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Moving up the value chain

Chitra Narayanan | Updated on November 07, 2018 Published on November 07, 2018

Upskilled: Manash Sudhar, a security guard with Peregrine Security Services and deployed at an IT MNC, has benefited through training.

It is rare for blue collar workers to attain managerial positions but Betterplace, a startup, helps them upscale

At logistics company DHL, there are several examples of people who joined as courier personnel and rose through the ranks to be managers, and even Country Heads.

Similarly, the hotel and hospitality industry is replete with examples of sous chefs who rose to become General Managers and even Vice Presidents.

But it’s still quite rare for blue collar workers to graduate to the white collar league. Only one percent of this population moves to the next level of career. Once a peon or driver, always one is the norm. So what holds them back?

Low aspirations

The biggest challenge is because their own aspiration is low, says Pravin Agarwala, of Betterplace, a company that offers complete lifecycle management of blue collar employees.

It does background verification, onboarding, training and skilling, payroll, attendance management and also helps them with insurance and loans.

Started in 2015, by former SAP executive Pravin Agarwala and Mu Sigma executive Saurabh Tandon, the company has been trying to make the lives of blue collar workers easier.

So, how can they overcome the low aspiration challenge?

Agarwala says it can be done by creating role models for people, by providing examples of people who up-skilled and managed to transform their lives. Agarwala says they also point out the returns of training and learning.

“We give them a digital app, they can learn what they are doing, can upskill, move to a better job, and aspire to higher salaries.”

For example, Agarwala says that one of Betterplace’s customers, an IT company, has started running programmes to train its blue collar workers for better performance. Based on their performance, they identified the roles they could get, and moved them to supervisory positions.

Manash Sudhar, a security guard with Peregrine Security Services is one of the benefeciaries of Betterplace’s digital training platform SkillConnect and today describes himself as a “professional” security guard.

Attrition rate

Another challenge, says Agarwala, is the high level of attrition among blue collar workers. The new generation of companies have a system of pay-for-performance for their delivery boys and drivers. But most companies tend to stick to minimum wages. Training and skilling have their own set of challenges. For starters, it is a distributed workforce, says Agarwala.

Having a classroom training does not work. It has to be delivered through a mobile app, be scalable, and distributable, and employees should be able to do it in their own time.

Also, it has to be in the vernacular as 75 per cent of blue collar workers are migratory.

Encouragingly, people are beginning to see the value in the training, says Agarwala. especially when they get ₹10,000 more, as a result of it.

There are other startups too that have solutions to improve the lives of blue collar workers.. Logistics start up FarEye, for instance, has created profiles of delivery boys for some of its clients to share with customers.

So, if a pizza delivery boy or a courier boy is arriving with your order, you know details about him and a little bit about his living conditions. This leads to more sensitive treatment of the worker by the customer.

Published on November 07, 2018
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