Around six months ago, Ayesha Siddiqui (in her early 20s) was toiling for close to 10 hours as a helper in a garment factory to support her family of eight members. After all, she and her sister are the only earning members. But today, she’s standing outside in her graduation dress, waiting for her name to be announced. She is visibly excited – and why shouldn’t she be? She has a job in her hand as a beautician in YLG salon, one of the premier chains across South India with a salary of Rs 10,000 (approximately). She has started speaking in English and with every sentence, she’s only getting better. But above all, she’s happy. It’s a new phase, one that’s meant to last, thanks to the skills she has picked up over the last few months.
Ayesha is one among the 46 candidates who completed their four-month-long residential programme in life management. They were trained on three critical foundations – life (personal and social development, family and financial management, health and wellness, employability), literacy (every day and workplace English, numeracy), and livelihood. The residential programme is an initiative by The/Nudge Foundation, founded by Atul Satija who was also the Chief Business Advisor at InMobi.
With close to one million people being added to India’s workforce every year, over 50 per cent are school dropouts who lack employability skills. Atul’s The/Nudge Foundation has built a strong 360-degree curriculum, which is imparted in their ‘Gurukuls’ (residential schools). Atul says,
What a nudge can do a push can’t. People (even from impoverished backgrounds) care about their lives. All they need is an enabling platform to nudge themselves out of their current situation, which is what we are all about and our holistic programme ensures that.
The/Nudge, established in mid-2015, put together a team of passionate individuals who in no time ensured that the first programme takes off! John Paul, Lead of Livelihood Training and Partnerships, says,
We adopted the door-to-door methodology and covered close to 20 slums in Bengaluru, explaining people about the programme and its benefits – tangible and intangible. Today, these 46 students are placed in reputed organisations, such as YLG, Naturals, Uber Salon, DriveU, Innerchef, Cartisan, earning anywhere between Rs 7,000 and 15,000 per month. For most, this is their first formal job.
Atul says, “Our model is more time, effort, and resource intensive than any other skill programmes in the country. But the incredible impact we’ve seen in the students and the overwhelming response of partners and employers to our pilot batch of students is a reaffirmation of the model and we are now ready to scale up.”
With a vision of uplifting one million people by 2020, Atul says, “I live with that number every day. In the next few months, our plan is to refine the curriculum based on our learnings, standardise the programmes and develop deep partnerships with like-minded corporations, foundations, and non-profits who will play a pivotal role in helping us reach our target.”
With each class graduating every four months or so, The/Nudge wants to ensure the impact they are creating in an individual’s life is sustainable. With this in mind, Atul launched ‘The Bamboo Initiative’ – a professional, personal, and social navigation support available for the alumni throughout their lives. Atul says, “Through a combination of an IVR service (helpline number), a mobile app and a physical service, The/Nudge will assist its alumni in various areas such as health, education, career information, disaster support. For instance, if an alumni’s family member is critical, our services can direct them to the right doctor/hospital and even launch an online campaign to raise funds.”
At the graduation event, B. Muthuraman, Padma Bhushan awardee and Ex-Vice Chairman, Tata Steel, says,
The greatest challenge that India faces today is human development. That’s why it’s vital that we have organisations like The/Nudge who are investing in youngsters, especially those from impoverished backgrounds and affording them opportunities to bring them into the mainstream.
Atul’s intervention proves that all they needed was indeed, a nudge!
The Foundation is backed with a $2,00,000 seed grant by Nandan Nilekani.