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Photographs by Vishal Koul

Good Businesses 2013

Jobs for the boys
Justrojgar offers skill training to the urban poor and helps them find suitable employment

Anoothi Vishal

Most people in this space are engaged in skills training; very few people are focusing on the illiterate" — Ajaya Mohapatra, co-founder and managing director

police station in India is hardly the sort of place most people would venture into willingly. Yet, at the Vasant Vihar police station in New Delhi, a dozen-odd young adults sit around happily enough in the computer lab, picking up accounting, office and DTP skills. These are boys and girls from the nearby slum clusters and resettlement colonies, motivated enough to skip an hour or two of play and household chores in the hope that the computer skills picked up here will help them in the long run.

“I want to be an airhostess,” mumbles Karina, a class 12 student, shyly, after much coaxing. “I want to be in a bank,” says her earnest-looking classmate Preeti. “I want to be a computer engineer,” a burlier boy chimes in to much all-round merriment. “I…er… I don’t know”, says another sheepishly. What these youngsters definitely know, however, is that an hour spent in this class after school is better than loitering around their congested homes. “My mother thought this was a good idea and so she paid the fee,” says another teenager, who is learning accounting software, Tally.

It is indeed a good idea. They may not be fully aware yet — this class is barely 10 days old — but earlier classes here and at similar centres have helped hundreds of other youth like them land semi-skilled and unskilled jobs in malls, banks (including SBI and ICICI), hospitals, hotels, corporate offices and homes. The catalyst here is Justrojgar, a three-year-old temp company that offers skills training and outsources blue-collared workers to corporate and domestic employers. While this small training centre is run in partnership with Delhi Police under its Yuva scheme (where the infrastructure — space and computers — are offered by the police and the curriculum and training by Justrojgar or the NGO it is affiliated to, We the People), there are two other centres across the National Capital Region engaged in similar work.

What does Justrojgar do? Its NGO parentage notwithstanding, it is a for-profit enterprise that trains jobless, low-skilled young workers and helps them get jobs in industry and corporates as well as households. “Most people in this space are engaged in skills training; very few people are focusing on the illiterate. But that is our focus, the 18-30 age bracket of school dropouts, illiterate and semi-literate people,” says Ajaya Mohapatra, co-founder and MD of Justrojgar India. “On the other hand, because of reverse migration and huge infrastructure development in the cities, there is also a huge demand for low-skilled manpower. We fill that gap.” 

With a career spanning over 20 years, the 43-year-old Mohapatra has worked at organisations such as WWF-India, Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation and PHD Rural Development Foundation and so on. He started We the People in 2005, focusing on self-employment for women. “While visiting the villages, we would talk about health, sanitation, nutrition, but ultimately it all boiled down to employment opportunities,” he says, firmly supporting the stance that “income is development”. In June 2009, Techpeople Management Services was started with an investment of ₹1 lakh to facilitate jobs for people at the bottom of the pyramid; the name was changed to Justrojgar in December 2012.  

Filling the gap

With a surplus of 27 million unemployed, low-skilled workers in India by 2020 (according to McKinsey) and close to 80 million dropouts at the elementary level in the country, there is obviously a huge challenge and a huge opportunity. Accordingly, Justrojgar offers as many 34 different services, from janitors, security guards and porters for companies and factories, to full- and part-time housekeepers, cooks, doormen, and caretakers for households. Till March 2013, it had trained and placed over 2,000 candidates, including at places such as Rockland Hotels, Great India Place Mall, Batra Hospital, DLF, Wipro, ICICI Bank, SBI and so on.

Currently, it has around 20 staffers managing the entire spectrum of its business, including business development, operations, skills training, placement and outsourcing and post placement services. How does it work? Training is provided in-house and most placements happen within the following three months; Justrojgar also has an admirable 96% placement record. Candidates pay for their training, albeit a hugely subsidised sum and in instalments — ₹100 as enrolment fee and ₹450 each from the first two months’ pay after getting a job. The market-aligned skills training on housekeeping and facility management, for instance, is geared towards learning while earning — it is spread over three months with 15 days or 100 hours of classroom training followed by 200 hours of on-the-job training, ensuring that candidates are able to earn basic minimum wages even while they pick up skills on the job. 

