In just six years India will become the youngest country in the world. While the youth bulge emerging in 2020 will set its economy apart from other aging economies, it may be a harbinger for greater socioeconomic inequalities to come. It is against this backdrop that Microsoft embarked on a partnership with local organisation the Quality Education and Skills Training (QUEST) Alliance, a multi-stakeholder initiative which shares YouthSpark’s mission to provide youth with access to education, employment and entrepreneurship.

From 11 to 12 December, Microsoft India hosted the second YouthSpark Live (formerly known as Innovate for Good) event, attended by 18 youth, in Bangalore. The event kicked off with a spirited exchange of ideas by the young social entrepreneurs who were chosen on the merit of their social venture ideas. Richly diverse and creative, the ideas covered the promotion and protection of the welfare and rights of rural communities, women and other groups, and included: 

  • Eye-D – A combination of a micro-controller and phone, it provides support for the visually impaired with its face identification and colour identification functionalities. The first prototype has clinched two corporate awards
  • rideIT.in – An online carpool matching service that enables working professionals to carpool in a safe and secure manner, and reduce traffic
  • Tracking Livelihood Entitlements for Rural Communities (TERcoms) – A mobile phone-based management information system to track the efficacy of entitlement delivery under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act

Gaurav Mittal, one of the members from Eye-D, was overwhelmed by the depth and intensity of the discussions. He observed, “My experience at #YouthSpark Live has been great. I never expected that there will be so much energy and discussions and that I will get so much feedback on my idea. I am eager to begin work on the feedback I have received. The event went far beyond my expectations.”

 
Young social entrepreneurs at Microsoft YouthSpark Live, Bangalore, India

Aside from the exchange of ideas, Microsoft and QUEST Alliance experts took them through workshops on goal-setting and proposal presentation to donors as well. Thereafter, the participants fine-tuned their business plans before presenting them to a three-member jury at the end of the event.

The top three ideas will be developed into full-fledged proposals, with expert help for improvements on the business development plans. Microsoft will connect the idea owners with investors and social entrepreneurs who could provide seed funding to materialise the ideas.

Sandeep Alur, Technology Evangelism Manager at Microsoft India, said, “On the second day, I gave a little presentation on the future of technology devices, and highlighted the relevance of these devices to various industries and sectors. All the participants were very quick in making the link with their social ventures, and had a number of difficult questions for me! Before that, I was already blown away by all their ideas. To think about all the missed opportunities when a person is deprived of the right kind of access can be disappointing, and I am glad that we are helping, one batch at a time.”