Head Held High Foundation on a mission to transform 2 Million villagers across India

By Chandan Raj|5th Nov 2011
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Head Held High Foundation

Head Held High Foundation is a Not for Profit Organization which along with its subsidiaries - Village BPO and Magic Wand Empowerment Pvt. Ltd. is striving to catalyze the transformation of rural India by creating a local talent pool and employing them in the knowledge industries in villages. Rajesh Bhat, Co-Founder & CEO of Magic Wand in conversation with YourStory.in shares more detail about the Head Held High Foundation, their vision and projects till now.What’s the precursor to formation of Head Held High Foundation?

A few of us had visited a village once and wanted to know how the really poor people there lived. The first few people we contacted, people from the ‘higher echelons’ of the villages, wouldn’t let us even go and meet the villagers – they would simply deny their existence. We were stunned.

In parts of the country, in places like Bangalore, we had seen the ‘IT revolutions’ taking place, whereas in other parts, not too far from Bangalore, most people would deny the existence of thousands and millions of people. These people, and generations of them, would continue to live a life of depravation and denial.

We also realized that doing some kinds of business in these villages would be cheaper – because of the cost arbitrage that still exists for most amenities. That’s how the idea of Head Held High started shaping up.

What factors influenced you in forming the organization?

The following transformative things combined together to make this magical journey happen:

Standardization: With the advent of standardisation in work structure and process, most companies have adopted to use standardized business processes in their everyday work. Most of these business processes are similar pieces of work, and when broken down well, are simple things to do.

Internet: With the Internet reaching the remotest of villages in India through newer technologies, it has become easy to communicate and pass on work through technology.

Work From Home: More and more people work from home today, and many companies also prefer/recommend this as it decreases their operational cost. All one needs is a computer with internet to complete his/her job

Knowledge and application: The pervasive force of the internet. Most of education is based on knowledge. Knowledge is passé today. Knowing how to find information is the key. Earlier, knowledge was power. Today, its power is minimal.

Skills: We realised that for people to do good work - they did not need a 15 years of formal education, all they needed were the skills to do that work - to read, write and speak in business English, have business skills, and know how to use computers.

Training Methodologies: A breakthrough in training methodologies that we have been able to create that enables a quick learning of all of the above for an illiterate person in just 6 months.

The Tipping Point: A book that showed us that if we impacted a small percentage 1-2% of the population, that could be a tipping point to transform the entire target population of 400 million very poor villagers in India.

Thus, Phase 1 of the Head Held High program envisages transforming 2 Million villagers (10 million families) across India, which we believe will then impact 400 million lives.

When we were searching for different names to name our organization, we were focussing on enabling those millions of faceless and nameless people – ‘to live a life of dignity’. The simplest illustration of that was them standing with their head held high. Hence, the name Head Held High!

Tell us the about the projects and programs of the foundation till date.

We started off with a Proof of Concept project with 8 trainees with little or no education, in September of 2007, supported by individual contributors and others. After its successful execution, we took up another Pilot Project: ‘The Rural Edge’ in partnership with an NGO, SAMUHA, in October of 2009 and successfully trained about 120 people who had little or no education.

Our Current Projects:

  • Gadag district, Karnataka - In partnership with Deshpande Foundation, 120 trainees are being trained in Gadag, Karnataka.
  • Hindupur, Anantapur district, Andhra Pradesh - In partnership with K Raheja Corp, 120 trainees are being trained in Hindupur, Andhra Pradesh.

Our other programs include -

  • Village Reach Program: around 1000 school going children were impacted through our short program for school going children.
  • ELIP program: Through our partnership with Govt. of Karnataka, 490 ITI graduates from Gadag and Koppal were trained.
  • Career Guidance Program: We have trained 150 graduates through this program in Koppal district, Karnataka.

How are you different from other rural BPOs?

Our expertise is in the Insurance platform and BPM platform. Co-founders of Head Held High come from over 20 years of expertise in the Business Process Management and Insurance Platform and are considered experts in the space.

We have developed a cutting edge training program which enables us to deliver extremely good quality outputs which has been acknowledged by our clients’ feedback as well. Our business model has been built around this, which is self-sustaining, which ensures the continuity of the livelihood in the villages.

