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