Atul Satija, formerly an executive at Google and mobile advertising firm InMobi, recently left his lucrative corporate position to start a nonprofit organization called The/Nudge Foundation out of his native Bangalore. The goal of The/Nudge Foundation is to alleviate poverty by offering job training in India targeted at the economically disadvantaged.

The/Nudge Foundation announced on July 27, has already attracted a diverse group of notable supporters, including Naveen Tewari, Founder and CEO of InMobi, and Hugo Barra, Vice President of Chinese tech giant Xiaomi. The/Nudge Foundation will operate local training facilities called Gurukuls, aimed at people living below the poverty line. These schools will teach so-called “grey-collar” job skills like housekeeping and delivery skills as well as life skills such as financial management and literacy.

Satija, still fresh out of a corporate environment, seems to be utilizing some business tactics with his foundation, perhaps explaining his ability to draw support from powerful corporate executives in such a short amount of time. “It is about building the same level of impatience, goal setting that you have in the corporate sector. If you don’t carry that pressure in a nonprofit, you will never get to your goals,” he said.

The first Gurukul is scheduled to open on November 1, 2015, and will be exclusively targeting women. To ensure sufficient enrollment and motivation, The/Nudge Foundation will be issuing nominal loans to students who will presumably pay them back shortly after graduating from the schools and getting a job.

While Satija’s The/Nudge Foundation is a welcome addition to poverty reduction measures, it is not unique. The Indian government, NGOs, economists and development experts have long known that India suffers from a skills gap. Of the 400 million people living in poverty in India, many are young people seeking jobs who lack access to technical training.

That’s why in 2009, Indian Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee established the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC), a public entity that connects the private sector, job training facilities and people looking for work. The government ambitiously hopes to provide training to millions of people by 2022, with the overall goal of creating many industrial jobs to accelerate the Indian economy, whose growth has been more sluggish than expected.

However, the NSDC faces a daunting task. A report by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry and consulting firm Ernst and Young revealed that India’s vocational training institutes only have the capacity to reach about 1.3 million people. Thus, India’s ability to provide vocational training to the hundreds of millions that need it is a formidable challenge.

That’s where organizations like The/Nudge Foundation come in. By focusing on the poorest demographic, they can help bridge the gap between available job training services and hard-to-reach portions of the population. When so many people are in need of technical training and life skills, every available measure is needed.

Derek Marion

Sources: BBC, Economic Times 1, Economic Times 2, The Guardian
Photo: Cloud Front

India's Private Academies Help Reduce Poverty
Being one of the world’s most populous countries, India’s young workforce (age 25 and younger) is roughly double the population of the entire United States. While hundreds of millions of workers can be seen as an incredible resource, it also presents a pressing dilemma. India is currently posed with the problem of employment, which becomes more and more imminent as the young adult population increases.

In the next nine years, India must train 500 million people. To solve this issue, the Indian government has made practical job training a priority. Training centers such as Gras Learning Academy are becoming more and more popular as the demand for specific skills increases. Since the education offered at institutions such as Gras is so specific, it has a higher job placement rate. Due to this trend, Gras and other private academies are growing in number all over India.

However, Gras not only offers classes in specialized skills such as cellphone repair and computer networking. Academies like Gras offer classes in basic life skills for students from impoverished areas who may not have had the time or ability to attend middle and high school. These basic life skills include the importance of punctuality, speaking professionally with managers, and presenting yourself in a well-kept manner.

In many cases, the needs of struggling economies are overshadowed by prescriptive solutions that are often based on theory. However, private academies in India have addressed poverty very practically by understanding the setbacks of the students, and the demands of the workforce, building a bridge from one to the other.

– Pete Grapentien

Sources: The New York Times