Young Indians spurs social change via campuses

With a strong presence in Thiruvananthapuram, Yi has established two key verticals: Innovation and Climate Change.
An AI workshop held as part of the Yi Innovation vertical programme
An AI workshop held as part of the Yi Innovation vertical programmePhoto | Express

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: They are a group of entrepreneurs trying to better the environment around them as they achieve their business goals. Part of Young Indians (Yi), CII’s youth wing, these game changers have been reaching out to various sectors of society aiming to make a significant impact.

With a strong presence in Thiruvananthapuram, Yi has established two key verticals: Innovation and Climate Change. These initiatives target school children (Talir), college students (Yuva), rural communities, and Yi members, preparing society for upcoming technological and environmental challenges.

“We have always engaged in socially relevant projects, often quietly. We are not an NGO but a voluntary group of young entrepreneurs committed to societal improvement. Yi has been active nationally for about 20 years, and recently, some of our verticals have been strengthened,” says Sankari Unnithan, co-chair of Yi’s Thiruvananthapuram chapter alongside Dr Sumesh Chandran, the chair.

Yi’s flagship projects include Project Masoom for child abuse victims and their caregivers, road safety awareness programmes, and entrepreneurship initiatives. “We have 12 verticals,” Sankari says. The latest additions are Innovation, focusing on technological advancements, climate change, and accessibility to ensure facilities are usable by everyone.

The Innovation vertical emphasises AI education, organising hackathons, workshops and design contests for Yuva teams in colleges. They also groom students to be industry-ready in AI and robotics upon graduation. “Our aim is to introduce AI and robotics to schools and colleges through workshops, helping students understand the basics and decide if they want to pursue these fields further. We held an ideation competition nationally, involving students from premier engineering colleges in Kerala and other institutions partnering with us,” says Rajasekharan, co-chair of the Yi Innovation vertical.

The ideation competition, with a prize of Rs 1.5 lakh, identifies innovative talents whose ideas can be funded and developed into start-ups. “A project with Kerala Startup Mission is also in the pipeline for design thinking workshops. Also, we have an array of entrepreneurs in our midst who could help with such innovative ideas,” Rajasekharan says.

One project was the Innove exhibition, encouraging school children to create AI and Robotics projects. “A school in Adoor developed an AI-based wheelchair prototype, which we aim to develop.”

In addition, Yi also supports schools with Atal Tinkering Labs (ATLs), a central government initiative to foster creativity and computational thinking in students. “We offer resource training and weekend workshops. We are not able to be full-time mentors because of our work commitments. Also, the funds in the ATLs are not consistent, making it challenging to pursue diverse projects,” Rajasekharan explains.

Another significant Yi initiative focuses on climate change, conducting awareness programmes for various stakeholders. Last year’s successful Kovalam marathon aimed to conserve marine life. “This year, we aim to restore mangroves and ponds, like the Poovar mangrove and a city pond. We also organise nature walks, such as a recent one to Gavi,” says Sankari. This year’s edition of the Kovalam marathon is coming up in September.

The other major focus of the youth group is to make accessible the facilities in the capital city to all, especially the physically challenged. They have organised awareness walkathons and are now working with firms in Technopark and other areas to enhance accessibility.

A project with a premium hotel is in the offing whereby the plan is to make the facilities there accessible to the visually impaired.

“For example, we are suggesting bringing out a Braille version of the menu card,” says Sankari, adding that Yi is working towards Building Bharat, this year’s theme for the CII youth body.

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