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!