Published: 28th September 2022
Teachers have the most power in situations of bullying: Anoushka Jolly, youngest entrepreneur from Shark Tank India
Anoushka Jolly, the social entrepreneur from Shark Tank India, talks about bullying, how the trauma can affect one’s adult life and how Kavach can help
Anoushka Jolly, a 13-year-old student at Pathways School Gurugram appeared on the Indian version of American entrepreneurial reality show Shark Tank and won a funding of Rs 50 lakh this year for her pitch. This was the first season of Shark Tank in India and Anoushka was the youngest to receive funding for her idea of the Kavach app that aims to resolve the issue of bullying in schools and colleges.
The word ‘Kavach’ means ‘shield’ in Sanskrit and it will not only help parents and victims report bullying incidents, but also help schools take actions in tactful ways. Through the app, Anoushka also aims to conduct seminars and sessions to sensitise and educate everyone regarding bullying. The Class VIII students spoke with EdexLive to shed more light on her previous endeavours and about what led to the germination of this noble idea.
How did it feel like to be the youngest entrepreneur on Shark Tank India?
It felt great, but at the same time it was humbling. I felt like this was just the beginning of my journey because if I could be on Shark Tank India as the youngest contestant then I have a long way to go in my life. I should keep helping people and keep up the good work so that I can spread my wings further and reach out to as many students as I can.
Tell us more about the Kavach app. Where did the idea come from?
I have been working on the topic of bullying for the past four years now and the idea for the Kavach app came up because I had already done a lot of groundwork. Thus, I had conversations with many students, victims, counsellors and teachers; and I realised that the one issue as to why bullying remains unabated is because it remains unreported.
The idea that whatever bullying incident is reported can be resolved is what led to the creation of the ‘Kavach’ app. On this app, parents and victims can report incidents anonymously which will eliminate the victim’s fear of their identity being known and schools can, in turn, view them to take actions. The schools can also find information regarding the pattern and trend of bullying in their premises based on what is being report. This would help them take preventive measures. This is a new age problem and even schools are looking for solutions, so we are here to provide it.
What were the challenges you faced while building the app?
This was my first time building an app. It started with a lot of brainstorming and we faced quite a few technical issues in general but apart from that, bullying is a very sensitive issue so creating an app for that becomes very difficult. People would have several apprehensions as to how the app would work out. We also faced a lot of rejection.
The Kavach app
Additionally, it was difficult to brainstorm and build the app in a way that it catered to the needs of the parents, students and the schools. We had to think from each perspective and see why they would use the app. For example, if a parent downloads the app, what benefit would it bring to the parent and more importantly, if a school implements the app, then how would it be helpful to them? These appeared in front of us as immense challenges.
How has the response been so far from schools and colleges?
So far, the schools that we spoke to liked the concept of the app. Most of the heads we spoke to had the same thing to say, that this is a very useful app. It will take some time for the institutes to implement the use of this app and although it will be difficult for the first one or two months, after the process settles, it’ll become a very helpful tool.
It can help the school as they can show everybody that they have a proper mechanism in place for reporting bullying incidents. As I said, this is a new age problem and schools are confused as to how to deal with it. This will allow them to prevent bullying as well as solve cases related to bullying. So, the schools are happy to implement it.
Where do you see the Kavach app in the future?
I see the Kavach app expanding and providing other mental health services to schools. Also, Kavach would definitely be an inculcation of all the work that I would be doing, I want all of that on the Kavach app. However, more than anything, I want the app to be able to impact as many students as possible — whether that is through reporting, or schools, awareness building or education; I want it to reach the maximum number of people.
We heard about your Anti-Bullying Squad, when did that start and how is it doing now?
I started the Anti-Bullying Squad (ABS) when I was nine years old, in August 2018 and this was before I started working on the Kavach app. Initially, my work started in different schools. I would arrange for online and offline sessions and write blogs for it. I would also design websites by myself and counsel individuals who were victims of bullying and get people to share their experiences.
So, at first, ABS was a non-profit and a lot of ground work on bullying was involved. Then I decided that I wanted to go bigger because in ABS, it was just me taking sessions and I wanted a larger impact on a global scale. It is still going strong, I still take sessions and I just finished collaborating with NGO Roots 2 Roots which helped me reach 24,000 different schools pan-India. Through Kavach, I want to make ABS bigger.
Screenshot from the Kavach app
Why would you say so much bullying happens on premises of schools and how seriously do schools in India take this issue?
The reason why so much bullying happens on premises of schools is because of the social environment. We don’t have enough conversations about bullying and mental health; especially here in India. The schools in the West have a very progressive mindset about these issues and there is a constant attempt to sensitise everyone about it. Here, however, since we do not have that many conversations about it, students don’t understand what they are doing and why it is harmful.
No one reminds them how toxic this is and victims find it difficult to make themselves known. As for the schools, some of them are trying to solve bullying and taking it up very seriously. They are recognising bullying and that itself is a huge deal, but unfortunately, in rural areas, mental health is not even considered. Hence, it is a mix of a progressive mindset and the old mindset.
What roles would you say teachers play in both preventing and adding to the bullying in a class?Teacher’s role is the most important because they have the most amount of power in the situation. I have heard so many stories where the teacher has started the bullying or witnessed bullying and did nothing to prevent it. It is the teacher’s duty to know when, where and how to intervene, but in India, they aren’t given enough training to know what to do, or to do anything at all. Although it's their responsibility, they do not have resources or proper training to understand how to handle such situations.
Do you think it is important to sensitise both students and teachers?
Like I said, teachers have immense power in these situations, so, it becomes very crucial that they are sensitised about these issues. We have a one hour programme for students, parents, schools and teachers. We talk about all the aspects of bullying like the mindset of the victim, the bully, the by-stander, the school and the parents. It also informs people what bullying is, how it can be resolved, why it happens and what a parent, teacher or a by-stander can do to help.
When students face bullying in school, they are in their formative years. How do these instances of bullying affect them later in their life?
When one is bullied while their identity is just forming, it can hurt them a lot. It can affect how one views their own self and the world around them. Their self-confidence and self-esteem drops and without self-confidence or faith in self, it becomes extremely difficult to achieve things later in life. It stunts people in a way and they find it difficult to be themselves.
Further, these youngsters also develop mental health issues and even years later, they might still not be able to get out of the trauma that the incident caused them. A friend of my father, for example, refused to be added to a reunion WhatsApp group even at this age because of the hurt a few people caused him. These people were responsible for bringing down his self-confidence and he was unable to muster the courage to face them. So, many people bear the brunt of childhood traumas in their adulthood and a few of them develop Adult Post Bullying Syndrome (APBS).
Women in business are not taken seriously, what has been your experience and what do you have to say about this issue?
In We The Women with journalist Barkha Dutt, I spoke about what it is like to be a woman in business and although I know many women face difficulties asserting themself in this industry, for me, being a young woman has been an advantage. This is mainly because the part of the generation that is invested in me does not hold women back for simply being a woman. So, personally I did not face any such issues but yes, many other senior business women in Shark Tank India, who belonged to a different generation, have faced issues raising funds in the past. Now, I feel there is a change and I believe at least my generation will not pull women down.
You have become an inspiration for many young people facing bullying in their daily life. What message do you have for them?
If you are at the receiving end of bullying, I would say stand up for yourself. I personally know how hard that is, but instead of just being a puppet in the hands of these people, if you realise how important you are, the bullies fail to hold any power over you. Courage did not come easy to me, it was my parents who helped me pull through my experience with bullying. So, talk to people who can back you and give you the strength to speak up for yourself. You can make it through.