How did you come up with the concept of Jagriti Yatra?  
On the fiftieth anniversary of India’s independence, in 1997 I organised a national adventure – the Azad Bharat Rail Yatra. Two hundred young Indians participated in that Yatra. The idea back then was to travel across our diverse land and understand the developments we have accomplished in the 50 years since independence. I summarised my experience of 1997 Yatra in a book called ‘India – A journey through a healing civilization’ that got published in 2007 by Harper Collins. The book generated excitement in the alumni of the 1997 Yatra, and attracted my fellow board members – Raj, Rewati, Swapnil and Ashutosh. A team was thus formed, and the journey took a new avatar – Jagriti Yatra. 

What is the underlying belief of this journey?  
Around 58 per cent of our population resides in Tier 2 and 3 districts of India. We call it ‘Middle India’. Jagriti’s objective is to empower the youth of Middle India with the tool of Udyamita (entrepreneurship) so that they can solve the developmental challenges of their districts through enterprise, and in the process generate employment for others. Through this journey, we are inspiring the youth of the country by exposing them to the role model entrepreneurs and by enabling connections among themselves to become job-creators rather than job-seekers.    

Who should be a part of this journey?  
Any young person who want to bring change through enterprise. The motto of the Yatra is 'Building India through Enterprise.' Throw some light on it. Our view is that Indian demographics is less Prahlad’s pyramid, it is more like a diamond; a diamond in the rough. The middle of this diamond consists of Tier 2 and 3 districts of India, where around 58 per cent of the population resides. A large proportion of this population is below 25 years of age. This young India is not destitute; it has a roof on its head and food on the table. They do not lack energy, but often don’t find a purpose. When this energetic India does not find purpose and employment it takes to the streets, or worse to the gun. The top of the diamond is prospering as it remains connected to the global economy. The bottom of the diamond gets attention from government and charitable organisations; it is the middle where discontent is brewing. The country and this ‘Middle India’ seeks a new independence through enterprise. Enterprise-led development, or Udyam Janit Vikas, seeks to change the development paradigm from one of dependence to that of taking charge. It seeks to shift the mindset of young India from job seekers to job creators. It seeks to shift the role of government from that of a captain to one of the coach and a catalyst. It seeks to unleash the hidden potential of citizens by coming together around a viable social and economic need, and then show discipline to nurture it into a viable enterprise. In doing so, they create purpose and employment for themselves and provide employment for hundreds of others. The social unrest that we see creeping across society due to a skewed growth pattern can be stemmed and reversed through Enterprise Led Development.    

What role can companies like Coca-Cola play in journey to build a nation? 
Companies like Coca-Cola are equal stakeholders in building the nation. They can contribute to the development of ‘Middle India’ through their expertise and infrastructure. Coke has a connect with the youth of this country, that connect has to be solidified in the smaller towns and villages. Coke also has a number of enterprise programs ranging from the entrepreneur bottlers at the top end to the Parivartan ladies who are retailers. More generally the spirit of private sector can positively energise the youth of the nation for building the country by supporting them. Coca-Cola has been supporting our nation-building endeavor for the last 4 years, and I must also reveal that Coke was one of the supporters in our 1997 Yatra. Jagriti Yatra is a platform that can be used by Coke to spread the message of Building India through Enterprise across its stakeholder community. 

What do you think about the role of youth in creating a sustainable future?  
The youth has a decisive role to play in building a nation like ours. We have only 20 years before the demographic dividend starts declining. Hence, the next 20 years would be ‘It’s Now or Never’ situation for our nation. The youth will be at the centre stage. They will create entrepreneurial solutions for the developmental challenges our country is facing. They will build long-lasting institutions that will spur innovations. They will go back to their own places of origin, their own districts and build them through enterprise. They will be the new-age Gandhis who will unleash the second freedom movement of entrepreneurship in the country. 

What message would you like to give the aspiring youth of India?  
100 years ago, the father of the nation, Gandhi ji, stepped on a train journey with a Sankalp to bring Swatantrata with the tool of Satyagrah, which he fulfilled in around 30 years of his return to India.  My message to the today’s youth is to follow the footsteps of Mahatma, albeit in today’s context. Take a Sankalp to bring the movement of Nirmaan with the tool of Udyamita. To begin with, go back to your place of origin and Build that area through Enterprise.   

Shashank Mani Tripathi is the Chairman of Jagriti Sewa Sansthan.