Today, organizations insist on basic digital literacy as one of the requirements for a job, even at the lowest level. Empowering the youth with digital skills is one of the ways to enhance their employability and this is what Anudip Foundation is striving to achieve across India. In this Skill Story, Dipak Basu, Founder and CEO, Anudip Foundation takes us through their journey of skilling for digital inclusion, leading to better livelihood opportunities in IT-ITeS sector and sustainable positive impact on emerging economies.
Q: Tell us about the importance of digital skills and why Anudip has focused on it as the key area in skill development and employability enhancement?
A: The increase in automation and internet usage in the country is making businesses and boardrooms redefine their strategy towards the rural market. Moreover, India has been emerging in terms of number of startups in digital and IOT spaces. The vast rural population that was untouched by technology before, now has become a focused market. Thus, the need for digitally skilled people to support these business must be found in large numbers in rural and peri-urban geographies.
In today’s breakneck technology pace, Anudip has emerged as one of the leaders who has identified this need of bridging the digital divide. This consists of tapping the young crowd and democratizing digital access through its unique online skilling initiative called DIYA. DIYA covers an array of professional courses delivered using cutting-edge technology which hones students from rural and peri-urban locations of the country with impactful digital-age employment skills, generating sustainable livelihood opportunities.
Q: What are the challenges you face in working with the marginalized communities?
A: Along with the changing business and dynamic job markets in the twenty-first century, today’s crisis-stricken youth find it difficult to compete with the market demand and are forced to take up jobs which are low-paid. The major challenge we face is to make the aspirants, their families, and their mentors understand how digital skills and new-age employability would benefit their livelihoods.
Another important area, where we face challenge is to inculcate confidence and motivation amongst the crisis-stricken youth who have been exploited by grow-rich-quick organizations, and lack the courage to explore real opportunities like those that we offer.
Youth and women from low-income family groups, tribal communities, reformed insurgents, people with disabilities, political refugees, victims of trafficking, ethnic and religious minorities historically perform poorly in the human development index, depending mostly on traditional occupations with limited career options, poor education quality and economic instability. This traps them in a vicious lifetime circle of poverty.
Q: How do you approach or identify the people in need? Is there a model that you follow sytematically?
A: Anudip’s model focuses on livelihood creation for marginalized communities which has a long-term impact, and creates a high social return on investment. To achieve our organizational objectives, we at Anudip have developed a model that can be described in terms of four key components:
Segmentation and Targeting: Our geographical focus has been in underdeveloped locations of the country where underemployed or unemployed youth have limited access to quality education, skills, and employability. After a stringent viability process, which includes a job market scan and sources of supply of students, we establish Digital Learning Centers, which offer market-aligned skill and, through strategic employer relationships, provide access to sustainable careers for its youth-aspirants.
Positioning and Servicing: We partner with employers from multiple sectors who provide their hiring and talent needs to Anudip, defining their workforce requirements. At Anudip we offer best-of-class skilling courseware in digital and financial literacy, basic and advanced IT and internet services, spoken English and English comprehension, workplace readiness, entrepreneurship, resume writing, and job interviewing, tailored to employer-defined goals.
Enrolled candidates are led through a process of continuous improvement, blended learning, and mentoring using innovative pedagogy. The digitization of our curriculum with customized content, interactive multimedia and games, help us design an immersive professional development program for creating a digital-age learning experience.
Impact and Outcome: Digitally-skilled aspirants are referred formally to targeted employers after their training, assessment and certification are completed, through interviews and job fairs. Our successful placement record stems from its curriculum being customized to actual needs of employers from sectors such as e-Commerce, Retail, IT/ITeS, Accounting, Microfinance and Process Automation.
Q: How are you using the digital platform to enable youth empowerment? Tell us a bit about the DIYA, SAVE, 3D4D, BEST programs.
A: DIYA (Digital Inclusion of Young Aspirants), an unique technology-driven skills development program for at-risk youth is a pathway to digital-age learning experiences and new-economy career opportunities for career aspirants from socially-excluded locations. Our DIYA initiative encompasses digitization of curriculum with employability-aligned skill-sets, interactive multimedia and games designed to create a blended learning environment. DIYA is supported by a student lifecycle management platform that has been developed with extensive analytics for a large student base. DIYA generates a pool of skilled and technology-friendly career aspirants for employers from the burgeoning e-commerce, logistics, retail, and mobile payments sectors.
SAVE (Specially Abled Vocational Education) is Anudip’s program for people with physical and visual disabilities to acquire skills and training for employment in the ITeS sector. SAVE offers IT-based vocational skills and mainstream employment access to differently-abled-persons, equipping them with “confidence” and “courage” to emerge from societal stigma and enter the workforce without discrimination. A SAVE training center is operated in partnership, with a local NGO working in the field of disabilities, and has access facilities for beneficiaries.
3D4D (3D Printing for Development) is a tech-driven initiative for providing low-cost highly-customized 3D-printed prosthetic arms to needy amputees. We have deployed mechanical (muscle-powered) prosthetic arms of 100+ patients, and is developing myoelectric (brain-powered) and motorized arms to offer most normal hand functions to its patients.
BEST (Building Entrepreneurs to Stop Trafficking) is a new program aimed at rehabilitating survivors of trafficking in women and children who have faced the stigma of sex trade and travails of bonded labor, discrimination and social taboo. This pioneering program directs disadvantaged women and girls toward respectable professions through entrepreneurship and IT skills training.
Q: You work with several partners how are they helping you in your mission of creating livelihoods?
A: We are empowered to deliver our operational excellence through support from partners like Accenture, American India Foundation, Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, Microsoft, Google,, Omidyar Network, Cisco, ebay, the Tata Group, ITC, ICRA, Capgemeni, HSBC, mJunction and other institutions to offer digital livelihood programs for youth from low-income family groups. Our sponsors support us not only with grants but also through knowledge and technology volunteering and mentoring.
Besides being an NSDC partner, we are also associated with Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur (IIT KGP) and Mahavir Seva Sadan to develop cost-effective control systems for functional and robust prosthetics for upper body amputation of needy-patients.
We have strategic relationships with high profile employers like Amazon, Tata Consultancy Services, Flipkart, Tech Mahindra, Aegis, Walmart, iMerit, Spencers, Tech Mahindra, Neilson, Vodafone and others to achieve its 75% placement success.
Q: What are your future plans and what would you like to say people who want to contribute to the society in the skilling space?
A: Anudip started with a dream to help talented rural youth benefit from India’s stature as the top IT destination in the world. Having helped close to 100,000 young people secure digital careers and thereby positively impacted a half million lives, we believe we have made big strides in achieving our dream. Looking to the future it is our goal to touch a large percentage of the 300 million Indian youth with digital skills in different sectors, and take our services to other countries wherever marginalized young people are at risk.