From the battlefield to the farmlands of the countryside – Ajit Singh’s ode to ‘jai jawan, jai kisan’
A military uniform hanging on the wall, several animated discussions over steaming cups of tea, a lot of determination and the will to learn are what lay behind the emergence of Anant Services and Development.
Anant offers technological means of assessing skill building programs for farmers, and provides a job portal called Rozgarmela.com. The company has recently raised seed funds from Ennovent Impact Investment Holding and Upaya Social Ventures. Anant’s general idea is to “ensure inclusive growth of every type of community in the society,” says Founder Ajit Singh, “meaning not getting limited by any specific domain or kind of work. The word Anant means ‘infinite’, ‘limitless’ which is also visible on our logo, the sign of infinity.”
A curious aspect that stands out when one rewinds the story of the company is Ajit’s career in the Army. “It helped me develop adaptability towards people and some of the toughest situations, theability to handle large teams and travel to far flung areas, which I love,” he says. “In retrospect what I did in the Army till I was there was not only challenging and fun but also prepared me for what I did after I hung my uniform and decided to move on and do something new. I served in some of the toughest locations in the country and participated in a full scale conflict in 1999. Every new situation I happened to be in was an opportunity to understand the importance of life. In particular, the Army allowed me to meet people in the interiors and learn of their problems.”
After deciding to leave the Army, Ajit continued to think about the different types of people he encountered throughout his career and became a development professional. He used to meet with some friends in a small teashop in Delhi and discuss about it, “Five of us had been working for various organisations implementing skill building projects in the rural parts of the country. We saw the challenges and the problems of the beneficiaries very closely and after a while we were frustratedon realizing that what we were working on had very little impact.”It was from those chats that Anant was conceived. “The journey was initially very tough and over a period of time only two of us remained: Suresh Kumar and I!”said Ajit. In the last one year, the team has focussed on three main sectors: post-placement tracking, assessment, and job portal.
“We collect data to understand the aspirations, expectations and feedback of beneficiaries and employers and gather them on the application we have developed. This allows our partners to have real time access to this information and an objective impact analysis report. They can monitor and evaluate the performance of the overall project and take decisions at a strategic level to apply course corrections in the whole design.”
The second area they started work on was assessment. “We partnered with the Agriculture Skill Council of India (ASCI) to carry out assessments of farmers who were being trained in different job roles. I think we were one of the very few agencies which actually used a technology platform to carry this out,” says Ajit. They assessed around 30,000 farmers across 19 Indian states in 11 regional languages.
Finally, Rozgarmela.com is a web platform which integrates basic SMS-based technology to link jobseekers at the bottom of the pyramid to prospective employers. “Our model is designed in a way that the jobseeker doesn’t have to pay anything for availing these services. We are also trying consciously to build our credibility with the employers by taking steps to minimise attrition,” explains Ajit.
“Besides the resource crunch, the most challenging part initially was to build credibility for ourselves. It was difficult for people to believe that a nascent organisation and a small team would be able to implement a concept of such a huge scale and size,” he said. Nonetheless, Anant steadily progressed and became profitable in its second year and now, with a fresh round of investment, is planning to enhance and customise its technology platform, and come up with an innovative marketing strategy.
Ajit recollects the camaraderie that gave birth to Anant.“When some good people get together as a team a lot of good things happen. Our team is a good mix of experience and youth. Most of them come with a flair to be on the ‘field’ and have a hands-on approach. All of them have been with us almost from the beginning and the tougher days and display a tremendous sense of ownership and commitment.”
Working in a field where conditions constantly change, Anant needs to be flexible. “We will have to continuously adapt, evolve and customise technology to our and our stakeholders’ needs” says Ajit, “The rule is maintaining a fine balance between how much you can do and how much you want to do.”