Tussle and Triumph is conversation with Akash Arora founder of HUM who explains how a team of budding mechanical engineers were repairing their go-kart which underwent heavy damage due to brake failure during the test drive and then one discussion led to another and culminated to the birth of HUM with 7 members which now has more than 300 people.
How did you get the idea for your organization?
The idea is simple. You have one idea, I have one idea, let’s share it with each other, this will make us have two ideas each. That is the concept HUM has worked on.
The idea was to publish a book of poems. I called up Veer Singh, Shruti Chouksey, Vishant Rewadikar, Ashish Singh, Manisha Yadav and Rohit Sharma to discuss and explore the idea. After much deliberation and discussion, the improvised idea was to publish an anthology that represents mixture of art forms. It was this very point where a huge need to create a platform for youth was felt and after the process of forming and storming, HUM was that beautiful result.
Rest is History! 1 st January 2015 was the day, when the first step of this thousand miles journey was put forward. Second Step! The first step has always been the ambition; the second step is the action. The first thing may always make sense, but the second step defines your direction of movement. The first official meeting of HUM was organized under the sun, in an open garden. Around 50 members participated in the discussion. This strength, the huge turn-up of the members was the real strength of the idea, of HUM.
Foundation day of ‘Beti Raksha Manch’ was being celebrated in a nearby auditorium. Mr. Ganesh, President of Beti Raksha Manch, a non-profit working towards ‘Women Security’ noticed us sitting in a group discussing things which are not usually discussed. He invited us to perform and share our ideas on their stage. As said, the second step determines your direction. All of us 50 members, in next 10 minutes prepared a small skit on Female Feticide and presented it one the stage. Some team members, who were artists, drew the logo of HUM on a sheet of paper, which was found in the garden itself. With no proper manifesto, no written objectives and no single idea of what is going to happen next, we were standing with Mayor of the city on the stage, with a logo of HUM in her hands and listening to the audience shouting ‘HUM aa rahe hain!’ to the top of their voice and we could literally feel the joy and the rush flowing through our veins.
What is the problem you are trying to solve? Can you share with us any insights that led you to believe that this is a big enough problem?
We all are aware of the fact that we have the largest youth population in world, but what exactly is the number when it comes to quality human resource, qualified youth or employable youth or the youth that has potential to take the initiative? When I was in my college, It was WIPRO’s recruitment drive. All my friends were confused about how to prepare a CV, somewhere like oh! I don’t have anything to mention, I just wasted my 4 years. Many of us get graduated like this every year. I even found two of my friends who were mugging up answers to HR Questions, especially the common one “tell me about yourself”…i mean seriously, I have seen many students who really mug this answer up or institutes/coaching prepare these answers for students in CRT Program. It is seriously not a good thing. This led me to believe that there is problem. A problem that needs an urgent attention. We have vast opportunities and seriously, we are a poor nation because there is no one who can really boost us above our threshold. HUM is doing that from 3 years and is successful in its own ways.
How did you build your core team?
I always wanted people who are ready to work. People don’t associate themselves to the organisation, they are committed towards a cause. ‘Mai akela hi chala tha janib-e-manzil magar, log milte gye, kafila banta gya’
Who is the target segment of HUM? How is this going to affect them?
The only people who are going to benefit from HUM Activities are youth, aged above 18 years or are at least into their college. We are still working on our plan to help those who are not able to enter into college due to financial crunch or any other issue. But as of now, the main project is the HUM Tree, which is an addition in to the education structure we have in our country.
How did you get your first members at HUM?
When you just spend a few minutes with any college student and you communicate the idea of HUM and its objectives, students easily join us. They have a realization that what colleges teaches, what students absorb and what industry wants are three different spheres.
How did you finance your startup costs?
We used to fund our activities by getting them sponsored by companies already working in the field of education. 6 months back we have launched a new wing which is working on customized merchandise. 100% of the profits gained is used to run the organisation and fund its activities. People are helping us for this cause. We offer a range of products from mugs, shirts, key chains, card holders and what not. The list includes more than 100 products which can be customized and personalized.
What is the uniqueness about HUM?
Versatility of its activities. HUM has always focused on all round development of youth. It has not only organised free technical workshops or management related sessions, but is equally involved in cultural, entrepreneurial and academics activities.
HUM is working on 5 different projects at present, including EDC HUM (Entrepreneur Development Cell), The HUM Tree (Main Project under HUM aiming to bridge the gap between academia and industry), Vihaan (Activity Club of HUM), Reader’s Adda (An exclusive reader’s club along with HUM Library runs its operations in Gwalior) and Aalekh (A youth magazine of central India)
What is the big picture of your startup? How will it lead to something bigger? If so, how?
Every city has a huge number of colleges with variety of courses being offered. No single college (Except a few ones) are able to offer good placements or provide quality education and practical exposure. Industries in India have never relied on institutions for their research. The problem is big. We have prepared specialized modules for students and every kind of course. HUM is into opening chapters in colleges across India. These modules are prepared on the research which is conducted in the college once the college agrees to establish a HUM Chapter. The research helps us identify exposure, constraints, resources and facilities the college has. This helps us find out what exactly students in that college need and how our modules can be implemented there to make things better.
What is the success story of your startup in your own words?
I won’t say it a success, I just remember small cases when I think of success for this initiative. I have seen students who joined us in first years of their graduation and are now the leaders of some team or local celebs in the city. I still remember a member, who was so introvert that he hardly used to speak anything. He is presently the editor-in-chief of Aalekh Magazine and handles public relations, organise interviews and meet new people daily and is an inspiration to many. I have seen people changing. I remember how this idea has changed lives of many members from upside down. They are completely changed. This year AMDOCS visit in one college in Gwalior recruited 6 students and you won’t believe all 6 of them were at one time member of HUM. HUM has changed the complete thought process. I believe every student is unique.
What is the way forward for HUM?
HUM is into opening chapters in colleges across India. Any college student who wishes to plant our HUM Tree in their college and thinks that it can be of help to him or his college mates can contact us through any medium and remember, HUM is made for youth, by youth and of youth. We do have a highly qualified advisory council which includes people sitting at top notch positions in industry headed by Dr. Anil Sethi (Chairman of HUM Advisory Council) who keep guiding us and preparing HUM to meet challenges faced by youth in India.
What is your advice to upcoming start up founders?
Every business has to deal with customers. Every startup must understand that customer is king. Sell what they want, identify where exactly the customer is and why. Research and Research more. Have a structured plan and strategy that is prepared by keeping customer satisfaction in mind.
The team of HUM can be reached at : [email protected] and,
Akash can be reached at : https://www.linkedin.com/in/akasharora26/