ICICI Foundation adopts a unique model to create sustainable livelihood opportunities through skills and digital empowerment


ICICI Foundation’s initiatives in skill development and livelihood enhancement emanate from its commitment to addressing the twin challenge of unemployment and skill deficit across multiple industry sectors. In this Skill Story, Mr. Anuj Agarwal, COO, ICICI Foundation for Inclusive Growth, shares the foundation’s journey in skilling the youth and empowering them by imparting technical, non-technical skills and financial literacy for gainful livelihood that is sustainable and growth-oriented. Let’s understand how the foundation is transforming the lives of underprivileged across India, having trained over 400,000.

ICICI Academy for Skills

The mission on Skill Development was started with the first ICICI Academy for Skills, which was launched on 4th October 2013, at Jaipur. Today, we have 26 academies across the country, offering skill-based training to over 28000 youth every year, having trained more than 121,000 youth since inception. These youth, mostly belong to underprivileged sections of the society or are school dropouts without any clear ideas about what they would do for their livelihood in the future. They are mobilized from various catchment areas and are counseled based on their aptitude regarding short-term vocational training that would provide them with employment opportunities.

Diskha Sharma Trainee ICICI Skills Academy

Diskha Sharma Trainee ICICI Skills Academy

We run 12 different courses that include technical and office skills training. These 3-month courses are pro-bono with no cost to the trainee. We provide placement assistance through our 1300 Industry Partners. Six of our academies are based on a PPP (Public Private Partnership) model, operating in association with respective state governments.  We believe that Women Empowerment is key to inclusive growth. The programmes have witnessed overwhelming participation from all walks of life. 54% of the participants enrolled in the skill development programmes are women and ICICI Foundation has changed the lives of more than 2,19,000 women through its various efforts. Eight of our academies are for women only, where the trainees, trainers and staff are all women.

The programmes at ICICI Academy for Skills are accredited by the National Skills Development Corporation (NSDC), and are completely funded by the ICICI Group through its CSR policy.

ICICI Foundation livelihood through Anuj AgarwalThe Knowledge Partners help us design the course modules and in the setting up of state-of-the-art equipment in the Laboratory for the technical courses. They also assist in training the faculty to be up to date with industry standards which ensures that the trainees are industry ready for employment. Courses in Electrical and Home Appliance Repair, Refrigeration and AC Repair, Pumps and Motors, Central Air Conditioning, Tractor Mechanics, Two and Three Wheeler Service Technician etc comprise the technical courses. The non-technical courses include Selling Skills, Retail Sales and Office Administration.

The first 13 days of the 3-month training focuses on life skills that leads to personality development of the trainees. These sessions in the first 13 days boosts their confidence and prepares them for the next 2 and half months of the course. We also include a basic computer literacy program during the skill development trainee.

Mr. Anuj Agarwal

Mr. Anuj Agarwal

If we wish to be one of the largest economies across the globe, and continue at a pace greater than others, productivity and quality has to be high. Both these attributes can be achieved when people who are working on the shop floor are skilled in what they are doing. This would help in our country’s growth trajectory, and will also give opportunities for the youth to fulfill their dreams through a sustainable livelihood.

Trainee-Faculty Connect: A unique model from ICICI Foundation

The uniqueness of the model lies in the fact that the respective faculty member is the pivot for the batch, and is responsible for the entire life cycle – starting from sourcing and mobilizing of the youth, counseling, training, on-the-job training, and till the final placement of the trainee.

Practical training at ICICI Academy for skills

Practical training at ICICI Academy for skills

The faculty members play multiple roles to ensure that the youth are appropriately informed, guided and mentored through the pre- and post-training stages. It begins with running awareness camps and conducting counseling sessions. After enrolment, the faculty trains and mentor them. They are also responsible for the placement of the students.

This sustainable model of training and placement is driven by the fact that the faculty run the program with zeal and passion, and enthusiastically participate to ensure successful completion of the life cycle. The high level of involvement of faculty contributes to the efficacy of the skill development training, and ensures the continuity of the nurturing eco-system set-up by ICICI Foundation towards sustainable livelihood for the underprivileged youth.

By design, silos like mobilization, training, placement etc. have been removed to enhance the overall impact and derive efficiency through ownership. Post placement, the faculty stays in touch with the trainee for one year to ensure that they are well acclimatized to the professional setting as this is their first exposure of working in the organized sector. The faculty acts as a bridge between the employer and the employee, thereby reduce attrition rate of the trainees.

We have maintained a track record of 100% placement through jobs that are compliant with the wage laws of the respective states. Our trainees are a good recruitment ground for the MSME and SME sector, who otherwise find it difficult to recruit in an organized way. Our faculty and team are in constant touch with these employers to gather feedback and update the curriculum.

While most of our trainees start with wage employment, some of them set up their own enterprise and come back to our academy to recruit trainees as their employees. This is the real proof of success, gives us tremendous joy and satisfaction. This is a big source of motivation for our trainees!

