This startup has made a difference to the lives of over a million daily wage workers through its platform
Narasamma, 37, toiled day and night to single-handedly raise her children. As a mason, she could barely manage to earn Rs 15,000 per month. Not only did she have to pay her children’s college and school fees, but also had to take care of the rent and other daily expenses. Just when she was on the lookout for additional sources of income, Narasamma found out about Phapa Technologies.
“One of my neighbours suggested that I register with Phapa Technologies and I did. The organisation helped me gain awareness about a whole lot of benefits that I could avail from various government schemes. One of them was a scholarship assistance under the Kalike Bhagya, an initiative of the Labour Welfare Board. Phapa helped me through the application process and the scholarship was granted. I need not worry about my kids and their education anymore,” says Narasamma.
Founded by Tareque Pirzada and Ashfaq Syed in 2018, Phapa Technologies empowers the lives of unorganised workers across India by helping them get access to a slew of government welfare schemes. The startup uses its network of contacts and technological prowess to achieve this. From education, affordable housing, health, and insurance arrangements to skill development programmes, Phapa lends its helping hand to enable daily wagers to accrue the perks.
In the last two years, the startup has onboarded, assisted, and improved the livelihoods of more than a million people working in the unorganised sector.
There are almost 450 million unorganised workers in the country today. There are several government schemes in place for their well-being and social security, but not many are aware of it and do not know how to apply.
“The Building and Other Construction Workers Act was implemented in Karnataka way back in 2006 for the benefit of construction labourers. The Building and Other Construction Workers Board has even announced educational grants, medical assistance, home building subsidies, toolboxes, insurance, and pension for the children of construction workers, Sadly, only a small percentage of this population has registered for the scheme. This is the case with many other government-run programmes too. We wanted to change this trend,” says Tareque Pirzada, Co-founder, Phapa Technologies.
Phapa Technologies was launched in Bengaluru in 2018. While Tareque was heading a data firm in the US, Ashfaq was a techie with a vast experience in IT architecture, research analysis, and data warehousing. Both of them had been friends for over two decades and had even worked together for a brief period.
When Ashfaq visited India, he observed the large pool of unorganised labourers, as well as their poor living conditions. He wanted to do something to boost their income and subsistence.
“I did a lot of research and realised that despite government schemes being in place, most of the target group of labourers had not received their due. That was when I approached Tareque to join me in the endeavour and lay the foundation for Phapa Technologies. Both of us pooled in our personal savings initially to begin the operations,” recalls Ashfaq.
How it works
Phapa Technologies has created a web platform to onboard individuals working in the unorganised sector including carpenters, masons, and construction workers. In order to raise awareness among the labourers and bring them together, the startup organises outreach campaigns through phone calls, WhatsApp, and public events.
“All that a worker needs to do to is pay a one-time transaction fee of Rs 250, register, and upload a profile with details such as name, age, marital status, residential location, occupation, etc. As soon as this is completed, the algorithms at the backend automatically maps and displays all the government and organisational benefits the person is eligible for. In case any worker is not in a position to pay the fee, we arrange for sponsorships too,” explains Ashfaq.
In order to assist the workers with the documentation and other formalities required to apply for the relevant schemes, the Bengaluru-based startup has started a toll-free number to guide them. To cater to the daily wagers who have access to smartphones or internet connectivity, Phapa Technologies has deployed mobile vans and also established six service centres across Bengaluru, Mysuru, and Vijayapura.
Some of the benefits that the startup and its team of 22 employees are delivering to the unorganised sector come from The Karnataka Construction Welfare Board, Ayushman Bharat, Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana, Employees’ State Insurance Scheme, etc.
“Besides the government-run schemes, we have a few other programmes which we are executing on our own like providing affordable housing, skill development opportunities, and job placements. And, to implement these, we are engaging with our network of contacts like builders, contractors, suppliers, and NGOs,” adds Tareque.
The plight of the unorganised and migrant workers across the country is very evident. While some of them do not receive even the minimum wages, others are deprived of basic living standards. Phapa Technologies is looking to bring about a change in their lives by enabling them to reap the benefits they deserve, through government schemes and other in-house initiatives.
Measures during lockdown
Considering that many workers are not being able to earn their daily bread because of the nationwide lockdown imposed in view of the coronavirus pandemic, the startup is working with the government to provide certain relief packages. It has also raised an online fundraiser to provide food and provisions for the daily wage earners.
“Phapa is going to launch a relief campaign to assist the people affected by the lockdown. The startup is partnering with several NGOs and corporates to help secure ration and other essential items for the workers. We are also in talks to introduce a medical helpline for free consultation and health advice,” says Tareque.
(Edited by Javed Gaihlot)