Real Success

I suddenly woke up in the middle of the night and could not sleep, so got an opportunity to read the miscellaneous office papers and ‘success stories’ my wife Mrinal had collected for the Annual Report.  I was in for a very pleasant surprise, because the stories connected me to the inner core of what we had set out to do 14 years ago and which unavoidably got covered with layers of goals, processes and action plans until the reason for our inner motivation became the outline.  It is there, you feel it, but don’t see it! As clearly as you did before.

rizwan-success story

These were the stories of a couple of dropouts from poverty stricken villages of Beed, Latur   and Jalna who did the Mobile Repairing Course and instead of becoming parasites, were now earning Rs.10,000/- per month, with their own Mobile Repairing Kiosks.Boys & girls across geographies who walk 8 to 10 kms.  Daily to attend Yuva Parivartan’s (YP) DTP Class and are now earning Rs.6,000/- to Rs.8,000/- p.m. Village girl from the back of beyond, against tremendous odds and opposition attended the Nursing Assistant or Tailoring Course and are now earning Rs.4,000/- to Rs.5,000/- p.m., but, more importantly, will lead a life of dignity and self-respect.

success story

A heart-rendering story of a girl from a remote village who describes in detail her story similar to ‘Sindhutai Sapkal’ a hit film where our girls are pulled out of school at the age of 10 to work as farm labourers with the family, married underage to wastrels  who drives her out when pregnant since she cannot finance his vices and returns to live as a burden in the family hut.  She finds YP and is now earning for herself and infant daughter, lives in a separate room and dreams of making enough as a tailor to give her infant the life and opportunity she never had.

This then was the secret of our YP colleagues, staff and Social Workers across India who work on moderate salaries, who trained 100,000 students last year probably because they thought of their work as a Mission.  There were dozens of stories but I could not go on, there were tears in my eyes and in that moment it made all the efforts of 14 years worthwhile.

I said a silent prayer and slept soundly.



Over 70% of the population, particularly in 600,000 villages of Rural India are not financially literate i.e. they do not have any knowledge of institutional facilities for banking transactions and have no Bank Accounts or do not know how to comply with ‘Know Your Customer’ guidelines by RBI which are mandatory for opening Bank Accounts.  In addition a number of Government Schemes for the poor did not reach them since in the absence of Bank Accounts, Panchayats or the Middlemen created ‘leakages’ to siphon off part of the money.  The UID headed by Nandan Nilekani created the ‘Adhar’ Card which satisfies the KYC norms of Banks and would help open ‘zero balance’ accounts to which Government can transfer money directly, preventing the earlier leakages.  This will result in Bank Account Holders being educated in Financial Literacy and be ‘included’ in availing of Financial Processes & Instruments. 


Financial Inclusion is the next big issue in the minds of the Financial and Rural Development Experts, in view of the payments to be made directly by the Government in the Bank Accounts of the Adhar Card Holders, the Diwali Week Papers were full of reports these direct transfers which indeed is a revolutionary concept, since it would prevent substantial & regular leakages in the transfer of funds to the poor. 


Yuva Parivartan sees this as a very big opportunity because it is in a position to undertake the last mile delivery in terms of Financial Literacy, and opening Bank Accounts for the unbanked, through its Mobile Rural Camps for which we had contacted half-a-dozen Public and Private Sector Banks, to ascertain their preparation for carrying out this Government/RBI priority, and the possible role that we could play in this process.


To my utter shock and surprise I find, that, though all Banks have Financial Inclusion Officers or Departments, they have not yet developed any strategy or Business Plan to undertake this exercise, and everyone seems to be groping in the dark trying to figure out what should be done!  typically waiting for orders from above, which hardly builds confidence about the success of the Government Plans for Financial Inclusion.

What is the issue then?  Is it, that, the Banks because, it is an unremunerative exercise, are not interested? If the Government and RBI are serious should they not be insisting on specific plans or strategies to be developed by Banks in a time-bound manner for achieving targets of Financial Inclusion?  Or, is it yet another hype which will take many years to implement? 

Perhaps the Authorities and Banks should reflect seriously and take this a little more seriously!

Let us hope for the best!



