.2/00 + small amt. towards my educational books. I completed my graduation (alongwith my side employment as peon cum clerk) in 1968, then full time employments for about 13yrs. which I left in 1971 to start my indepedent business career without a penny of savings in the pocket. Fortunately, God was always with me for the positive results all these good & bad times ending now with an owner of cash rich Pvt. Ltd. SSI entriprise which is run now by my son Tushar. I have rich experience of all these times and valuable advise to become sucessful entrepruner/s for all the youngers of India even without a penny in the pocket but with courage and positive self confidence. I can spare a time for yr potential groups of entrepruners when they are around Vadodara (Guj) where I am based and inspire them to achieve the intended goal. Expecting yr posiive response soon.

Like (5)


30 Nov, 2014

It's a very good concept aiming and encouraging young generation in helping them develop their entrepreneur skill and hidden talent. Further I would like you to include other middle aged population who might have missed the opportunity.

Like (2)

Sign up for a wealth of Common Sense Living ideas delivered to your Inbox for free every week.