This Srinagar-based NGO is paving the way for resilient communities through education and skill development

Founded by the husband-wife duo Babur and Shefali Mian, bmSAY Foundation is enabling underprivileged youth to obtain jobs through academic and skill development programmes.
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As a popular adage goes – ‘Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.’

Babur Mian and Shefali Mian had exactly the same line of thought when they established bmSAY Foundation in 2020. The Srinagar-based non-governmental organisation enables underprivileged youth to obtain gainful employment through a slew of academic and skill development initiatives. 

Presently, India’s unemployment rate stands at 6.98 percent as per the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE). Some of the reasons attributed to this are lack of access to quality tertiary education and a burgeoning gap in the acquisition of skills.  

Image credit: Shutterstock.

According to a study published by the Ministry of Human Resource Development, the estimated Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) of individuals between the age group of 18 to 23 years in Indian higher educational institutes is only 24.5 percent. Keeping in mind the average labour participation rate of the country, at least 16.16 million people are predicted to enter the workforce and acquire the requisite skills. However, as per the current annual skilling capacity, including training for the farm sector, India is at a meagre seven million.

bmSAY Foundation is attempting to tackle these issues through its programmes. The organisation believes in empowering people to become self-sustainable in the long run. Their endeavour is focused on fighting the underlying causes of poverty and paving the way for communities to lead a good standard of life. 

“The idea behind establishing bmSay Foundation was to help individuals stand on their own feet, and we are now working to make it a reality,” Babar Mian, Co-founder of bmSAY Foundation, tells SocialStory.

Laying the groundwork 

Babar was born and brought up near the Mughal Gardens and Dal lake, in Srinagar. After completing his higher education, he became a human resource professional. While he presently leads HR and Administration at PAMAC Group, he derived work experience from many companies like GECIS, Syntel Inc, and Sterling. 

His wife Shefali, on the other hand, completed her BTech in Biotechnology and also did an MBA. She kicked off her career by working with HSBC and then stepped into the field of human resource management. 

Babar Mian and Shifali Mian, Co-founders, bmSAY Foundation.

Though the duo began laying the initial groundwork for bmSay Foundation in 2018, they registered the NGO in 2020. They pooled their personal savings and contributions by their immediate family members to cover expenses for the first few days. But, today, their major sources of money flows from corporates, fundraising events and individual donors. 

“We faced quite a few challenges in our journey. Very few people were ready to support us with funds initially. The life of people in Kashmir is quite different from the rest of the country. Some of them did not even know the underlying idea behind establishing an NGO. So, it was difficult to gain their confidence. Besides, considering that the region has been fraught with constant unrest, conflict and restrictions, we kept putting our nose to the grindstone to overcome them.”

Offering education and employment opportunities 

bmSAY Foundation offers a total of three programmes for the underprivileged youth. The first is an academic programme that funds meritorious students from low-income backgrounds who want to pursue their education. 

The NGO first identifies aspiring youngsters from low-income neighbourhoods. It then conducts a scholarship test to determine their know-how and capabilities. After evaluating the results, some are chosen and their higher education is sponsored through the funds obtained from donors. The organisation has collaborated with colleges including Kashmir Government Polytechnic and Chitkara University for this purpose.  

Their second initiative is the ‘Train to Hire’ programme, as part of which bmSAY Foundation, its team of volunteers as well as trainers help the youth to crack interviews and build their career.  

Local artists Mohammad Muneem, Noor Mohammad and Ali Saffudin participating in a fundraising event for bmSAY Foundation.

“Out of the many applications we receive, we choose the most deserving persons by conducting internal due diligence. Subsequently, we organise a three-month workshop to train them to perform in aptitude tests, group discussions, and interviews,” explains Babar. 

The foundation’s skill development programme helps people earn a sustainable living. This is done through organising training sessions pertaining to skills like carpentry, plumbing, candle-making, and stitching. bmSAY Foundation also provides them with the necessary resources to set up commercially viable businesses that can match their skill sets, immediately after completing their training.  

Afira Syed is one such individual who has benefitted from this initiative. 

“I made around 50 handkerchiefs; later I learned that it wasn’t a handkerchief, but a pocket square which is a trend in men’s fashion. The real happiness was when I got to know that 10 of them were sold in five days. While I am fine-tuning the art of making pocket squares, I think I am already emerging as a businesswoman. bmSAY is not only is teaching me to make products, but is also educating me on how to sell it on ecommerce platforms,” she says. 

This is a representational image.

Image credit: Skill India.

In the last one year, bmSAY Foundation has lent a helping hand to over a hundred young minds through its programmes. Today, while some of them are in the process of creating a livelihood for themselves, others are already earning a living. 

Babar and Shefali are planning to extend their efforts and implement the foundation’s programmes in Mumbai in the coming days. 

Edited by Kanishk Singh

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