Anoushka Jolly (14), class IX student of the Pathways School Gurgaon and Founder of Innerark Blocktech Private Limited, was in limelight again after receiving the ‘Pradhan Mantri Rashtriya Bal Puraskar (PMRBP)’ this year from the President of India, Droupadi Murmu on the eve of Republic Day. She was among 11 children who were feted with the National Award. She was chose under ‘Social Service’ category. Earlier in January 2022she made heads turn after featuring as the youngest entrepreneur in the SONY TV’s popular business reality show Shark Tank India — the India edition of the eponymous American show — and getting funding of Rs.5 lakh for her Anti-Bullying Squad (ABS) start-up. Autar Nehru spoke with her on this recognition and journey.
Congratulations on winning the Rashtriya Bal Puraskar national award. So has the feeling of this big moment sunk in?
Thank you. Meeting the President at the award ceremony at the Rashtrapati Bhavan and earlier the Prime Minister was an experience of lifetime. This feeling cannot be described in words. I am grateful for this opportunity and feel more motivated than ever before. This means a lot to me as my passion and campaign against bullying has got amplified.
Youngsters like Anoushka Jolly have shown remarkable compassion and innovation. She is diligently working on an App and other online programmes to spread awareness against bullying. Glad that she is now a Pradhan Mantri Rashtriya Bal Puraskar awardee. pic.twitter.com/joIFFRIeni
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) January 24, 2023
Before, talking about how you’re planning to scale up and spread your work, a lot of our readers would like to know how your journey of a ‘crusader’ started so early. What was the trigger?
When I was studying in grade 3 (in 2017), I noticed that classmates who were my friends were withdrawing me and passing comments on my curly hair and skin complexion. They would call me by all sorts of demeaning expressions. I did know what was happening as it continued for a long time until one day a terrible incident became the tipping point for me. One of the girls pulled down my pants and everybody started laughing and I cried a lot and narrated the sequence before my parents. Hearing this my parents told me to stand up against it and handle it. Though the school counselor brokered peace between us, I saw bullying happening to a little girl. And that’s when I started Anti-Bullying Squad (ABS) after receiving encouragement from my parents and support from my school. My father guided me on this. My goal was to reach out to a large amount of people and he suggested I create a website and add educational and informational content and blogs on the issue of bullying to raise more awareness around it
Now let’s first touch upon what exactly are you doing and how has this created so much buzz in schools and vast community of children?
Bullying is mostly trivialized in our institutions and victims often don’t know if it is bullying or not. So, my first goal has been educating children and parents about the concept of bullying and how to recognize it. In the initial period, I did it through personal sessions, then expanded by online presence and finally in March 2022 launched the mobile and web app, ‘Kavach’. The app has a simple interface where the victim can report bullying and schools take note of it. This way, our platform bridges the gap between victims and institutional help. It also hosts education module and other related recordings for children and adolescents to understand the whole issue of bullying.
How far has this app and your campaign taken your mission particularly after schools reopened post-covid pandemic?
Some 20,000 adolescents and children have so far benefited from our app. In addition we have created more than 300 ambassadors of ABS (They have to listen to a module on what is bullying and how to report it, etc and pass on the message to two other students). If the incident is of serious nature then the victim is referred to the professional help by the app. Seeing anonymity option makes more victims to come forward, the app has this feature of hiding identity as well.
Before asking on show Shark Tank India experience and outcome, a natural question is you couldn’t have created this landmark solutions alone. There will be people behind you.
Yes. My mother (Monika Jolly) who is a CAs left her practice to support me in my work and she in a way is my backend room support. Apart from Sharks Anupam Mittal and Aman Gupta, who provide mentorship and guidance to my entrepreneurial venture post their engagement as my investors, Prajakt Deotale, CDO of Microsoft UK, Vishesh Khurana, co-founder of Shiprocket (India’s 106th Unicorn) and Dr. Derick Lindquist, Dean at Jindal School of Psychology and Counselling are backing my work.
What about your school, which is itself a renowned name in its segment?
My school has been a pillar of support throughout my journey. I feel they are the reason I decided to take action in such a way because they have always encouraged student voice and choice. My primary and middle school teachers, school counsellors, school director Captain Rohit Sen Bajaj, Principal Ms. Dimpu Sharma have always guided me. They have shared their advice, perspective, resources and connects which has enabled me to create a much bigger impact.
Coming to Shark Tank India experience, how has this contributed to your success?
I would say it has really helped in spreading word about my work and cause. As I happened to be youngest shortlisted entrepreneur on the show and my story and pitch received a lot of attention besides the investment that I had asked for, it really shot up my confidence. As entrepreneurship along with psychology are my choicest passions, becoming a social entrepreneur was like a dream coming true as both Sharks Anupam Mittal and Aman Gupta provided a lot of guidance and mentorship on how to scale up this venture.
Now you’re working to take it further and scale it up to impact adolescents. Can you share a few details about this?
I am working on Kavach 2.0, its upgraded version using web 3.0 and metaverse technology. Aim is to provide support service to adolescents on a gamut of mental health issues. When the WHO says 1 in 7 of the world’s adolescents have a mental disorder, there is a lot of scope to support a majority of them who just require proper guidance and community support. It is not easy to be a teenager these days. There are gaps even though today’s generation is more open with parents. The peer and community connect is need of the hour for majority of the mental health affected as most of them just need a right kind of channel to open up and understand about solutions. So, that is what our target is.
Will this platform be for Indian population only or you’re looking beyond the borders as well?
I have always looked up to Mother Teresa (share birthday with her – 26th August), I was inspired by her to create change through the power of empathy. That vision and philosophy aided by enabling technology and mentorship resource that I have certainly makes it global mission and work.
In conclusion, though you’re are still young to decide on future course of your career, still can we say this is going to be your chosen field?
All that I can say is that it has been a passion and I have leant to balance my time between my studies and this and it has become part of me. That’s what I think is correct way of saying this at my age.