How do girls from poor backgrounds with a family income of less than Rs. 2 lakh per annum make it to Cornell University? Bag a job with Goldman Sachs? Or even dream of rising up in the socio-economic strata?
With Millennials running awry, four girls had their minds set on their goals. What do Swati, Kavita, Nilu, and Pooja have in common? All four come from families that are below the poverty line. However, they have turned the odds on their head with perseverance, stellar academic records, and some assistance from Katalyst. In their case, the saying “the sky is the limit”, has truly materialised into reality.
Swati Shinde is from Dapoli, a quaint town in Maharashtra. Back in the day, her family earned Rs. 36,000 per annum. However, after completing her B.E. in mechanical engineering from the College of Engineering (COEP) in Pune, she has been placed in IOCL and earns Rs. 8.50 lakh per annum.
Kavita Khandekar used to live in a single room with her family of eight in central Mumbai. Her father, a chauffeur, had an annual salary of Rs. 1,20,000. She aced her exams in the BMC School and worked very hard to get into VJTI, a prime engineering institute for civil engineering. She maintained her academic records and was placed as a Jr. Site Engineer with Shapoorji Pallonji.
After working for two years she went back to pursue her post-graduation at NICMAR, Pune. Today, she has been absorbed by Samsung Builders and is working on a large residential cum commercial project.
Nilu Khed grew up in Solapur, a small town in Maharashtra. Her situation at home was as bleak as one of her fellow girls at Katalyst. Her ailing father was a farmer and arthritis limited his spatial abilities. Her father had rented out his small plot of land to another farmer. The rent he received was entirely dependent on the amount of rainfall and the crop turnout. However, it was at the most Rs. 75,000 per annum.
Nilu made it to a prestigious college in Pune. She got into COEP, Pune, for engineering with her own merit. However, she faced challenges in communication and finances. At this stage, Katalyst provided her with a subsidy for tuition and accommodation fee. She also underwent English speaking classes in order to improve upon her fluency and confidence. In addition, she received guidance from her HSBC mentor to plan her future career.
Her remarkable CAT score ensured admission into an IIM and she pursued her MBA in finance. There was no looking back; she was placed at Goldman Sachs with an annual compensation package of Rs. 13 lakh. In addition, the company relocated her to the US for a short stint. Presently, she has climbed the corporate ladder and is working at Deutsche Bank, Mumbai.
Pooja Prakash spent part of her childhood under a bus shed in Bengaluru. After her parent’s separation, she found herself living with her mother. Even though her father was a doctor, her mother got no support from him.
Armed with a distinction in computer science, Pooja had decided that she would enroll in a Masters programme abroad. She got a laptop and fee assistance. Moreover, her mentor identified the right college and helped her with the tedious college applications. Among the many universities that Pooja had applied to, she made it to the Cornell University. She was able to return the five lakh that Kaltalyst had sponsored her with, shortly after she started work at Yahoo, USA.
Today, Katalyst is not alone; slowly but surely the skills enhancement sector is picking up pace in India. It is essential for the country’s development to enhance the employability quotient of its meritorious youth. Katalyst was started in 2007. It enhances the employability of girls pursuing higher education in the engineering, medicine, architecture, and chartered accountant sector. This NGO not only hones their English speaking skills but they also train them for competitive exams and interviews. They ensure that girls with meritorious academic achievement receive enough funds for their living and tuition fee at educational institutions, health insurance for the daughter and mother, and a laptop per girl. In addition, they are assisted in getting internships and jobs at reputable MNCs. Presently, Katalyst has three centres in India – Pune, Bengaluru, and Mumbai. More than 22 girls have graduated and are working with an average starting salary ranging from Rs. 4–8 lakh per annum.