A Unique I Create-NFTE Entrepreneurship Program For Disadvantaged Youth And Women

09/21/2011 03:49 pm ET | Updated Nov 21, 2011

When 18-year-old Lukman Khan participated in the I Create-NFTE India National Business Plan Competition in Mumbai, he came in borrowed clothes. He didn't own shoes because he couldn't afford them. He always wore flip flops to college. His borrowed navy jacket was a little too big for his slim shoulders. But Lukman held his head high and gave a superlative Business plan presentation using PowerPoint. He spoke in Hindi as he did not know English; the knowledge of English being the symbol of a more privileged class in India. Lukman won the National Business plan competition in India and was awarded an all-expense paid trip to New York to participate in annual NFTE gala event. More later.

I Create, in partnership with NFTE, came into being in 1999 as a result of a traumatic incident. Harsh Bhargava, an MBA from Harvard Business School and a successful entrepreneur and a business professional, was visiting India from the US in 1999. One of the government agencies had advertised for 120 employment opportunities. There were so many unemployed youth that over one hundred thousand young men showed up for the jobs. A riot broke out, the police opened fire and three young men died -- three young men who had come looking for jobs to support their families!

A few months previous to this event, Harsh was part of a group of Harvard Business School senior alumni who attended a presentation given by Steve Mariotti, the Founder and President of NFTE about their unique entrepreneurship training program for inner city kids. Harsh was very impressed with this program and Steve's dedication. The idea of I Create was born in his mind. Harsh and his wife Aruna decided to start an organization in India that would help create jobs and job creators or entrepreneurs through entrepreneurship training.

Harsh and Aruna took the teacher training course at the NFTE center in New York and successfully adapted the NFTE curriculum to Indian conditions and participants, and launched I Create in 2000 with a first I Create Center in Kolkata and a Training of Trainers course, (TOT). Today I Create has 10 Centers all across India with five more to become functional in the next six months.

India, a growing economic power with the largest number of billionaires in the world outside of USA (even more than in China), unfortunately also has the largest number of poor in any country in the world. There are two huge issues.

This is part 1 of a 3-part series. Read part 2 here.