LIFT Academy - a corporate veteran’s effort to make uninformed workers skilled employeesBinjal Shah
You might be skilled at working the mines, but prevailing times require you to be just as skilled an employee at working the minds. For workers, migrant and otherwise, knowing your craft was of paramount importance in simpler times, but now, as they navigate the lonely world of disorganised and unstable labour, their craft must make way for their cunning if they want to stand up to their Goliaths. LIFT academy is a corporate veteran’s endeavour to give back, and help his uninformed patrons gain maximum skill and exposure.
A bread winner endeavouring to create more like him
While Narayan Sundaresan is an IIT Bombay alum with a post graduate diploma in management from Mumbai University, Shobha Narayan, his wife, who doubles up as his right hand in this endeavour, holds an MBA herself. Narayan started in the aluminium manufacturing industry and later joined the Mahindra Group as Executive Assistant to Anand Mahindra. An opportunity to be involved in a pioneering project made him move on from IL&FS- where he was Senior Vice President in IL&FS and involved in the company’s strategic entry into the Healthcare sector – and he joined the team that conceptualized the first SEZ in the country – Lavasa, India’s first planned hill station, attracted him and he led the initiative in the formative years.
It was in 2003 that the entrepreneurial bug bit him, and his conscience also felt the blow. “My drive for chasing a social objective led me to found Integron,” he states. Integron was focused on creating the first bread winner amongst the urban poor families. “Since I believe charity is not sustainable in the long run, my focus was on ‘teaching them to fish’, creating employment for them with all the statutory benefits and comfort of regular pay so that they gain the confidence to plan for the future of their families rather than struggle for survival.”
His wife, having spent more than 30 years in the corporate world, reached that time “when you say enough is enough and opt to do something on your own- something which is driven by passion and not targets, numbers, KRAs, appraisals, profitability, performance, non-performance, etc.”
LIFTing the curse
LIFT became an extension of the same philosophy that gave rise to Integron, where arming with skills and training to take up jobs in facilities management and housekeeping were already happening at Integron Human Capital Services Pvt. Ltd. Integron and LIFT, thus, work in tandem, where LIFT prepares the candidates for employment and Integron takes over and deploys them and ensures gainful employment and helps them to financial security.
Shobha’s last engagement was handling the Skills portfolio for Maharashtra which entailed providing end-to-end solutions in the skills landscape. “Identifying prospective trainees, identifying training partners, implementing training, ensuring quality of training, ensuring placements for trainees were all part of my responsibilities,” she recalls. Thus, joining her husband in a privatised endeavour to the same end was a natural fit.
“The opportunity arose out of the demand for the skilled, certified and trained manpower that industry wants, on one hand, and the unskilled youth looking for jobs in the organised sector, on the other,” says Shobha.
Integron and LIFT together offer a holistic solution from mobilisation to employment, while independently focusing on their individual businesses, whereas most training organisations only train. “This has been validated, as we are in discussion with various companies who are interested in creating a funnel of trained people who can be deployed and they need to talk to just one entity.”
LIFT Academy provides quality manpower to industries as per their requirements, by investing in trainers and equipping them with the resources to train to perfection. “We also believe in hand-holding and supporting trainees who join the workforce for the first time, as they are overwhelmed by what they see. We have had trainees call up our HR to speak about their workplace challenges with hope that LIFT Academy will help them overcome that challenge.” LIFT remains their first point of contact even after they are deployed on jobs to client locations.
While they are a skills and training solutions provider that is largely industry agnostic, they do focus on two sectors to a certain extent, logistics and hospitality, but their capabilities lie in providing training solutions irrespective of the sector or profile of the trainee.
“Our target audience is those aspiring to enter the organised work force and those who are already working but require upskilling. Typically, the educational qualifications of these trainees ranges from class VIII pass to class XII pass,” says Shobha.
Lifting this off the ground
They have been implementing government sponsored training programmes such as the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY) under the National Skills Development Corporation (NSDC), and also work with corporates to customize training and up-skilling solutions for them. They are based out of Mumbai, but train across various locations in India, like Uttarakhand, Nagpur, Ahmedabad, Nashik, Bhiwandi and Chakan, and will be training in Haridwar, Bengaluru, and Chennai shortly. Wherever the opportunity, irrespective of geographical location, they are ready to roll. “This, however, requires content in multiple languages, and, by default, trainers with both domain skills as well as local language skills, which has been a very tough combination to source.”
What is noteworthy is that they are training the first batch of lady fork-lift operators for a corporate as part of their gender diversity programme, under their CSR initiative. “This is the first time in India that ladies are being trained to operate fork-lifts, so far considered a male domain,” says Shobha. LIFT Academy also has the distinction of having trained and certified the first batch of Reach Truck operators under the PMKVY-I, a first in India.
They are a for-profit organization and their revenues come from the training fees they charge – which is either government sponsored or corporate sponsored. The trainee, however, is never charged.
Their target is to train more than 3,000 trainees this year alone. They hope to achieve this through both government-sponsored training as well as corporate sponsored training. “Our plans for scaling up include increasing the sectors of focus for skill enhancement, create more training programmes in the existing sectors, reach out to more clients, and trying to source some CSR funding for training,” she concludes.