How the movement began

While ruminating over the progress of Yuva Parivartan over the last 14 years, I am wonder-struck by the progress we have made.  What started out as “a do Gooding” 1 Centre exercise to help out-of-school, deprived youth in Bandra East, started with a sense of obligation to the local community has grown into a huge project with a National Presence, soon to go international in its 15th year.

When Mrinal and I started out the Mom & Pop Shop in 1998, Ashok Advani, our early supporter, used to call us the ‘chief cooks & bottle washers’ which we indeed were.  We struggled to pay our initial salaries totaling Rs.5,000/- p.m.! And friends and well wishers chipped in while today we raise and spend Rs.10 cr. p.a.

5 years ago, at the 40th Anniversary of my IIMA67 Batch on Campus, I wrote an article on the ‘Blue Print of our Lives! which the ‘IIMA Alumnus’ published, which I am attaching for those who may be interested.

Yuva Parivartan has evolved in 4 phases with one more to go.  (1) The early struggle and survival – 1998 to 2000 – Explore in the Social Development Sector, the difficult change in mindset from corporate life to  being the ‘chief cook and the bottle washer’, no money, few friends and many problems; (2) Foundation Phase 2003 to 2006 – firm and strong with Kherwadi Social Welfare Association (KSWA)’s Platinum Jubilee and then President APJ Abdul Kalam inaugurated the ‘Yuva Parivartan Movement’ – media coverage, distinguished and supportive  Advisory Board headed by B.G. Deshmukh, a few professional colleagues like Shivani Mehta join – start the first ‘Out Reach Centre’ in Andheri and think of helping deprived youth in Mumbai and surrounding areas;

(3) Looking Outward – 2007 to 2010 – Set up half a dozen Training Centres in Thane, Pune, Nashik and in a bold move in another State – Bangalore Centre.  More colleagues join, Corporate Sponsors now willing to help because we deliver. Internal introspection and self doubt of – are we doing too much, too quickly?; are we sacrificing quality for quantity? Are Founders out for personal glory?; But we make it, worse is to follow!   

4) The Disruptive Innovation Phase – 2010 to 2013 – Devika does an ‘Orbit Changing’ Workshop just the trigger we need for helping deprived, out-of-school youth nationally – we are among the few NGOs who have the capability to do it, we have the support of sponsors and huge opportunity for skilling due to economic growth and a young population.  We aim to go from 18000 students in 2010-2011 to 100,000 students in 2011-2012.  There is dissonance in the organisation.  Departments are stretched, we are in turmoil, we lose people, talk of ‘KK losing it!’ (Already lost it?).  We double staff, we create regions with a corporate structure, self doubt, are we destroying ourselves, KK destroying the NGO’s ‘Social Development Heart’ of the organisation etc. But we make it!  There is euphoria but doubters remain and then we go for the kill – grow from 100,000 p.a. to 400,000 in 2012-2013 and a million in 2013-14 along with acquiring an International NGO Tag.  Complete, disruption (good, I say) doubts of having lost our heart and soul confirmed?!  The story is being scripted, we are only halfway through the year which is looking grim.  Everything that can go wrong has gone wrong – looking for the proverbial silver lining – more later as the story unfolds.

Population Dividend or Population Disaster

The Government of India has in the last 5 years focused attention on the problems of unskilled youth who do not complete school (80% of all youth) and a consequent mismatch between demand for skilled jobs emanating from economic growth, and the supply of skilled manpower. The 11th Plan mentions that if the 500 million youth who reach employable age are unskilled, hence unable to participate in the benefits of the economic growth, the Population Dividend which follows from the young manpower contributing to the economy as taxes and value added products as against old manpower which takes away resources, as pension, healthcare, will not follow and a large unskilled young population without jobs will lead to social unrest causing a Population Disaster.    We seem to be headed in the direction of a disaster since implementation of the Skills Training Schemes of the 17 Ministries of Government of India  have not taken off the ground.  In fact, there is an Inter-Ministerial Board to coordinate efforts of the 17 Ministries engaged in skilling youth, but the Board never meets and different Ministries go their own way and make impractical Rules & Regulations and impose conditions, which no honest Vocational Training Provider (VTP) can follow. 


