Monumaster is not a lucky guy. He was just 17 when his father passed away and he became the oldest man of his family. His mother was a housewife in a slum of Delhi and had to take care of his younger brother and sister of 6 and 3 years of age. Monumaster was illiterate and finding a job for him was pretty impossible. But he did not give up. He had a strong will to change the situation and to improve his family condition.
When courage meets opportunity, something beautiful happens. Monumaster went to the Delhi center of Justrojgar, a social enterprise focused in the skill development sector for illiterate, and he joined one of their courses. After 3 months, he got a job for INR 17,000 and is now sustaining his family and giving opportunity to his younger siblings to study and have a better future.
That’s just one of the 2,500 stories created by Justrojgar in the past 4 years of its existence. We caught up with Ajaya Mohapatra, Managing Director of Justrojgar, who told us his story too. He worked for 21 years in the NGO sector and while working there he used to do a lot of training sessions for local communities and they were very enthusiastic. Ajaya says, “What shook me the most was their reaction, everyone was asking me if I could provide livelihoods opportunity for them. In that moment I understood that I had to help them by providing jobs.”
That was the turning point of his career. It was 2005 and he started a ‘livelihood through microfinance’ program mainly funded by banks. Unluckly, with the financial crisis in 2009 they lost their funds and had to work on something else. Ajaya tells us, “When there is a problem, there are also opportunities. And we simply found our opportunity in skill development to help people get jobs.”
The early years of working were very insightful, as a lot of of social enterprises Justrojgar found the way to success by identifying a gap in the market. They entered in the skill development sector when other people doing the similar kind of work were new and were focusing in the tertiary sector. They realized that they could do something else, especially concerning illiterate people. That’s a huge segment constituted by people migrated from rural areas and people living in slums, who are looking for skill development training to have more employability skills and to find a job.
Focusing on illiterate people is not just a matter of finding a right market gap, but there is also an important social impact that can be created by it. Ajaya says, “Youth living in the slums or in rural areas have very less opportunities to get access to educational opportunities, to get a job and they usually have a very low self esteem. That’s why our training become so relevant for them.”
Targeting illiterate people also means customizing training for them as per their needs, which are really different from the needs of literate unemployed people. Ajaya tells us that they don’t focus on giving them literacy. Experience has taught them that to find a job one doesn’t need to be educated, but needs to know how to operate machines, how to use items and understand the flows that one needs to follow. They focus mainly on developing employability skills, professional behaviour needed to work, arrive in time, how to interact with clients etc. Their training consists of 100 hours of classroom training and 200 hours of on the job training and that creates some problems for Justrojgar. Poor people cannot afford to not have incomes for almost 3 months and it becomes a big challenge to convince them to stay and continue the lessons.
Their learning, experiences and efforts in this sector has enabled Justrojgar to train 25,000 people, have a 95% of placement rate and to be a sustainable social enterprise. “We started working as a profitable and sustainable company, thanks to the earnings that we are having. It is impossible to have a company sustained just by equity fund.”
But this was not enough for Ajaya and he wanted to address another problem – women empowerment. In the first year of their activities, women trained were just 1%. Now it is 22% and Ajaya believes that women have a very important role in the future of their company.
Justrojgar is seeing amazing results and they don’t want to stop. Their vision is to provide skill training to 1,00,000 young people in the next 10 years. Probably, the answer to their success till date is in their why. Ajaya says, “For us income is development. If we empower illiterate people to earn money, they will take care of all the other resources: sanitation, hygiene and education”, but if you are searching for a secret formula behind their success Ajaya’s answer will be very simple “Passion, commitment and perseverance. There is no better success formula than this.”