INDIAFRICA: Promoting Indo-African entrepreneurship

Dearton Thomas Hector        Last Updated: April 9, 2013  | 20:43 IST

Dearton Thomas Hector
Dearton Thomas Hector
Extracting drinking water from air, building low-cost bamboo toilets, creating an SMS app to inform about water shortages. These were some of the ideas which emerged at the first 'INDIAFRICA' collaborative workshop organised on April 4 and 5 by the Public Diplomacy Division of the Ministry of External Affairs in collaboration with design and strategy company, IdeaWorks, for Indian and African students aspiring to become entrepreneurs.

Arkin Khosla of Delhi, 15, the youngest participant present was the one who put forth the idea of drawing water out of thin air.  It can be done if the air is humid, using a desiccant, such as silica. Khosla proposed having silica billboards. "The cost of each billboard will be around Rs 50,000. We can earn revenues from the advertisements on the billboard," said Khosla. His business plan is equally viable in India and Africa since both have similar humidity conditions.

In all 72 students - 36 Indians and 36 Africans - from across multiple disciplines and campuses attended, and made their presentations at the India Habitat Centre in Delhi before a jury . They were divided into nine teams. Each team focused on challenges facing Africa and India in one of nine areas: energy, environment, health-care, education, culture, creative exchanges, tourism, governance and food & nutrition. The best ideas will receive guidance and mentorship under a programme jointly sponsored by the Confederation of Indian Industry and IdeaWorks.

"Such events are very encouraging for people like us," said Tarang Doshi, a young entrepreneur from Mumbai who runs WOW (World of Workshops), a human resources firm.

Another related programme had 12 young entrepreneurs - six Africans and six Indians - being selected as 'Young Visionaries' under INDIAFRICA. They went through an intensive six-day entrepreneurship development programme at the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad from March 25 to 30. This was followed by a valedictory event on April 5 partnering with ISB, Hyderabad, the Young India Fellowship and CII Young Indians, again at the India Habitat Centre.  "The project was aimed to build co-operation between the two regions which have a lot of geographical and economic similarities," said Amit Shahi, CEO of IdeaWorks.

Manoj Kohli
, CEO (International) and Joint Managing Director Bharti Airtel who delivered the key note address on April 5, said: "Airtel is already sponsoring many youth-centric events in Africa and India. We would like to support this venture too."

Michael Hubbard, 21 a Young Visionary from South Africa said: "Africa is a very good market for SMEs. It is a perfect market especially for the mobile sector."  

Perhaps Indian start-ups should prepare for an African Safari.

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