Poverty alleviation, one skill at a time

Sangeetha Chengappa Bengaluru | Updated on January 20, 2018 Published on March 24, 2016

Atul Satija, Founder-CEO, The/Nudge Foundation

Nandan Nilekani-backed non-profit, The/Nudge Foundation, helps 46 youth get placements after its first programme

Ayisha Siddikha, the eldest of eight children, and her younger sister are the lifeline of their family of 10. With a non-working father suffering from cardiac ailments and a stay-at-home mother, Ayisha and her sister’s joint income of ₹15,000, earned as tailors at a local garment factory on the outskirts of Bengaluru, was stretched to take care of the family.

Ayisha has now been hired by beauty salon chain YLG where she earns ₹9,800 a month, plus incentives of up to 12 per cent of the revenue she brings in, opening up avenues for her to earn ₹10,500–15,000 a month. This was made possible by The/Nudge Foundation, a Nandan Nilekani-backed non-profit focussed on sustainable poverty alleviation..


The foundation selected Ayisha, along with 45 other underprivileged youth, for its first four-month residential Gurukul programme, from November 2015 to February 2016.

She was trained in soft skills, hygiene and given special training to become an entry-level beautician by the foundation’s partner, Godrej.

“The foundation gave me a loan of ₹3,500 a month to support my family while I studied at the Gurukul. I started with a salary of ₹6,500 in the garment factory and after seven years received a meagre increase of ₹1,000. With my new job, I will receive yearly performance-based increments,” a happy Ayisha told BusinessLine. Another Gurukul graduate, Ramesh Kumar (name changed), son of a farmer near Tumakuru, whose annual family income is ₹20,000, was hired as a kitchen supervisor with food discovery/delivery platform InnerChef for ₹17,000 a month.

Atul Satija, Founder-CEO, The/Nudge Foundation, said, “46 underprivileged boys and girls (18-22 years) selected via our NGO partners, who graduated from our first Gurukul, have been placed with companies such as Cartisan, DriveU, Uber Salon, InnerChef, Naturals, Lakme and YLG. Girls who were promised ₹7,000 salary received ₹9,500 and boys who were promised ₹8,500 received ₹13,500.”

Now, that we have ‘nailed it’, as Nilekani says, we are ready to ‘scale’ this model.”

Advisory board expanded

To help scale, the foundation has expanded its advisory board to include Manish Sabharwal, Co-Founder and Chairman of TeamLease Services, Dr Devi Shetty, Chairman and Founder of Narayana Health, and Kiran Karnik, erstwhile president of Nasscom.

“A model that combines low-cost delivery of life skills and livelihoods, and employment at scale is what is needed to solve India’s skill deficit.

“The key will be the capacity for innovation and sustainability, which is exactly what I think The/Nudge Foundation is rightly primed for,” said Sabharwal.

Founded in July 2015, the foundation has received grants from Nilekani ($200,000), Great Wall Club ($50,000), InMobi ($75,000) and Paytm ($40,000).

The funds have been deployed to impart life-skills, literacy and livelihoods to underprivileged youth, through residential Gurukuls over four months, with the goal of pulling one million people out of poverty by 2020.

The second Gurukul kicked off on March 1 with 60 participants.

The foundation’s board and advisory members include Arun Seth, (Ex-Chairman, British Telecom and Alcatel-Lucent), Hugo Barra (VP, Xiaomi), Pramath Sinha (founding Dean, ISB), Naveen Tewari (Founder and CEO, InMobi), Vijay Shekhar Sharma (Founder Paytm and One97), Manish Dugar (CFO, InMobi) and Neeraj Arora (VP, WhatsApp ).

Published on March 24, 2016
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