“If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!”
Meet Mohammed Zeeshan, a B.tech graduate from SRM University and a young social entrepreneur who believes that innovative business ideas can solve some of the most complex societal problems in Asia. At the age as young as nineteen, Zeeshan co-founded ‘The Climber‘ an Education Startup helping students discover their passions and make informed career choices. Since its founding on 14th August 2013, the organization has grown to impact more than 35,000 students across with its operations in as many as 9 cities. It is incubated at IIM Bangalore and was judged as the best early stage startup in 2015. It has also been recognized by the United Nation’s SDSN as one of top 50 youth led solutions in the world.Zeeshan has a keen interest in Non Profit Consultancy where he aspires to work with NPOs and NGOs to help build financial sustainable models. He also has an interest in working on implementing impact measurement tools in these social ventures. Zeeshan has also been an a well-known speaker in TEDxICTMumbai, TEDxKLETECH, TEDxSRM, TEDxDPSyouth. He definitely seems like a promising leader who will make a difference in the world with his efforts. Let’s know more about his journey and about Climber.
In a conversation with Zeeshan :
What is the message you actually want to spread through your ted talks ?
“For Students to know that University and College is where they can truly discover themselves, try different things, discover their passions.” This is the message I want to spread through my ted talks as I strongly believe that College years is the most important growth period of one’s life.
These days reservation system is a trending issue. Some say that the reserved candidates will not really be able to prove themselves and those seats go as a waste while some believe that it helps them get a career. Now consider yourself as a student, what would be your views on the reservation system, when you see yourself struggling to get through a few examinations where the cut off is high and a friend of yours from the reserved quota getting through much easily?
The question is of equity and not equality. Thousands of years of oppression cannot be solved and made up to by 50 odd years of reservation. While it does get too competitive for students belonging to the general category, also remember that we often tend to ignore the privileges we have as compared to others, and the roles these privileges play in our favor. Someone studying in a city like Delhi, having access to the best infrastructure, teachers, facilities and standard of living not being able to get into his dream college because of reservations, compared to someone belonging to a tier 3 city or underprivileged or having no access to top quality facilities who must have scored 30 marks less, or probably answered 10 questions less than the former. We need to understand how privileges work in our favor and acknowledge them.
Coming to the practical world, when there is a conference going on, most people don’t even hear most of it. How do you make your speeches and your lectures unique so that students can actually get inspired by your words of wisdom?
We give extreme importance to curation of the talk. Not only do we curate an individual talk, we curate every stage, performance and schedule. Tremendous importance is given to the ambience, decoration and feel of the event making it an experience and not just a conference.
How far has Climber been successful in spreading its message and actually helping students to pursue their passion?
We’ve had 14 year old publish their own books, 16 year old starting up their own startups and several 18-19 year old ending up winning national competitions and bagging internships through our programs. Our mentored students have gone out to join London School of Economics, Rhodes Island School of Design, Given TEDx talks and been covered by news papers for their work as well.
Now coming to passion and helping students discover it there is always a barrier. Supposing a student is not interested in science but his family has a big name in that line and his parents want him to pursue Medical and forces him to take it up. If you are given a chance to talk to both of them in a common room, how would you tackle the situation so that there everyone in the family is satisfied by a certain decision.
In India it is still a huge problem, and changing mindsets is difficult. Despite having all stakeholders in the room the parents do have biases which more often do not change. We require a cultural and societal shift. While a lot of our mentored students have been able to change their fields and follow their passions, equal number of them haven’t been able to, however we have seen a culture change over the last 4 years.
In a world where everyone is busy talking about advancement of technology and politics why did you think that helping students discover their passion would be of prime importance and that you would actually be successful in helping them?
Climber wasn’t started to be a startup or to be a company. It was started to solve the problems that I and my generation faced and we focus on doing that.
What struggles have you faced in your career and why do you think your talks would be an inspiration for others?
We’ve seen days of bankruptcy, external debt, team changing and of success, impact stories, multi million dollar valuations, investment offers and recognitions. I do not know if my talks are in their true sense “inspirational” or not, but yes, I do like interacting with students and sharing our story with them and hope to share my experiences via the same.