Justrojgar also charges a one-time placement fee from employers (about ₹400-600 per candidate), as well as a 10-15% service charge on the gross monthly salaries of candidates it outsources as a blue-collar temping agency (which also accounts for the bulk of its revenues). In addition, it also earns revenue from advertising on its website, as well as annual membership fees of ₹8,500 for turnkey recruitments where the company undertakes everything from sourcing and interviewing candidates to selection and placement.  

More importantly, the company’s involvement doesn’t end with training and placement. Mohapatra and his team also work actively to prevent exploitation of their candidates. Justrojgar helps with documentation, ensuring minimum wages and standard deductions for employee state insurance and provident fund. Corporates hiring these candidates sign tripartite agreements (with the employee and Justrojgar) ensuring responsible behaviour on both sides. “That can be a big challenge in this space,” explains Mohapatra.

For many candidates, these jobs represent a manifold change in fortunes. Sumit Kumar, a BCom IInd year student from Munirka Village in Delhi, was placed as a client servicing/marketing executive with an RO company six months ago. Today he earns about ₹7,200 per month (in hand), which is one and a half times more than what his father as a daily wage worker earns. “Initially I went because others were joining and my parents thought this would be a good way to use my free time rather than drift around. But with the basic, three-month computer training, I have already bagged a good job,” says Kumar. 

Road ahead

Mohapatra now has huge ambitions for Justrojgar. “We are on our way to becoming an over ₹2 crore company in the next 10 years,” he declares. That will be a huge leap from current levels — turnover in FY13 was ₹40 lakh, up from ₹25 lakh the previous year. But Mohapatra is counting on training multiple times more people from the urban poor as the years go by — from 2,200 in the past two and a half years, to 73,800 in the next five years and 223,000 in the coming decade. “Over the last three years, our focus was on developing the proof of concept and stabilising operations. In the next seven years, our plan is to expand aggressively. We have already demonstrated a scalable and replicable model, which is backed by the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) and impact investors with future investments in the pipeline. Therefore, we are confident of achieving the above numbers in the next 10 years,” he adds.

Last November, Justrojgar secured equity investment of ₹10 lakh from Upaya Social Ventures (representing 4% stake in the company). Sreejith Nedumaupully, director, business development, at Upaya, is bullish about the venture. “The potential is huge, both on the demand and supply side and that is why we have also invested. This, plus their innovative model that combines brick-and-mortar physical training with web- and IT-based initiatives to reach out to many more people, can really bring in the numbers,” he says.  

Fittingly, when Justrojgar opened its first training and placement academy, it was at Sangam Vihar in New Delhi, home to one of the biggest slums in the country. The company will continue focusing on the NCR (where it already has three Rojgar Academies) for the next three years before venturing outside. Mohapatra says that the NCR is the largest market in India, requiring an estimated 3 million low-skilled workers in almost 2,000 corporates, industries, malls and academic institutions. Expansion plans include setting up another hub in Mumbai (to focus on the Delhi-Mumbai industrial corridor) and one in Chandigarh to cover satellite industrial towns such as Mohali, Ambala, Rudrapur and Baddi. Next up will be Bengaluru and Chennai within a decade. 

Each academy will entail a capital cost of ₹6.7 lakh and a running cost of ₹15.75 lakh a year. To fund the expansion in the next decade, Mohapatra expects to raise ₹12.5 crore in the next four years from various sources. While total investment in the company is now over ₹50 lakh, including promoter’s contribution as well as investments by Upaya and the American India Foundation, there is also a proposal to get staggered debt funding from NSDC in the next four years, after which Mohapatra is confident of breaking even and making a 10-15% profit every year. “Development cannot happen without employment. When I used to visit villages and advocate issues such as safe water and hygiene, I did not have a reply when confronted with the employment issue. Justrojgar is now my answer.”

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