With dauntless vision and willpower, Inspera is empowering students with skills to become healthcare professionals. Dr.Sharmila Anand, Founder of Inspera (formerly known as SEHPL) shares with us her ‘Million Smiles’ journey as a social entrepreneur.
What inspired you to start Inspera?
I was leading a community healthcare program with the WHO (World Health Organisation) in a district in Uttar Pradesh when I first realised the dire need to improve healthcare education in India. With a view to bridge the knowledge and skill gaps in this sector, I embarked on a Million Smiles Journey in Chennai with 9 students in 2015. I founded Inspera with a focus on developing the next generation of healthcare professionals in India by imparting skills that are not available in the traditional education system.
How are the students trained to be better healthcare professionals?
We deliver Professional Certification Programs, Leadership Programs and Global Learning Programs in collaboration with leading Indian and international organisations.
Our one-year industry-integrated programs are targeted at students who cannot afford higher education. During the training period, they do a 6-month paid internship at a hospital to get a hands-on experience. At the end of the course, they appear for an examination conducted by the Healthcare Sector Skill Council (HSSC). Post certification, each student is provided with a 100% job guarantee and placed with a starting salaries of INR 10,000 a month in an urban area. Our short-term courses are aimed at students who have just completed their high school (10th grade). The course duration is 3 months.
What are the NSQF levels at which these certificates are awarded to students?
We focus on job roles at NSQF level 3 or 4. For instance, we provide courses for X-ray Technicians and Operation Theatre – Anaesthesia Technicians which is at NSQF Level 4.We provide dual certification for these job roles since they are closely related to each other. We have chosen these roles primarily because they have shown a growing career path in the last couple of years. With the experience, training and scores acquired at Inspera, students will have the opportunity to work at any of the leading hospitals across the country.
What skills does the Global Learning Program focus on?
Global Learning Program aims at creating skills in students who are currently in the traditional healthcare education sector such as medical college students or students who are studying public health. The program gives them an opportunity to visit another country for 10-15 days and learn about the healthcare system in that country. This exposes them to a whole different world and challenges them to think beyond our healthcare system. In the process, their personality and soft skills are also improved.
Through such programs, an underprivileged student gets exposed to various life experiences and the privileged one understands the fact that there is much to learn, to make a change in the community. We call this our Million Smiles Journey. It’s not about what you have or do not have. It’s about your ability to put a smile on others’ faces.
How do you attract and mobilise students to these courses?
We primarily work with schools and NGOs to create awareness about the courses. We facilitate loans at 0% interest rate that reduces the fear of a financial burden of undertaking the course. For the 1 year courses conducted in partnership with GE Healthcare, 0% interest loans are provided by Tata Trusts. The students can repay the loan after 1 year of placement, which would be less than 20% of their salary during the 3 years of their job. This way, the students will be able to support the family after their program.
How do you plan on expanding your reach to impact a larger number of youth?
We are trying to expand in a sustainable way by partnering with training agencies and NGOs to create centres where these new courses can be conducted. In this way, our partners are able to expand their portfolio and we are able to get a wider reach. We are also collaborating with other social entrepreneurs in the sector to expand our geographies and reach out to more students.
Many NGOs and training agencies that provide courses are still focused on the traditional job roles, for example: tailoring and beautician courses, welding, plumbing etc. The only healthcare courses that are widespread in the market now are Nursing Assistants and Medical Lab Technicians. But, there are more than 20 job roles that are available, which have been identified by the Healthcare Sector Skill Council. We are looking at these key areas to scale up and deepen our impact.
Has being a part of an incubator helped you take your vision ahead?
For a social entrepreneur to achieve his/her vision, the support of like-minded people is imperative. I am indebted to the mentoring I received from UnLtd India. I am blessed to have a team that does commendable work to achieve our vision. All of us, including the faculty members, have interacted with UnLtd India and received support in many ways. My team works hard to make sure that they are not developing students but individuals who can transform the lives of many people.