Kashmir’s Captain - Mentoring Students to choose career of choice

Ruhan and his roommates engaged in a typical hostel room discussion one evening regarding how people remain stuck in a career they dislike instead of pursuing their passion, realizing that they all shared this tragic coincidence. It struck them that the reason behind this was the deteriorating quality of the Indian education system and the lack of assessment on student’s career guidance. Proving that age is no key in business, Ruhan Madni Naqash, a 22-year-old Kashmiri set out to prove that success and following ones passion is interdependent. While pursuing BTech in Electronics and Communication from SRM University, Chennai, Ruhan with the other founders initially started with a magazine known as ‘Inking Pages’ created by a community of writers, designers and illustrators for the young minds.

“I couldn’t pursue a career in writing which was my passion from the start. Because of the societal and parental pressure, I ended up going to Chennai for my B.Tech. From the beginning I disliked it and just to keep myself busy I tried my hands on theatre, debate and various other activities. Then I met Zeeshan, one of the co-founders and was intrigued by the idea of helping teens in making informed career choices so that they wouldn’t make the same mistake,” says Ruhan.

 

However, little did they know that the print media was less preferable though it provided tangibility? At the end of the year 2013 Ruhan and his team found themselves in a debt of Rs 2 lakh because of the personal loans they had taken for launching this magazine. Refusing to give up, Ruhan and his team found a way out with the help of mentorship provided by IIM Bangalore and clawed their way back with a more revolutionized project of providing mentorship programs online. Deriving inspiration from the movie Dead Poets Society, this team of budding entrepreneurs realized that mentorship is the key to career success for young professionals and hence was born MyCaptain in 2015.

“Our main product is MyCaptain which is a youth-mentoring-youth initiative, where students are mentored by young achievers for a month. Every student is guided in his field of interest that he opts for in the beginning of the program. All the mentors are below the age of 25, which is very important for us as the mentees find it easier to relate their problems with them because they have surmounted the same obstacles not long ago. These mentors are labeled as captains,” says Ruhan.

The mentors devote one hour to interact with these students every alternate day. Ruhan claims that till date more than 8000 mentees have attended mentorship sessions in sixteen different fields including journalism, photography, graphic design, web development, novel writing etc.

 

These mentorship programs are held online, with mentees logging on to the website of MyCaptain after signing up and paying an amount of Rs 1,000.

“We started off with a third party app which was Skype and it was an instant hit. We got students from all over the country. People loved the idea of interacting with someone who has already achieved a milestone in his career. These mentors would also give their mentees an idea about how the profession in itself was. Some of these people were well established, so they also were able to provide internships to our mentees. Because of the problem in bandwidth, instead of using a video conference call we changed the model to using texting on Whatsapp. Now we have our own tech platform which is a business application and very soon we will be releasing our android and iOS apps,” says Ruhan.

MyCaptain has been recognized by the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network among the top 50 youth led projects in the world and is the only startup from India to be listed therein.

The firm employees twenty people who spread awareness about MyCaptain in different colleges and schools. This startup is bootstrapped and is incubated by NS Raghavan Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning, Bangalore.

“We are a bootstrapped startup that is we haven’t accepted any funding in spite of getting many offers and yet are completely profitable which is a challenge in itself. Our expenditure alters on a monthly basis as the market for MyCaptain keeps growing. Our business model also consists of holding events in which speakers, musicians, artists interact with students across India,” says Ruhan.

MyCaptain was founded by five people among whom Ruhan is the only one from Kashmir. Though Ruhan is finding it difficult to fully establish the roots of MyCaptain in the Kashmir valley because of the frequent internet ban, he talks about some of the few achievers who managed to sprout their wings of success.

“Abdal Mehraj from Sopore became a mentee with our MyCaptain program for graphic design. After his mentorship program, he applied for some of the top design colleges in India. He was selected in Symbiosis Institute of Design Pune which is a very big achievement,” says Ruhan

Digital technology has enabled the budding tech entrepreneurs to exhibit their talent in a more innovative form, helping them to flourish in their chosen arenas. This young entrepreneur wants the youth of Kashmir to exploit the power of social media and to be loyal towards their dreams,

“In a place like Kashmir where hopelessness is almost palpable, the youth needs to realize that they have to take the reins in their own hands and make a change themselves rather than waiting for the others to do it.”