Demand-driven training for rural livelihood enablement

As a part of India’s growth story, our country has witnessed widespread migration to urban areas which creates undue pressure on basic service available in cities. For a balanced and distributed growth, we need to create opportunities for sustainable livelihoods in the villages, which will also reduce migration to urban areas. Keeping this in mind, we started our initiative for Rural Livelihood. We conduct skill development trainings for villagers in locally relevant skills. The idea is to enhance the livelihood for the villagers such as to have improved standard of living while avoiding migration to urban areas. These programmes are predominantly in the field of agriculture, fisheries, dairy farming, mushroom cultivation, handicrafts, etc.

To implement the courses, we conduct a needs analysis, meet the various stakeholders at the village or block level, and design the program with emphasis on practical learning and experiences. These programme run for two to four weeks, and are scheduled in such a manner that it does not affect their existing sources of livelihood. At the same time, it contributes in improving their future. Typically, we tie up with institutions at the local level for infrastructural support and the training is conducted by subject matter experts. The key to success is Market linkage, and our field teams work parallel to facilitate them in this linkage.

Our experience shows that after a period of one-year post completion of the training intervention, the average financial improvement in livelihood is more than Rs 1500 per month. Given this significant increase in their incomes, they don’t feel the urge to migrate to cities and subject themselves to challenging situations.

For example, we work with the state dairy or organized farms to help farmers negotiate better rates as a result of collective volume. In agriculture, we try to help farmers in reducing the input cost on seed procurement, fertilizers etc. and enhance the yield.

Here’s an interesting story from Karnataka.

Mushroom cultivation at ICICI Rural initiative

Mushroom cultivation at ICICI Rural initiative

Though Chikmagalur in Karnataka is well known for its coffee plantations, the economic disparity between the people is very high. We wanted to help the landless workers of the coffee farms by providing sustainable livelihood options beyond the seasonal employment. During our discussions with various stakeholders, the advice from agriculture scientists of KVK was that mushroom cultivation is a good option to explore given the climate and humidity levels. Mushroom cultivation does not need lot of space to grow and the harvest cycle is just about 30 days. We created awareness about the benefits of growing mushroom and conducted skill training by subject matter expert.

Initially, they were hesitant because they had never seen mushrooms. But with regular interactions and a well laid out Training, we could progress. As we connected them with super markets at district headquarter, they could see the initial success. Today, the village is called as the mushroom growing village and they’ve created a huge market locally. It has also moved to the next level of value chain through export of dried mushrooms. It has also strengthened food security and nutrition of the villagers since they keep 10% of the produce for self-consumption. This finally helps in contributing to the growth story of the country. 

Besides conducting training, skill development activities and providing a market connect, we also facilitate the convergence with various government schemes. For instance, if the state government has a scheme for poultry or dairy farming, we help people get support from the government, thereby acting as a bridge between the social welfare schemes and the people in the villages.

Rural Self-Employment Training Institute (RSETI)

Our country’s growth story can be multiplied by having many small entrepreneurs in rural locations. This self-employment programme is under the aegis of Ministry of Rural Development, Government of India and is being run by ICICI Foundation at two locations – Udaipur and Jodhpur. The trainees come from different places of the district for the 3-month residential program. After completion of training they go back to their respective places and set up their own enterprise in various fields like mobile repair, two-wheeler repair, food processing, beauty, electrical (sales and repair).


Ram Singh Dasana

We try and emphasize the importance of acquiring a skill to our trainees, irrespective of their background, as mastering a skill is the best way to earn a sustainable livelihood. To share an example, Ram Singh Dasana hails from Nathdwara in Rajasthan and suffers from Polio which limits his mobility. His disability and poor economic conditions of his parents prevented him from completing schooling, which made it hard for him to find gainful employment.

Ram Singh Dasana was ecstatic when he learned about the Cell phone Repair Services course at ICICI RSETI as that would help him fulfill his potential and run a business successfully. After undergoing skill training, the technical aspects of cell phone repairs along with life skills and entrepreneurial skills Ram Singh opened his own mobile repair shop and earns around Rs. 10,000 a month at his village.

ICICI Foundation’s initiatives in financial literacy

Across our three core initiatives i.e., the Academy for Skills, Rural Livelihood Initiative, and RSETI, we run classes on financial literacy to create awareness about basic financial products. The objective is to help people appreciate the financial products, manage their current finances better, and save for future. We also run financial literacy sessions focusing on bottom of the pyramid at large employers like police departments, railways workshops etc.

To summarize our impact so far, under the Rural Initiative we have trained about 200000 people; under Skills Academy 120000, and 80000 under RSETI adding up to over 400000 in the last 5 years. Our current focus is to have a presence in all states across the country and scale our activities for the benefit of local population. This supports our vision of inclusive and sustainable growth, and provide our nation’s youth with opportunities to lead a better life while helping the country take advantage of the large working age population to generate and sustain economic growth.

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