Nikhil and Prashant Raizida, LUMI co-founders

Invisible Heroes 05 - Nikhil + Prashant Raizada, LUMI

So Energy

As a father-son team, Prashant and Nikhil developed the concept for LUMI shortly after the outbreak of Covid, and have since seen the company go from strength to strength across the world. We chatted to them both to understand the journey of LUMI so far, and why it is so crucial to engage young people in a meaningful way in order to tackle climate change.

Can you tell us about your current role at; what do you do, and what are the steps you’ve taken that led you to this job?

Prashant - 11 years ago I had a watershed moment in my career when I left McKinsey to start an education company. At that point I had finished the first decade of my professional career and also been part of building a very successful startup from inception. I wanted to use my experience at McKinsey and at that startup to build something meaningful in the sector I’m most passionate about- education. From this point I worked on a series of entrepreneurial ventures in this space, in the UK, India, Brazil & China.

Over the last three years I was involved in large-scale education transformation projects looking at how to make education fit for the future, with thought leaders, academics and entrepreneurs education worldwide from the UK to China to the Silicon Valley. However, last year we were working on a large project that got destroyed by Covid. This coincided with my son Nikhil participating in a virtual education experiment from Denmark, where he was grouped with five other children from across the globe and asked a simple question- What can you do to help solve the challenges of Covid-19.  I wasn’t close to what he was doing until I went downstairs one evening to find him cutting out a cardboard design of a drone prototype, which he wanted to show in a video that talked about how drones could be used to ship covid tests and send medicines to patients in a lockdown to prevent doctors from getting the virus. Eventually his video went viral in Europe and presented in conferences in Finland, Spain and California.

For me, that was the moment when LUMI took shape. I realised that as an education entrepreneur, if you expose children to some of the biggest problems we are facing, they have the capacity – even with just the most gentle guidance - to come up with original ideas.

Day-to-day, I’m now focused on building the company. Fundamentally, LUMI runs things called ‘Quests’ for young people. It’s an opportunity to get exposed to a big global problem, to learn about it along with other young people from across the world. They are given complete freedom to come up with how they want to solve that at a local level. We then provide  guidance from relevant domain experts to develop their ideas into a launchable solution. It can bring about real change: this is the opportunity to be the change you want to see in the world, and to feel in control of your own future. We have over 20  innovations in the making currently, from young people aged between 9-16 in 13 countries globally.

How do you think the pandemic has changed perspectives on collaboration? e.g. in the workplace, schools, etc.

Prashant – Covid has forced the world to collaborate, and it’s much easier than any had imagined. It has also opened avenues and formed new habits previously hard to imagine e.g., global collaboration online in learning or at work. We realised that with the internet, you can collaborate and be global when you can’t even be local! This philosophy helped us develop Lumi and I personally think many of the habits and models now in place will not go away. 

Also, if you look at the vaccination roll-out it has become clear that unless we collaborate, lockdown is never going to end.

As a result of this, we’re finding that schools are now welcoming us open-heartedly. We’ve all realised what an important role schools play, and I’m so pleased we have an opportunity to work with them.

Nikhil - How did you get involved? and what's your role as Junior Co-founder? 

Nikhil - It all started when I was making a drone. It was fun and exciting to experiment and make new things. At the moment, I’m creating videos about our Quests and I designed the LUMI logo. I also came up with some of the ideas for the Quests to make them more interesting such as quizzes - I really enjoy doing things like that.

Prashant – Nikhil is the reason I started the business. He is the guy who makes sure that what we do is true to our mission, and fit for young people. He gives feedback like: this is too boring, or ideas for different Quests that he thinks would be really engaging for our audience.

Nikhil – I’m also building an app called Go Green with someone else from London. It’s an app where everyday you log the positive things you’ve done for the environment, such as eating no meat, walking instead of taking a car and so on. You get points for everything you do, and your actions can be ranked on leaderboards worldwide. In 1 or 2 weeks we should be launching the app with friends and family. We’ve done the initial stages of building the app.

What are some of the most important issues that Quests are aiming to find a solution to? What’s most important to fellow young people?

Nikhil – Lots of people are interested in inequality and movements such as Black Lives Matter. I also had an idea about a Quest focused on animals in the future that I think would be a really good idea.

Prashant – Young people are passionate about the things they see locally around them. Whether that’s our participants in California who are passionate about ending homelessness, or in Brazil who want to solve the issue of street lighting in the city. There’s a real diversity amongst the things that young people globally feel connected to.

Nikhil - You talk about creating a global network to help change the world for good, if you could work with anyone on the planet to join one of your Quests, who would it be and why?

Nikhil - I like Joe Root who’s a cricket player, and he’s a really nice person so he could inspire and encourage people to join our Quests.

Prashant – For me it would be Lewis Hamilton, I’m a huge fan of his and the causes he champions really resonates with me. We are looking to reach out to him as our journey grows. I’d also add Marcus Rashford who has done some amazing work this year in protecting lives of some of the most vulnerable. 

If you could encourage readers to make one small change to their day-to-day lives in order to positively impact the planet, what would it be?

Nikhil – They should pick a topic that they understand and feel excited about, and just do something small. It can be anything.

Prashant – That’s in LUMI’s DNA. Do something; it’s not about making a fancy presentation. Take action because change starts with you.

What’s the one thing that makes you feel most excited to go to work in the morning?

Prashant – The most exciting thing for me is seeing what LUMI is becoming. When we started out with just six young people we had no idea how it would be received. We are already on our way to making an impact for the better, and positively influencing the future of the world. I want this to become a viable and sustainable way of developing 1 million entrepreneurs across the world.

What’s been your go-to book/podcast/show over lockdown? 

Prashant – There’s one book that’s really influenced me during lockdown. It’s called ‘The Healing Organisation’ and it’s written by the co-founder of Whole Foods. It tells the story of 17 companies who chose to do the right thing. It shows how a business can be commercially successful at the same time as caring deeply about its employees, its customers and its stakeholders. That book has become my bible for what I’m trying to do.

I also want to mention the ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’, a book that came into my life in 2017 after I suffered a life-threatening illness. This book helped me enormously, it’s helped me form my guiding principle of always doing the right thing.

Lastly, the podcast that I have listened to throughout lockdown is the TED Radio Hour by Guy Raz.