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Ex-BPO head of Perot Systems Vardhman Jain is helping to solve India’s 500 million skill shortage problem

Nelson Vinod Moses
posted on 22nd November 2013
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Vardhman Jain, founder director, of education social enterprise, Laurus Edutech possesses rich pedigree. He was managing director for BPO operations globally, for Perot Systems, a $2.8 billion IT services company, till it was taken over by Dell in 2009. Following which he felt a void that he decided to fill by launching Laurus.

Jain’s motivation was very simple.  He felt that India seemed to be focusing only on white-collar education. “We wanted to focus on the bottom of the pyramid and train people to become blue-collar workers. India has the most number of IT workers. However, growth has to be inclusive and for that we need to train people in vocational skills. By creating a structured, organized and well-managed platform to skill our human resources, we have the opportunity to do what China has done in manufacturing,” says Jain.

India’s massive problem of lack of skill development:

India has a huge skills shortage, and the country is aware of this problem. The National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) estimates that 12.8 million people will join the job market every year in the coming decade. Keeping this in mind the Indian government plans to train 500 million individuals by 2022. But going by current trends, it will fall woefully short of this target.

Solving the skills shortage problem:

That’s where companies like Laurus come into play. Jain’s company provides skills and training, to job aspirants of various growing industries, and make them employable. Laurus’ focus on content and delivery, and ensuring the skills they are imparting are relevant in today’s world. “At Laurus, we work closely with industry to understand their needs and then develop the relevant content for training in a particular skill set. This prevents a mismatch between what industry wants and the skills a blue-collar worker has. The needs of industry are continuously changing, and therefore, we need to be as flexible as possible,” adds Jain.

Initial hiccups and challenges:

Building an education social enterprise that caters to blue-collar workers is not an easy task and Jain and his co-founder Anurag Jain faced many challenges. The biggest was about how they could build an extremely low-cost model. “How can you skill a person and get him a job on as little as Rs. 25 a day and yet be profitable? When we started, we had our entire cost structures wrong! However we quickly realized that we needed to keep costs low (through low rentals) and capacity utilization as high as possible,” adds Jain. They did this by locating their training centers in areas where rentals were low. They also cleverly cross-utilized centers for corporate and government training thereby driving up utilization. This helped in the creation of the low cost vocational training model that was needed for the business to succeed.

Impact so far:

Several state and central government ministries have recognized Laurus as a reliable provider of quality blue-collar education. With every passing day, our brand in the communities we work in is growing – most of the students come to us via referrals. We have ever so more number of corporates who want us to come and take over their training centers or create new ones for them. Net impact – more students being trained and jobs being created.

“What makes us proud at Laurus is the final result of seeing BPL (below poverty line) students and people across communities in this country who other wise might have not got a job or a decent living, get one through the vocational training we imparted to them,” remarks Jain.

For a company that’s grooming talent, its ironical that its biggest challenge is finding talent, and is currently short of trainers. Jain is also finds it a challenge to find the right managers who can share his vision.

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