Acumen Blog


How one India Fellow is building up the labor force in India

Over 90% of the 500 million person labor force in India exists in the unorganized sector. Working conditions in the informal sector are poor and offer few incentives leading to stagnating low incomes.

Acumen India Fellow Prerit Rana is the Co-Founder and CEO of Agrasar, a non-profit organization outside New Delhi working to unlock this massive human capital potential and provide social security to disadvantaged communities across the country.  Trained as an engineer, Prerit started his career at his father’s corrugated box factory.  Things were moving ahead professionally and the path to comfort and traditional success seemed clear, however something felt missing. “I could feel a disconnect between my work and the kind of person I longed to be. I am still unsure why I resigned when I did, but my subsequent work as a volunteer at a local NGO left me feeling closer to myself and to the people around me.”

Prerit earned a degree at the Institute of Rural Management, Anand (IRMA) and joined the social sector full time at Edulever, an education consulting start-up. The experience of building at the ground level and learning at every stage was exhilarating. Prerit and Chetan Kapoor, the Director of Edulever, shared a desire to do more to enhance the sustainability of the skills training sector. Out of that dream Agrasar was born. Since 2011, Agrasar has trained more than 1,000 people in hard skills such as computer proficiency and basic English, as well as soft skills such as networking. “The biggest question faced by vocational training providers in India is what competencies to train people in,” says Prerit. “At Agrasar, we strive to evolve the program based on the needs of local industry and the aptitude and aspirations of the candidates.”



Agrasar’s proof of concept is apparent in the story of the company’s first hire. Abid Hasan grew up in Patni, a small village in Uttar Pradesh.  In 2010, after failing to pass matriculation examinations, Abid moved to Dehradun to pursue a course in Mechanics from an employability academy that promised placement at a reputable company upon completion. He spent nine months at the centre only to find out there was no job waiting.  After months languishing in unemployment, he returned to Patni and joined Agrasar as an office assistant.  Prerit saw Abid’s drive and encouraged him to attend classes at Agrasar in addition to his office duties. He took up the Workplace English, IT and Retail courses. By the end of the training, he could understand and read English and most importantly possessed a sense of confidence that propelled him to become an entrepreneur. Abid saw a market for mobile repairs in Patni and a lack of providers. He discussed his vision with another Agrasar graduate, and on March 11th, 2012, their shop opened successfully. Abid’s dreams for the future continue to expand in proportion to his self-confidence.


The challenge of tailoring skills training to massive, ever-changing markets remains daunting, but Prerit wakes up every day clear in his purpose: “My dream is to make people delighted – the people we work with as well as the Agrasar team. I used to consider myself an optimist, but the bar has been raised by my dedicated team members. I love to see them learning and growing. I can see the many lives they are impacting. I consider Agrasar a development school where they can learn, grow and move on whether it be within Agrasar or beyond.”

The Acumen India Fellows Program is currently looking for more social change makers like Prerit who dream of a more inclusive world. Submit your application before September 1st and join a network of change makers with the humility to see the world as it is, and the audacity to imagine it as it could be. Apply Today!



We Are Each Other’s Destiny

To reflect on the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is to consider deeply our human interconnectedness and the world we want to build. Each year on this day, I re-read his extraordinary, elegiac “Letter from Birmingham Jail” to remember his commitment to human equality and the price he paid. I read it to remind myself of the power of idealism grounded in pragmatism. I read it to renew my belief in our individual and collective abilities to help bend the moral arc ever more toward justice. [Read More]

Let’s Work Together

Acumen has offices in New York, Mumbai, Karachi, Bogota, Nairobi and Accra. Last August, Avinash Mishra, a Senior Portfolio Associate in the India office, and Keya Madhvani, the Internal Communications Associate in the New York office, were nominated to attend the One Young World Summit in Dublin. Below, they share lessons learned at the summit.  [Read More]

Edubridge: Bridging the Skills Gap in Rural India

India’s demographic dividend is widely acknowledged as a strength that sets it apart from other emerging economies. One million young men and women enter the workforce every month, which will add up to an astounding 240 million over the next twenty years.  Rural youth make up two thirds of India’s population and are a major segment of these job seekers. At the same time, fast growing companies in retail, IT, BPO, banking and financial services struggle with finding employable staff, especially in rural areas.  Research shows that only 5-40% of the staff in such companies has undergone formal training. [Read More]

New Study By Acumen and Bain & Company Unveils How To Scale Adoption Of Agricultural Innovations

Acumen and Bain & Company today released Growing Prosperity: Developing Repeatable Models® to Scale the Adoption of Agricultural Innovations—a new report to help entrepreneurial companies, and others, unlock the potential of smallholder farmers through large-scale adoption of agricultural innovations and inputs. The report’s insights and findings—which are the result of interviews with more than 300 smallholder farmers, sector experts and pioneer firm management—demonstrate the transformative power of providing smallholder farmers with the right access to the right innovations at the right time. In parallel, the report addresses why very few pioneer firms have been able to achieve the scale needed to provide smallholder farmers with access to agricultural products and services that have the potential to increase their yields and pull them out of poverty. [Read More]

Why India’s Economic Growth Depends on Vocational Training

India has an enormous population of young people – over half of the 1.2 billion people are younger than 25 years old. Yet, only 2% of its 500 million person workforce has any skills or training. The majority work in the informal sector (90%), where there are few opportunities for education other than what workers ‘pick up’ on the job. This reality limits overall productivity, as well as upward mobility. [Read More]