Also, unlike many others we work closely with the Government. We have engaged with the Employment and Training wing of Govt. of Karnataka and trained about 500 trainees through the ELIP program, where we trained the ITI graduates in Gadag and Koppal district.

What is the impact created by Head Held High Foundation in the local village eco-system?

The transformational impact on the lives of the people can be best explained in the words of Ramesh, one of the alumni of Head Held High program, at the Real Heroes Awards Ceremony on CNN-IBN - "A few years ago, I never thought of coming out of my village. I couldn’t write my name in any language. Today I am on national TV and I am proud of who I am!”. Head Held High was awarded the Real Heroes award in youth category for the contribution to the youth in Karnataka.

Here’s a video on our Foundation’s community impact through our The Rural Edge - The village reach program

As a non-profit, how are you generating funds to run the operations and sustain yourself?

We faced an initial challenge in fundraising since people felt that our training costs were too high. Since our training program was residential and for six months, people thought that the costs were too high. Now we have brought down our training costs and are finding more support and more people were willing to fund.

What were the key challenges you faced while developing your program/solution?

One of the key challenges in training was that - there were no such training programs from anywhere across the world, which we could emulate. We had to do our own research and develop our own curriculum and methodology of training. We have done extensive research and field studies to overcome the challenges.

Other key challenge has been in convincing people on how our model works and that we can get quality work done through villagers, even though they may not have the same qualifications as other graduates in the cities/metros. Based on the work done by our graduated trainees and recommendations from our clients - we have been able to overcome this challenge to a certain extent.

Tell us about the team behind Head Held High Foundation?

Madan Padaki

Madan Padaki, Co-founder and Trustee, Head Held HighMadan's passion and drive have created an 'Industry' for Assessments in India that did not exist before. Apart from all the other things that he is well known for, as a co-founder and Trustee of Head Held High, Madan has been driving much of the initiatives of Head Held High through his ability to create, drive and scale-up new ventures. His vision is to create leaders from the villages in India through Head Held High that will bring about sustainable and permanent shift in the social landscape in India.

Rajesh Bhat

Rajesh Bhat Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer, Magic WandRajesh was a software engineer at a mobile VAS company, OnMobile, before he started working on Head Held High. Rajesh hails from a remote village in Sirsi, Karnataka and believes that he was lucky to have gotten the breaks in his life. His mission is to give that break to as many people as possible. Rajesh executed the vision, designed and created the breakthrough training that made this dream to transform an illiterate villager into a “work-ready” blue collar person in 6 months.

Samik Ghosh

Samik Ghosh Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer, Village BPO

Samik, as one of the co-founders of Head Held High, has been running the subsidiary of Head Held High, the village BPO, since its inception. It was Samik's interactions and consistent work with Sunil Savara, his colleague, which had led to the concept of Head Held High. Samik, along with Sunil, has been managing and running a program called "Perspectives" for more than a decade. “Perspectives” is a transformational course conducted for individual transformation. It is Samik's passion to make a difference and his unwavering stand that gave strength to Head Held High during its initial years.

Sunil Savara

Sunil Savara Co-founder and Trustee, Head Held HighSunil is a serial entrepreneur and is the visionary who dreamed and took a stand for eliminating poverty in India - which lead to the idea of Head Held High. Sunil's passion is to catalyze transformation and he has made a difference in hundreds of people's lives through the transformational workshops that he created and has been running for more than a decade, called "Perspectives". He is also an evangelist of the Business Process Management Industry and brings over two decades of experience in the Industry to Head Held High Foundation and its subsidiaries.

And now about the future, what are your future plans and where do you see Head Held High five years from now?

From five years from now, we want to see Head Held High making an impact in thousands of lives every year – through our breakthrough trainings and innovative business models.

Through Magic Wand, we want to create new paradigms of training – which can become industry standards.

Through Village BPO, we want to enable thousands of jobs to be outsourced to villages and done by the most vulnerable.

Head Held High would also create innovative business models that would enable us to scale up the model across India.


YourStory.in wishes Head Held High Foundation and it's team a very best in their mission to reach and impact millions of villagers across India. To know more about them, please visit their website - http://www.head-held-high.org/


- Chandan Raj

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