“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”- George Bernard Shaw
Impactpreneurs had a detailed talk with an Ashoka Fellow, Rajendra Joshi who has been relentlessly working for over a decade to empower the poor living in rural areas and urban slums.
Inception of Saath Livelihoods
Saath Livelihoods spun off from Saath Charitable Trust in 2007 to provide quality livelihood to the vulnerable urban and rural poor people. Saath Livelihoods designs business models which aim to develop an inclusive society. Both these organizations are the brainchild of Rajendra Joshi, an Ashoka fellow.
Magnitude of the Problem
While talking about the people living in the slums, Rajendra mentioned about some disturbing statistics like only about 15-20% of the Indian population belongs to the formal sector whereas the majority remains in the unorganized sector where there is no job security. In Ahmedabad, about 2 million people or 33% of the population which make 2 million people lives in slums whereas this percentage is as high as 60% for in Mumbai.
Programs Launched by the Organization
Saath Livelihoods runs different programmes aimed at improving livelihood opportunities for its targeted communities. From reviving the traditional weaving industry to bridging the gap between potential customers and house constructors, Saath has worked on diverse projects to cater to the needs of their communities.They also run, Udaan, a vocational education programme for the youth with a backing from Microsoft.
Experience as an Ashoka Fellow
“As an Ashoka Fellow, my visibility has increased. This helps when I interact with stakeholders,” said Rajendra while talking about his experience as an Ashoka Fellow.
Involvement with other Organizations
Saath, as the name suggests (togetherness), also provides support to other organization by incubating them. Few organizations incubated by Saath are DISHA and Nyayika. DISHA encourages farmers to produce pesticide-free mangoes and also, provides a marketing platform for them whereas Nyayika provides affordable legal services. Saath, in collaboration with Incube Ventures, has also incubated an organization called Ashray which is an Incubation and Research Centre. The organization also designs low-cost programmes for the government through which they connect with the people at the bottom of the pyramid.
Government and Saath
Saath helps the government design and implement e vocational training programmes for the youth in the urban areas across Gujarat. In one such instance, the government worked on a PPP model with the collaboration of NGOs, local municipality and urban local communities. Saath assisted the government in providing basic infrastructure to the people living in slums wherein the government contributed 43% to the fund.
Challenges faced by the organization:
Since the bureaucrats are constantly transferred from one region to another, working with the government becomes tough for the organisation. “But the journey has been gratifying, satisfying, challenging, have got a lot to learn. It is fun,” quips Rajendra immediately.
Companies like HSBC, Godrej, American Foundation, IFCI have shown trust in the organization by funding it. Saath Livelihoods currently has a turnover of INR 1.4 crore.
“The increasing urbanization is creating wealth opportunities for the end users, intermediaries, investors and informal sector,” said Rajendra.
Impact Created by the Organization
They have supported 1 lakh households across Gujarat. The organization has not only helped in uplifting the economic but also the living conditions of the people belonging to the bottom of the pyramid. Saath also promotes credit granted by corporate societies so that they can provide a low-interest loan to the people. Rajendra also shared a story of Jayanti, who has just studied till class 8 and after undergoing Saath’s vocational training is a manager at a McDonald’s outlet.
“Entrepreneurs should execute their ideas at least on the microscopic level because on doing this they will know about the challenges,” advised Rajendra to the rising entrepreneurs.
Image Credits: Saath Livelihoods