After Piyush Garg completed his first trek with Indiahikes to Goechala, he mooted the idea of Young Indians (Yi) members going together on a specially designed trek that would “strengthen leadership skills and enhance the team spirit among members from different chapters.” Having heard of the Collaborative Leadership Program (CLP) that Indiahikes offers many colleges and professionals, including the premier B-Schools of the country, Piyush and other Yi members enquired if the same could be organised for them. That was the genesis of a relationship between Yi and Indiahikes.
Formed in 2002 as an offshoot of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), Yi has over 4000 members, mostly entrepreneurs or professionals from different fields, located in 57 Indian cities. Their YUVA members, numbering over 20,000, are students from 150 Indian colleges. Aged between 21 and 45, Yi members undertake “impactful projects and activities” towards “Youth Leadership, Nation Building and Thought Leadership.”
Today, as you read this, chapters of Yi are in conversation with each other and with Indiahikes to take trekking forward in their own different ways. We share some of their stories today, hoping that other organisations similar to Yi understand the deep impact that trekking can have.
A team of Young Indians participating in the Dayara Bugyal trek. Picture by Sumit
Young Professionals Are Choosing The Collaborative Leadership Program to hone leadership skills
Piyush’s motivation was the connection he saw between Yi’s goals and the Indiahikes philosophy of trekking. “In the Yi groups, we have a project on Climate Change that aligns a lot with the Green Trails project of Indiahikes,” he says.
Further, the Indiahikes way of “executing the trek” left a deep impression on him. “It was not like going on a normal trek. I observed how our Trek Leader, Dhaval Jajal, took complete responsibility for us in very adverse weather and displayed true leadership skills.” Piyush felt that a HMC trek would give Yi members across the country a chance to strengthen their collaboration and leadership skills. It would also help them to get to know each other better.
So late in May 2022, around 40 members from Young Indians, belonging to different chapters across the country, met at Dayara Bugyal, to participate in the Collaborative Leadership Program (CLP).
“Trekking is beyond Nature and landscapes”
Prabin Agarwal, Yi Siliguri, who was part of the program, returned and put forth a suggestion that Yi groups should go every year on such treks. This is because trekking teaches you to move beyond small things, he says.
Speaking of how the team dynamics changed over the course of the CLP trek he says that initially you are “selfish and want the best of everything for yourself.” Soon, you learn how you have to work as a team to go ahead and there is a significant change in empathy levels. Thanks to that experience, he says he is able to be more empathetic at work now.
Trekking also trains the conditioned urban body to be more resilient in Nature, he says, describing how he would initially be anxious over a possible rain while trekking. Trekking enables surmounting such fears and puts things in perspective. “I love Nature but trekking is much beyond Nature and landscapes,” says Prabin.
“Trekking makes you vulnerable and caring”
Divya P Venkat, Chairperson Climate Change, Yi - Chennai also attended the same CLP trek. She highly recommends trekking for the space it allows for reflection (in the “unmatched serenity of the Himalayas”) and the vulnerability it triggers. “Trekking offers you knowledge and wisdom if you keep your eyes and ears open. Your mind will absorb like a sponge,” she says.
At the basecamp, the participants “took it casually,” according to her. There was a lot of evidence that the intentions towards a green trek had not been understood, she says. The initial interactions with the Trek Leader Aditya Bodke was a hard reminder, she observed.
Over the next few days, she says, the team dynamics transformed through the activities they had to undertake together. What is remarkable, according to her, is the quality of bonding and empathy that develops. “You get friends for a lifetime,” she says and the “immersive experience” enables taking home many learnings to your work and life.
Having worked for over 12 years in sustainability, she still learnt new things about how the human body interacts with nature. During the long conversation on sustainability in the HMC trek, she says. “I listened to everyone and understood how much effort each of them is putting in to be more sustainable in their lifestyles. I got an opportunity to share some knowledge on the same subject with other trekkers,” she adds. The experience of having a conversation like this while in the mountains is invaluable in her opinion.
