The Climber

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Ruhan Madni Naqash

He proved his critics wrong by setting up a million dollar worth mentoring start-up. Tabish Rafiq Mir maps its journey across half-a-dozen cities  

‘Mark my words. You will be cleaning bathrooms one day,’ prophesized a senior professor, after Ruhan Madni Naqash, 22, failed to answer any questions during a viva exam at SRM University, Chennai. It was 2012.

A year later, Naqash co-founded ‘The Climber Knowledge and Careers Private Limited’, currently valued at more than 1 million dollars.

While in school, Ruhan was always an aspiring writer with his soul in books. With schooling from the Burn Hall in Srinagar, he is a poet too, penning down his work on an online blog.

For four years at a stretch, he studied theology. His love for the language grew on and he took to studying the Arabic and the Persian languages.

He read every work of Rumi and Jami that he could. He combed his late grandfather’s library for books and lost himself to the world of the olden days.

However, this wasn’t meant to last forever.

After 2008, schools were shut for months, and freedom was a scarcity. Like a thousand others, he had to leave his home for college, and travel into a world where Rumi and Jami did not dictate modern career choices.

So, against his heart, he started studying ECE in SRM University in Chennai.

To make the best of his time in college, he joined and worked in art, literature and drama clubs, going back to his roots of interest. In the company of brave kids, who aspired to become photographers, astronomers and psychologists, Ruhan made it. “We were all suffering, and hence we connected,” he says.

During the 2014 floods in Kashmir, which leaned on the support from volunteers, his twitter handle @naqkash earned a mention in Dawn and DailyO.

His blog posts on pensiveravings.blogspot.in went viral after his conversations with Barkha Dutt, who was only covering army rescue operations. He was anonymous then.

Two years later, when Chennai faced the worst flood of the decade, Ruhan headed the #LetsHealChennai program and collected relief worth tens of lacs from Bangalore, Kolkata, Delhi, Nagpur, Jaipur, and Hyderabad.

Once while talking about fluid-mechanics, astrophysics and their passions, Ruhan and his friends started the ideation phase of The Climber, a youth organisation which would help thousands of teens make informed career choices.

They have grown from a humble team of 3 to 9 working full time, within months, developing android and iOS apps now. They are conducting large scale events like youth summits on various interests in states like Tamil Nadu, New Delhi, and Maharashtra.

In 2015, they were the youngest winners of the BzzWings award at IIM Bangalore’s flagship event earning incubation at NS Raghavan Centre For Entrepreneurship and Learning (NSRCEL), at IIM Bangalore, and a funding of 10 lacs.

From day one, when Zeeshan (CEO) “took a loan” of 60,000 rupees from his parents, they claim to have been completely bootstrapped.

They also featured eighth in the Tata First Dot National Conference. (2014-15). In six months, they have taken their valuation from Rs 2 crore to 8 crore.

The Climber is successfully funding the education of the Katpadi village in Tamil Nadu, parenting an NGO called Eride, so they can conduct classes for the village.

They are soon releasing a crowd funding campaign to fund education in more villages in various states of India, they say.

The Climber has been covered by The Hindu four times, the Times Of India twice, and more than once by YourStory.

Their main product is MyCaptain, an online mentoring platform where teens are introduced to their fields of interest, through machine learning and interaction with experts. This program, they say, is ideal for students between 14 and 21.

MyCaptain has an on-ground form called the Youth Conclave which brings together achievers: singers, artists, designers, engineers, both old and young, to a platform for interaction.

“It is a fun event”, according to Ruhan, meant to encourage children to go after their interests.

One of their mentees, who got into London school of economics, had taken a Letter of recommendation from Zeeshan Muhammad.

Another mentee who is a creative writing enthusiast has edited more than 12 novels and 13 poetry anthologies now, and spoken at literary fests. She is 18. Another boy, who loves graphic design and entrepreneurship, has a graphic design firm in New Delhi. He was mentored at the age of 15.

They claim to have impacted 25000 plus students so far.

“I believe that the knowledge and skills that you acquire are of no use if you don’t teach them to those who need it too,” he says. They plan to expand to the United Arab Emirates soon.

They also have a student organisation with 350 members across various cities in India.

Ruhan wants to create a system of economic independence for Kashmiri youth, where they won’t have to be dependent on anyone. “The knack for entrepreneurship is slowly coming to Kashmir,” feels Ruhan.

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