Before engaging with Enterprise India Fellowship in 2019, for over 9 years, Ankita Parashar gathered extensive and diverse professional experience freelance consulting with 40+ companies in India, UK, US and Australia working on topics ranging from education to women’s health, IT to jewellery, and fitness to event planning. Although she had come aboard Enterprise as a brand strategist, her role soon expanded as she became an active participant in the mentorship programme, running multiple different functional aspects, leading different parts of the team, and co-developing the ideology of the institute.
Being an artistically inclined soul, Ankita’s initial desire was to become a fashion designer, and when it was time for her to choose a higher education course and career path, she expressed the desire to her guardians. Her father had passed away a couple of years before, and things were turbulent at home, with her mother and elder brother trying earnestly to keep the household stable. In such a situation, the idea of embarking on such a risky career path did not sit well with them. The recent release of the Priyanka Chopra starring film Fashion, which depicted the industry to be a sleazy and exploitative place did not help her cause.
Slightly crestfallen, Ankita chose to pursue a BBA degree from MIT, in an effort to capitalise on her business background. Following its conclusion, she changed courses and decided on a teaching career, opting to join a B.Ed course at SNDT, while working as a primary teacher simultaneously.
It was while doing this course that she discovered graphic design as a discipline, and the possibility of putting these designs on clothes reignited her passion for fashion designing. So she pivoted her career path again, and pursued a 6 month long graphic design course, before finally settling into a freelancing career.
An Enterprising Partnership
When Ankita connected with Enterprise India Fellowship, she had been in the field as a freelancer for almost a decade. Despite having multiple friends and family members in the business world, and the educational qualification to back her up, the struggle to become established as a viable freelance graphic designer had been uphill, and unaided. Her repertoire had expanded from graphic design to include social media management, website design, and business strategizing. As she started working in conjunction with the institute, she aligned with their intention of trying to bridge the gap between the educational and professional world by aiding youth to establish themselves in the fields of interest to them.
As a freelancer, Ankita had the practical experience of building portfolios, sourcing clients, and establishing professional legitimacy in the world. She was impressed by Enterprise India Fellowship’s attempt to streamline this process of transition by making practical work a part of the didactic experience.
The founders of the institute, Yusuf Hakim, Palak Krishnamurthy and Aditya Jhunjhunwala, had wanted to disrupt the unilinear classroom structure with a more interactive approach. Ankita decided to join in that effort as the co-lead of the institute alongside Aditya Jhunjhunwala, and together they led the establishment of the Capsule Projects- innovative consulting projects with MSMEs that the students get to work on- which serve as a medium of learning and mentorship for students.
So far, EIF has facilitated a variety of consulting projects (from helping organisations with their recruitment strategy to building their social media presence by doing user research, from creating an e-book to using design thinking to solve challenges) for 63+ youth from 11+ cities and 17+ education streams with 19+ organisations. These projects are the vehicle of learning for the students and a way for MSMEs to have strategy and expertise support at a low cost. Ankita facilitates the engagement between students and the MSMEs.
She and the team secured multiple projects with clients from different industries (drone to wellness, construction to cookware, jewellery to AI), and allowed interested fellows to choose the ones they wanted to work on. This independent approach provided them with an instinctive accountability, and also helped them build a robust portfolio that prepared them better for the job market by building self-awareness and work/life readiness.
The gratitude of the EIF Alumni is palpable, as the programme has been instrumental in teaching them to work in a team, manage multiple priorities simultaneously, communicate clearly, be confident in taking on challenges, and learn more about their strengths, aspirations and areas of growth.
Vision and Impact
What Ankita shares with the founders of Enterprise India Fellowship, is a desire to better the educational structure of the country. In her own words, the aim is not to work against the education system, but with it, and to complement the innovative changes that the 2020 National Education Policy is bringing to transform the education system out of the epistemological rut that it’s colonial roots and an outdated bureaucratic approach has unfortunately put it in. The Fellowship works through an interactive co-constitutive approach where the mentors and fellows interact on an equal footing, learning from each other. Ankita dreams of taking this approach to different stakeholders in India’s employment and education systems to work towards a necessary change in the systems and mindsets of our youth population to help build their self-awareness and work/life readiness needed for the job market.
Given the hands-on approach, Enterprise India Fellowship only works with 50 students per year, however, every year, approximately 2 crore students graduate from college in India. EIF acknowledges that no one organisation can help address the scale of the problem by themselves. Thus, the need to influence stakeholders including parents, education institutes and NGOs to support student communities by encouraging them to get involved in activities beyond academics like co-curriculars, sports, volunteering, internships and more to build the competencies needed by the job market.
The Enterprise India Fellowship is exploring how to use their work as a learning lab to leverage their learnings and innovations (like these innovative consulting projects) to indirectly support more and more young people by supporting intermediaries who work with them in open-sourcing the effectively prototyped innovations in the form of guided processes and toolkits.
The world in general, and India in particular, is in need of confident professionals who are able to handle rapidly changing needs of the economy. With regards to her unique focus on MSMEs, Ankita says that she intends to help prepare fellows to be able to work with clients of all ages and backgrounds, making their approach malleable to differing situations. As the global economy is increasingly becoming the playground of massive MNCs acting as international oligarchs, Ankita sees the need to focus on developing smaller businesses with a robust team of dedicated and skilled employees, as a large percentage of India’s economic sustainability lies in the success of our MSMEs.
In a nutshell, Ankita Parashar, like many of us, has struggled through the confusing, often hostile, professional world to make an individual mark upon it. In collaboration with Enterprise India Fellowship, she wants to share her experiences and connections with a new batch of individuals, aiding their journey towards professional independence and confidence, while concurrently exploring methods of affecting underlying mindsets and societal structures with enough veracity to influence systemic change. And like the best mentors and leaders, she is also open to enriching her own knowledge through the diverse interactions that the fellowship and its impact vision and strategy as a learning lab offers leading to an appropriately holistic institution that has the capacity to influence effective change. I look forward to experiencing the realization of the world they have collectively imagined.