The PMO had recently announced a target of training 550 million youth by 2022 of which 150 million were to be trained by NSDC and 350 million by the 17 Ministries of Government of India referred to earlier.  In the last 5 years, less than 20% of the Annual Target for skill training has been achieved, and, unless impediments in implementation are removed, we will achieve less than a third of the target leading to unemployment, social unrest and Law & Order problems.  


It is not too late to understand the impediments in the path of VTPs, adopt pragmatic policies for target achievement   and make it conducive for organisations with proven liability & credibility to scale up significantly by removing the risk of scaling up, mainly; bureaucratic approvals and cash flow problems due to delayed payments.

Yuva Parivartan’s trailblazing approach to Skill Development

The challenges of skilling out of school, deprived and disadvantaged youth are many, because of which few NGOs have ventured into this area, and those that have, have generally confined themselves to a few simple subjects like – tailoring and basic computer literacy, because both subjects attract students across the spectrum quite easily.  A few large and well organised and well-known NGOs who have ventured in this field have considerable difficulty  in scaling up and generally like to confine themselves to a target audience which is relatively better educated i.e. SSC pass or fail so that their chances of employment are brighter than for the less educated youth.

Yuva Parivartan (YP) is among the very few NGOs that have an ‘inclusive Model’ which not only admits but reaches out at the rural level to those who can read and write, regardless of their educational qualifications.  The challenges of training youth in this category, whether they are from the rural, semi-urban or urban (slums) are:

 a.  They have a very short attention span, hence, programs have to be of a short duration – 8 – 10 days max. or few hours a day spread over 60 – 90 days to retain the students;

b. Gender discrimination is rampant in India, hence, boys generally pampered do not have high motivation to attend classes since their expectations of getting 1 or 2 frugal meals in a day are fulfilled by the earning member of the family.

c. Peer pressure encourages them prefer sitting at an ‘Adda’ rather than a classroom.  Peer pressure is generally negative and often leads them astray;

d. Role Models & aspirations for the poor are those with a flashy life style and display of wealth, hence they prefer being political hangers-on or resort to some light work or  illegal activity to make quick money rather than do manual labour which is their only alternative in the absence of having acquired a skill.  Girls on the other hand, welcome an opportunity to escape the daily drudgery of their mothers and are motivated to learn skills as a passport to a better life and an opportunity to socalise with their peers which is difficult in a rural or urban slum setting.

e. Career Planning is non-existent.  Large majority of the youth (over 90%) come from the labour class and labour attitude towards life and their world view revolve around living for the day.  If they find manual work which is generally during the agricultural season in villages or construction activity in the urban areas, they eat a square meal, and spend the balance immediately, on clothes and entertainment.  There is no saving and illness generally make them indebted to the local money-lenders or the slum-lords, leading to the bread-earner wanting to drown his misery in drink. This leads to domestic violence and subsistence living or starvation, a perpetual cycle of misery which is repeated in the next generation.  The only escape from this depressing life is to inculcate career planning and emphasize on learning a skill so that they need not do manual labour alone and enables them to avail of the recently thrown up skilled based employment opportunities.

YP efforts have been to reach out to these youth through staff and social workers who introduce the subjects of skills and direct them to various skilled based courses which YP conducts.

YP primarily reaches out to deprived youth through 3 Delivery Formats;

(1)  Training Centres owned and conducted by us;

(2)  Partnership Centres spread throughout the Country;

(3)  Mobile Rural Camps.

 In addition we offer Life Skills and Job Preparedness Modules at the end of the course through a unique program specially developed by us called ‘Soch Ka Parivartan’ we try to change their attitude towards Livelihoods through small 10 minute stories narrated each day which have a moral.

 In 2011-12 we trained 100,000 students and plan to more than double the number in the current year.

Joining Hands

I had earlier written of the stakeholders focusing on the wrong end of the 80:20 i.e. 80% of the training, resources and attention is going to the 20% who have reached or passed school completing 10th Std., whereas the 80% who will decide whether we have a Population ‘Dividend’ or ‘Disaster’ are ignored.

What can we do to engage the 80%? The answer is staring at everyone in the face But, we choose not to see it!  

Use the Social Development Sector (SDS). 

