With Sahithya Anumolu, Co-founder of the Inqui-Lab Foundation, we discussed fostering problem-solving skills among children and uncovered insights into tackling some frequent entrepreneurship challenges.
The Inqui-Lab Foundation started in 2017 and has recently moved from impacting the lives of 3,000 to 23,000 children through a program called the School Innovation Challenge, in partnership with UNICEF, the Telangana State Innovation Cell, the Education Department of Telangana and volunteering makers.
They believe that "all children should have the same opportunity to explore, learn and excel."
Today, I would consider them a social entreprise since the foundation is a nonprofit, generating revenues through workshops and other activities to grow its operations. They are primarily focused on impacting the lives of students from economically disadvantaged places at a large scale while ensuring a sustainable business.
Sahithya and her co-founders Eshwar Bandi and Vivek Piddempally knew each other for less than a year before launching the foundation. Still, they readily established a shared vision through discovery and communication. However, growing their skills as social entrepreneurs required mentorship, time, and peer feedback, to shift from a project to an organisation.
Insights Into Entrepreneurship Challenges
Social entrepreneurship comes with its challenges, often unrelated to a social cause. In this case, Sahithya mainly highlighted challenges revolving around personal development, establishing boundaries to work, thinking about the big picture and scaling. None of which are directly linked to their purpose.
Taking Care of Ourselves
Struggling with boundaries between work and personal life is something that often comes up for entrepreneurs. We tend to have difficulties determining when to stop working and forget to take care of ourselves during the process, sometimes leading to burnout or less effective and efficient work. If we forget ourselves, I would say it is essential to take it easy and move on.
Also, I have noticed several women entrepreneurs talk about their need for accomplishing too much too fast. Here, Sahithya mentioned her impatience vis-à-vis her learning curve or how rapidly Inqui-Lab was growing.
To overcome these challenges, she highlighted two main takeaways:
- Proactively talking to other people brings you perspective and insights that can help you along the way – even though it can be difficult when you are introverted, it is worthwhile.
- Getting time to exercise, meditate, read and build skills energises you by taking a step back and establishing boundaries to work.
Contextually, Sahithya also recognises that it has been difficult to learn from organisations in India doing similar work unless they are partners – even though they share the same goals. She even mentioned wondering what her project's unique value was after talking to some of her peers. And, this feeling is also something that many entrepreneurs seem to experience. Nonetheless, with time, Sahithya has seen the value in establishing partnerships to provide more value by witnessing first-hand the power of Inqui-Lab's collaborations with UNICEF, UNLEASH, and other organisations.
In this regard, I would say that we should ask ourselves whether a partnership could exist and how it could accomplish greater outcomes while keeping in mind your end goal. Benefits from partnering include having more impact, offering something unique, sharing resources, learning from each other, etc.
Adapting to the New Macro Environment
Even though COVID-19 impacted Inqui-Lab's operations, they quickly thought about delivering their programs to students in a different way. They did multiple experiments and ended up designing the previously mentioned School Innovation Challenge with UNICEF.
Macro shocks tend to accelerate something that was already going to happen by constantly pushing you to adapt through innovation. In times like this, I think it is essential to have a high-level perspective to understand the situation and its implications and imagine what steps we should take to blossom. Often, as for this instance, opportunities emerge in these uncertain times – where the cards have been reshuffled for everyone and where we need to think differently.
Inspiration to Go!
Next time, when you see a problem, ask a child what they would do about it, and you would be surprised by what they say.
Thanks so much for reading this post!
If you are a social entrepreneur and would like to share your story, reach out to me via LinkedIn. I am looking forward to it!