Students experienced the hardship of having to live on Rs. 26 a day

They are yet to graduate. But before that, they got to experience being an employee and an entrepreneur. More than anything else, they experienced the hardship of having to live on Rs. 26 a day — skipping meals, travelling on buses, and scouring the city for a job for the day.

This is what first-year management students of the joint programme of PSG Institute of Management (PSGIM) and University of Toledo, U.S., did under ‘Anubhav 2013’, an experiential learning programme as part of the Organisational Behaviour paper.

Each of them was provided with a day’s pocket money of Rs. 26 to go by. After spending two days as an employee, they had to use the money thus earned to set up an entrepreneurial venture, which they operated for two days.

As many as 49 students found employment ranging from washing cars, delivering ironed clothes, as mechanics, as cleaners, servers, sorting and packing groceries, selling flowers by the signals, and even making artificial jewellery in a store. They earned between Rs. 100 and Rs. 350 a day. And, all this they had to do without revealing their true identity.

Their earnings went into setting up roadside eateries, mehendi and tattoo counters on pavements and marketing packaged groceries.

Talking about the second edition of ‘Anubhav 2013’, its coordinator Manju P. George said that it was different from last year in that in the earlier edition, students were given an option to be an employee or an entrepreneur. But this year, they had to be both.

The exercise was to make them experience the life of an employee and an entrepreneur before they became managers in real life.

Hearing them share their experiences, it was clear that ‘Anubhav’ had made a deep impact in the lives of the students.

There were stories of how the landlord and mechanic shop owners ill-treated their labourers, what hard work for long hours meant and that money earned through honest employment was worth every penny irrespective of the kind of work.

From having spent a few hundred rupees a day, to be allowed to spend only Rs. 26, the students said they realised the value of money and what it took to earn every single rupee.

When the turn came for them to become entrepreneurs, they decided to form groups and start ventures because that way there was more money and more hands to work for the venture.

But entrepreneurship too was not a cake walk for them. Their roadside eatery and juice shops had to be shifted many times because the police did not permit them to put these up. They had to walk several times to the nearest police station for permissions. But their perseverance paid off and they were able to able to make decent profit.

‘Anubhav’ has made them learn lessons for life that they say they will never forget — treating people not as employees but as human beings and that building a business from nothing is possible.

But the most important lesson they have learnt is to appreciate food as most of them had to go hungry for not being able to buy food with Rs. 26. This learning was seen when a student offered Rs. 10 — from Rs. 26 — to an alms seeker who was hungry.