Street food has made millionaires of many. Nagabhushana Rao was a pioneer in branding and bringing Rava Idli to market, while Haja Funyamin had dropped out of school and was selling samosas in the lanes of Pudupet. Being miles apart, what are the odds that Haja and Nagabhushana would ever connect. But fate intervenes and legends are born. When 26-year-old Haja approached the Bharatiya Yuva Shakti Trust (BYST) for a loan, he not only did get one but also found a mentor in Nagabhushana, a mentor associated with BYST, whose guidance helped Haja’s frozen food business reach the international level.
It is often that people know the tricks of their trade but lack the required funds and guidance to achieve their dreams. Inspired by HRH the Prince of Wales’s Trust, BYST is a non-profit organisation co-founded by Lakshmi Venkataraman Venkatesan, the daughter of former Indian president R Venkataraman, which assists disadvantaged youth in developing business ideas into viable enterprises by giving access to finance and direction, with the objective of turning job seekers into job creators. “Working on the Guru-Shishya (teacher-disciple) model, the mentor takes the aspiring young entrepreneur under their wings and nurtures them till their business takes off,” says Lakshmi.
BYST completed 25 years this year. As a part of the yearlong silver jubilee celebrations, they organised the international mentoring summit on ‘Mentoring Young Grampreneurs™ for Inclusive Growth’ in which HRH Prince Charles, The Prince of Wales, was the guest of honour.
Lakshmi, the brain behind BYST did a double masters in Physics and Engineering Science in the 1970s, worked in the telecommunications domain at the prestigious AT&T- Bell laboratories. There, she became a trailblazer in the earliest version of a mobile technology, and also received the Award for Excellence.
“But doing something for the motherland was what I always wanted,” says Lakshmi, a recipient of the Shiromani Award for Human Excellence from Minister of Human Resource Development.
Born into a privileged family, Lakshmi realised early on that sometimes all the underprivileged need is a break and so BYST was born in 1993 as a common endeavour with the legendary JRD Tata. “When I was staying in Buckingham Palace one day, Prince Charles told me about his trust over a private lunch, and asked me if it can do any work in India. I said I have no clue but will check,” she says. Later, in the course of a conversation with JRD, she recounted this encounter. He was excited by the possibility.
“Everybody focuses on IITs and IIMs these days. Nobody thinks of women in the villages, skilled youngsters without a high school qualification and educated unemployed rural youth. We reach out to the youth at the grassroots level,” says Lakshmi.
BYST holds Idea Contests in villages to tap young talent. “We send a van to rural areas with a box for people to put their ideas in. When we did this in Assam, people thanked us, since all they were being told to do was either tailoring, making sanitary pads and so on, and no one ever asked them what they wanted to do,” she says. The trust has mentored over 6,000 youth so far, generating job opportunities for over 2.5 lakh people. What else are trust funds for ?
Bharatiya Yuva Shakti Trust: Working for the upliftment of rural entrepreneurship for the past 24 years in India
In a country that is currently undergoing a startup revolution, not much is said about those entrepreneurs who have the skill and passion but not the money or contacts to make it big. Bharatiya Yuva Shakti Trust (BYST) has been in the forefront of supporting young underprivileged entrepreneurs of India, and is a year shy of celebrating its silver jubilee. At the helm of it all is Lakshmi Venkatesan. The daughter of former Indian President R. Venkataraman, and recipient of several honours, including Shiromani Award, Government of India’s Social Entrepreneurship Award, etc., her achievements are plenty.
An alma mater of Delhi University, and holding a double master's in Physics and Engineering Science from New York University, Lakshmi started her career in telecommunications, at the prestigious AT&T- Bell laboratories, USA. After a successful executive career, she returned to India in the late eighties, after spending nearly two decades abroad.. . YourStory recently met with Lakshmi, the lady with many accolades, to pick her brains and understand what she has been doing through BYST.