  • NGO rating bodies are already in existence – strengthen them;
  • Select and appoint lead NGOs per State/District/Taluka (Tehsil), who are responsible for skilling and placing less educated, deprived, disadvantaged youth;
  • Link up skills with Livelihoods opportunities, both wage and self-employment in both organized but more importantly the unorganized sector which provides 90% of the job opportunities;
  • Get Industry to help with affirmative action through their Business Associations in the unorganized sector for Livelihoods Opportunities;
  • Let Govt. provide appropriate incentives and introduce schemes which seriously consider the 80% youth and 90% employment opportunities in the unorganized sector;
  • Now if you face reality, media will jump in and look at the ‘real challenge’ in Skilling rather than focusing on 2% youth, who go to the ITIs supported by Industry under PPP;
  • Acknowledge and recognize the role of the SDS.  Remove obstacles in their path by the State Govt. Authorities and facilitate their Nation Building work. 

Like Yuva Parivartan (YP), there are at least half-a-dozen large NGOs in the SDS, who would be happy to Partner their NGOs and wish to enter the area of Skills Development.  This can be a starting point for at least a part of the 3 million registered NGOs in the country today, to get involved in Skills Development. 


Let the Government get their act together first.


What is the future of Youthful India?

The biggest problem faced by the country in the Livelihood area is `out-of-school youth’. This term includes those who have never attended school and those who have dropped out before completing school. These youth affect the country in two ways;

First, without education or skills they find it difficult to get jobs other than as casual labour, from where they will again drop out in the future years, vent their frustration on their family members, take to drinking or substance abuse and resort to physical violence. The other problem is at a macro level – the opportunity loss of skilled labour where in an economy growth of 7 to 8% per annum, there is a huge gap between job availability and availability of the skills required to fill these jobs, thus bringing down the GDP growth.

While this problem has been staring everyone in the face for several decades, it has recently become fashionable to discuss this in the last 5 years, due to a concept of “Demographic Dividend”. This says, that if the percentage of young people contributing to the National Economy is greater than the percentage of dependents (?) who draw from the economy, then the country will have an advantage in terms of its working population, leading to stronger, more sustained economic growth. . In the case of India, 50% of the population is below the age of 25 and hence with the next 20 years we can theoretically expect to be the skilled labour supplier for the world since in all countries including China, the older people are greater than the younger people due to low population growth in recent years (or decades?).
This is a unique, once in a life time situation, which as the 12th Five Year Plan says, can become a Dividend or Disaster depending on how skilled the workforce is. In the case of India, it is likely to be a Demographic disaster since over 80% of all youth in the country do not complete school and the percentage of skilled youth is only 5% compared to over 60% in the developed countries in Asia and Europe. What makes this worse is that the existing total capacity of our education system to scale this number up is limited. The government vocational training framework, consisting of the ITIs and Polytechnics trains only 6%, but the large majority cannot get admission to these Vocational Training Institutions since they have not completed school, and school completion is the minimum requirement for admission to these institutions.
Now to look at the heart of this problem, we have a situation where more than 80% youth who have not completed school lack employable skills and at the same time, there are jobs going-a-begging in the economy which is mainly for skilled youth.

What then is the solution? The Government in their infinite wisdom has decided through 17 of their Ministries that they will have Vocational Training Programs for skilling 500 million youth in 20 years, but in the first 3 years they have been able to skill barely a million youth!
Secondly, through the Annual Fiscal Budget, they are encouraging Private Industries to sponsor ITI and Polytechnics which have a very limited capacity. The real answer is to study the issue of the large section of youth who have not completed school and create infrastructure and policies to get them trained to vocational skills and help them find Livelihood opportunities. A channel which has so far not been utilized to its full potential is the “Social Development Sector” (NGOs & CBOs) who do not have a profit motive and have social workers for reach and penetration in areas in which these dropouts are located. Most schemes of the Government of India are today concerned by the Private Sector, which is largely driven by profit as its motive and hence is unlikely to make a significant difference to these unskilled youth.

There are 3 million+ registered NGOs who, if harnessed, can make a significant difference to the skilling process and even if there are black sheep among NGOs, these can be weeded out by having a strong accreditation process which ensures credibility. The truth is for everyone to see, how long are we going to bury our heads in the sand?