Jagriti Yatra
Jagriti Yatra participants dancing with students at Gram Vikas school in Orissa.Google

In a bid to encourage entrepreneurship and help the world discover India and its people, Internet search engine Google conducted a 15 day "Jagriti Yatra" that covered 8,500km. The journey finished on Jan. 8.

"Jagriti Yatra is an annual train journey that takes more than 400 of India's highly motivated youth (ages 20-26) on a 15-day trip to introduce them to India's challenges, and to the individuals and institutions that are developing unique solutions to social challenges," said a statement by Google.

The statement also said the goal of the event was "to inspire these young people to develop and lead social and economic entrepreneurship in their own communities". Approximately 50 experienced professionals also joined the Yatra, to serve as mentors.

"This year's, participants came from all four corners of the country-rich states and poor states, urban, semi-urban and rural. A large portion came from low-income rural families, and many of them (especially the women) had fought great odds to get a good education. Now, they wanted to give back to their communities," said Adhi Kesarla, Principal of New Business Development at Google India, who was also on the trip, as a mentor.

The Yatra, which focused on issues in health care, agri-business, the provision of drinking water and the supply of energy, started in Mumbai, on Dec. 25. The participants stopped over at 12 different places in India.

"Our days began at 5:30am and ended at 11:30pm, and the majority of time was spent pounding the pavement, from villages in Orissa and Uttar Pradesh to the suburbs of Madurai and Patna" Kesarla explained.

Kesarla further spoke of the experiences of the journey, saying the visits brought them face-to-face with some of India's major challenges. Confronted with the stark reality of the youth abandoning their farming traditions, the presence of vast open-air garbage dumps in town centers, the sight of girls dropping out of school after the eighth grade and unemployed undergraduates scrounging money to bribe their way into government jobs, the participants were even more motivated to become agents of change in their country. 

Apart from financial support, Google also provided Wi-Fi, an SMS channel, a YouTube channel and a Google+ account for the train journey, to enable all participants and the Yatra followers to get updates and chronicle and share their journey with the world.