Mekin Maheshwari doesn’t seem like a gambling man. That might explain the surprised reactions of people in the industry when he quit his extremely well-paid job at Flipkart and started out on a quest to find his purpose in life.
We know you’ve heard the story before – well educated and highly paid corporate employee has a mid (or quarter) life crisis and quits their job to find themselves. Well, what sets Mekin apart is that he seems to have succeeded. His new field of choice? Education.
What prompted him to begin his explorations into the Indian educational system? When he left the corporate world, he released a statement explaining his choice, “I would like to measure my life in terms of positive impact created on people.”
He continued, “I realise that there are more critical problems for people in India that stay unsolved, some that cannot be solved with a for-profit mindset. I believe education is one such area.”
Diagnosing The Problem
According to several studies, one of the biggest problems modern India is facing is a scarcity of jobs. With the dawn of a new age where drones and self-driving cars are actual possibilities, it seems plausible that many service and industrial level jobs will soon become redundant. With the job market at a new low, Mekin found himself pondering the roots of the problem – the education system. Though India has several boards of education, almost all share teach methodologies and a broad curriculum. The result are graduates who are earning degrees at a furious pace – and entering a job market that is phasing them out. Difficult times, indeed.
Mekin says, “The more time I spent in this space, the more I was convinced that the bottom of the education funnel was completely clogged.” He explains further, “Our education system’s capacity reduces dramatically from Primary education to Higher Education – and when it comes to decent jobs – the drop is extreme. Historically, Education and Industry make up a cycle. In the long term, good education leads to industrial growth, and industrial growth leads to good education systems.”
However, in India, where the education system has remained the same (more or less) for decades, stagnation has lead to issues, “For most families in India – education is seen as a ticket to a good livelihood. Unfortunately, that promise is fulfilled only for a very small percentage of people. For that small set, life is truly transformed. But for the rest, education betrays that promise – that degree does not help them achieve a good life.”
Breaking The Mould
Mekin began his career as an engineer but found his niche in the startup world, something he only discovered by chance. After exploring the education field post-Flipkart, he found himself growing more and more disillusioned with standardised education in India. He says, “Most of our education and industry operate with a very rigid frame. They are based on slotting you and making you fit into their narrow definitions.”
He has a point – the education system that the majority of the country has experienced – has a fixed curriculum (even with regard to what are considered extracurricular activities) that feeds into another standardised education system – colleges and universities. Rarely, if ever, are students asked to focus on their strengths and weaknesses. The former is not even considered when choosing a career path – something that Mekin believes has lead to many Indians living dual lives – completely different personas in their personal and professional spheres. This kind of dissonance has been linked to the rising rate of depression and unhappiness in the corporate sector.
Starting An Entirely New Game
The system, Mekin ascertained, didn’t need fixing – it needed revolutionising. Thus the idea for Udhyam Learning Foundation was born. Mekin serves as one of key players behind the scenes at Udhyam, and has this to say, “Based on the fundamental belief in entrepreneurship as a powerful alternative to India’s education-to-career gap, Udhyam was born. Udhyam means enterprise as well as hard work. These two meanings capture the organisation’s focus on grassroots entrepreneurship as opposed to the more recent association of entrepreneurship solely with tech and VC driven start-ups.”
What does Udhyam do? To put it simply, “We will experiment with different ways of youth – in and out of school – learning value creation and entrepreneurial skills.” The idea is to cultivate grassroots entrepreneurship and job skills by focusing on student motivation, talent and quality teaching, project-based and personalised learning.
We at KnowYourStar are thrilled to be able to tell Mekin’s story and to have witnessed his journey to an all new kind of entrepreneurship. We’re passionate about education ourselves and can’t wait to see what Udhyam will bring to the table.