All Young Indians team members played a big role in cleaning up trails and leaving mountains better as they trekked. Picture by Mukesh
Yi Chennai has seen first hand how trekking enables Experiential Learning among students
Nithin Bothra, who heads Yi Chennai, played a key role in the trek that students from 17 Chennai colleges went on through Yi sponsorship. Having sent his elder son alone on a trek with Indiahikes earlier in the year, Nithin says he noticed “positive changes” in his son. The usual activities that Yi plans for students (like lectures) were “not enabling experiential learning. This is where the idea to sponsor students on a trek with Indiahikes took root,” he says. After he got his son to speak at various colleges about his trek experience, the colleges nominated one student each for a trek to Ali Bedni Bugyal with Indiahikes, through Yi sponsorship.
Prathima Chhabria, Experiential Learning Coordinator, Indiahikes, interacted with the students, answered their queries and attended a pre-trek orientation. “I observed that the students were shy, they didn’t know each other and there was a language barrier,” she says.
The story was quite different after the trek. “After the trek, I saw how much they had changed. They had overcome cultural differences, language barriers and become a team. One student said he wants to become a Trek Leader and asked me how he could prepare himself for such a role!” Every student described how the specially designed activities and challenges had enabled their growth and learning.
The student trekkers went back to college and spoke about their trek experiences in an informal chat in the canteen and at a formally organised sharing. The Principals and teachers noted a change in the students’ awareness levels as they spoke of climate change, food wastage in the canteen and other such subjects. This is when the teachers asked Yi Chennai why they could not go on an Indiahikes trek. To this Yi Chennai happily agreed. They immediately started to plan for a trek in the September of this year “This trek will be subsidized by Yi Chennai to enable more teachers from other colleges to also join,” added Nithin.
Students sponsored by Young Indians, Chennai, on the Ali Bedni Bugyal Trek. Picture shared by the students.
Yi is now taking a greener approach towards daily activities and events
Nithin, an entrepreneur himself, says he has not just become a trekker for life but also a strong advocate of trekking as an activity. “What you expect, you do not get while trekking. The climate is varied. The mobile network is not constant. You are cut off. We should cut ourselves off from our regular routines like this. Also, when you run an organisation, you never face challenges upfront. If something goes wrong, there are many people who take the flak. But here, you have to do everything that you have to do,” he says.
He got new insights into leading an organisation while trekking with Indiahikes, he says. He saw “pure passion” at work in all the teams from kitchen to trek leading. It didn’t seem like they were “working for a living.”
Influenced by the interactions with his Trek Leader Ravi Ranjan, the conversations and the activities around understanding sustainability, Nithin introduced immediate changes in his workplace. Customized glass bottles have replaced plastic bottles at events and at the office. “The bottles come labelled ‘Everything is a Choice.’ We have received queries and appreciation from guests. Even in external events, we will only be using our glass bottles if the hosts cannot provide us with glass bottles,” he says.
They have started a Book Box project to collect unused sheets from old notebooks, get them bound by people from Self Help Groups and then distribute those books among marginalised children. He has personally stopped using soaps and shampoos and switched to herbal cleaning agents like turmeric.
Having used Indiahikes Eco Bags to clean up trails. sustainablility is a big learning all participants are taking back home with them. Picture by Raghul
The mountains make for great classrooms, and several chapters of Young Indians across the country have realised that. Having seen the outcomes first hand, they have become strong advocates of trekking, whether in the Himalayas or near their homes, whether with their families, or their colleagues.
Experiential Learning has had a strong role to play in all of their takeaways, whether on a regular Indiahikes trek or on a pre-designed Collaborative Leadership Program.
We hope more and more organisations like Young Indians understand the impact that trekking can have on the mind, body and spirit and encourage their team members to trek. For us, there is nothing more heartening than when groups take to learning together and return with lessons for a lifetime.