We’ve officially made our first investment at R3 Resources in a venture called Empower Pragati (EP). EP will specialize in livelihood skill development to help empower India’s disadvantaged urban youth. We will set up training facilities – either on our own or through franchise partners – and provide underprivileged urban youth with customer service, confidence, communication and computer skills. The training is prudently designed to meet the demand in India for service sector labor and high-quality and reliable employees in India, which leads to the successful and enduring employment of our trainees – the same individuals who were previously unemployed or working in the informal sector. EP was spearheaded by the amazing and well-respected management of a Delhi based organization called Empower and Rajendra from Saath. EP is also being funded by National Skills Development Corporation of India
For those of you who followed my Finding Rickshaw blog, you’ll recognize that the EP model is similar to Saath’s Umeed program, which I worked on while I was a Clinton Fellow. It is. We are building off the success and impact of Umeed and adding components that make it sustainable and profitable which promote expansion and scale. Briefly, Umeed trained underprivileged youth (e.g., 18-30 year olds, living in slums), trained them (computers, customer service, confidence), and helped them acquire entry level jobs. The succees of Umeed because of Saath, the Gujarat Government and international change organizations like the America India Foundation, facilitated the training of tens of thousands of youth in 4 years.
The common theme across Umeed and now EP is that the the urban poor are capable of employment (and paying for services, banking, etc) but they have just lacked the opportunity. These programs succeed because the private sector and general market does not — and should not — care about where their employees came from, as long as they are capable.