Ani Voruganti is a third-year medical student at the University of Oxford. Back home in India, he has helped found a registered not-for-profit called Students for Students Blob For Learning, which aims to bridge the gap between government and private school students – both of whom face their own set of problems. However, SfS aims to redefine volunteering as involving a two-way flow of learning – and as being a long-term and structured effort – as opposed to the usually one-off didactic process that it is.
I grew up in India, and when I was in high school I founded an ongoing student-run initiative called Towards A Green Education, which provides stationery to underprivileged students with money generated by recycling paper. Further, students also assemble new handmade notebooks from old blank pages of used notebooks, which would otherwise go to waste. Through such notebook making events, we have provided stationery to hundreds of students in South India, made hundreds of handmade notebooks and collected over 30 tons of recyclable paper.
A few years ago, while working on TAGE, I became concerned with the problems that affect volunteering today – the fact that volunteering is usually a one-off project limited to usually 20 hours or so, and the lack of continuity between volunteers and a lack of standardisation of content taught. Furthermore, there was the impression that volunteers have not as much to learn as the students they go to teach.
To try and fix many of these problems at once, we came up with Students for Students – a model that involves middle school students who engage in volunteering as a long-term, structured effort, with content designed by Oxford students to help stimulate discussions, thought and most importantly, fun!
I think entrepreneurship is taking an idea and actually putting into practice – anyone can come up with an idea to change the world and solve all our problems – putting this into practice is a whole different ballgame.
I became involved in the social initiative space in India quite early in high school, and I think as we gained momentum it became easier to put bigger and bigger ideas into practice. The summer before coming to university was the most defining time for SfS.
I think the first would be consistent discipline, because when you are working on a self-determined timescale, things can stall and you end up working in bursts interspersed with lean periods. I think one needs to be consistent. The second would be perseverance because not everyone will believe in your idea like you do (after all, it is your baby) and this can be disheartening. Finally, the ability to adapt. Sometimes your ideas may not reflect what is possible in reality, but you need to be wiling to change what you expect.
I love knowing that an idea that you envisioned is out there making an impact, however small or large!
I love Elon Musk because he dreams of things that are sometimes far too fantastic to be real – and yet manages to implement them in cold, hard practice.
I would really like to ask Elon Musk what his timetable is like, and what he thinks about when he thinks about his future plans for his companies.
I find that it is very easy to not be proactive and let things slip. I’ve learnt that discipline is extremely important, and there is a need to schedule things and stick to them.
We are currently in very early stages and are self-funded, and are looking for funding for our cause!
I love hearing about other entrepreneurs’ stories and ideas – there is such a rich social and professional network here.
I would highly recommend attending the Enterprise Oxford social events, as well as Oxford University Innovation’s events.
Don’t ever forget to have fun!