Dipak Basu believes in employing technology to improve the lives of impoverished people the worldover. In 2001, he founded and served for four years as executive director of NetHope, a technology alliance of the world’s largest aid agencies, that applies innovative information technology (IT) solutions to humanitarian operations in the world’s poor, disaster-affected and war-torn regions. Through NetHope in 2004, Basu visited the beautiful Sundarbans, an ecologically rich biosphere where 5.5 million desperately poor village inhabitants have their homes. Basu recalls, “I was struck by the difference between the natural beauty of the region and the plight of fisherman and farmers at the mercy of cyclones, tigers, snakes, water-borne disease, poor soil conditions and absent infrastructure.” During the subsequent year, an ethnographic study of the region was conducted and he decided to conduct IT courses directed at securing livelihoods at three pilot centres. “The popularity of the centres sent us on our way,” says Basu.
Through strong employer agreements, we are touching 90 per cent job placement of our students who work in IT-enabled services as BPO operators, customer care officers, retail clerks, office executives, sales executives, field supervisors and security guards
In 2006, he founded Kolkata-based Anudip Foundation (Anudip) which aims to create livelihood opportunities for impoverished people in rural areas and the urban slums of India. For Basu, running this venture as a non-profit model was an easy decision. “Selfless humanitarian work can only be carried out through a non-profit structure, where maximising shareholder profit is not a motive. Rural people are suspicious of corporate organisations asking them to pay high fees for services,” he says. Donor institutions were interested in providing grants for Anudip’s work.
Livelihood development model
Anudip operates with an integrated livelihood development model that consists of three programmes – market aligned skills training and employer placement, entrepreneur development, incubating, mentoring and monitoring of business startups and global IT project services staffed by its own graduates. Anudip‘s rural training centres offer intensive courses to unemployed youth and women in technical IT and business education as well as in developing critical job preparedness skills and English communication. “Through strong employer agreements, we are touching 90 per cent job placement of our students who work in IT-enabled services as BPO operators, customer care officers, retail clerks, office executives, sales executives, field supervisors and security guards,” shares Basu. Thus far, the organisation has trained 9,000 rural people.
Anudip is able to project credibility and reach its target populations in interior and disturbed rural areas through partnerships with NGOs, which work in those communities. The partnerships provide Anudip rapid centre setup and minimise infrastructure cost. “While Anudip is growing rapidly, managing that growth over an expanding, often unfamiliar geographic area poses problems of recruiting trainers, NGO partners and employers in a coordinated manner,” shares Basu.
Funds and its impact
Anudip’s fundraising messages are tailored to targeted communities based on their interest profile like skills development, rural entrepreneurship, or rural BPOs. The organisation has promoted its ‘adopt-an-entrepreneur’ message to targeted high-worth individuals through its professional associations. For its training and placement operation, individuals can donate through the Global Giving fundraising website. To garner large-scale mindshare, Anudip promotes its work through various social media.
Omidyar Network, a philanthropic investment firm, has granted Anudip US $ 6,50,000 which is disbursable over four years beginning in 2012. The funds are for market-aligned skills development and job placement. Commenting about impact investment, Basu says, “It leads to well-defined goals and achievable metrics.”
Anudip is required to meet certain performance metrics as part of the grant agreement.
“We meet our social impact objective by having it at the front and centre of everything we do and we continuously evaluate it through achievable metrics,” says Basu. Anudip tracks the livelihoods created (and thereby total lives impacted) and gender, minority and disability metrics. It is measured by the amount of work that goes into the difficult arenas and the percentage of jobs that requires relocation.
Anudip centres are located currently in West Bengal, in rural districts between the Bay of Bengal and Bhutan board. “We will extend our programme to Jharkhand in early 2012-13 and expect to enter Odisha thereafter,” shares Basu. Over the next five years, Anudip aims to train over 50,000 students with its coverage extended to Jharkhand, Odisha, Meghalaya, Bihar, Assam and Tripura. It plans to have a significant presence in troubled areas to provide alternative livelihoods and careers.
To fund these plans, Anudip plans to have a combination of grant, loan and earned income with the latter becoming pre-dominant. In 2011-12, Anudip covered 35 per cent of its expenses through earned income and plans to become self-sustaining in the next four years. “To do this in an environment of rapid growth will simultaneously require good discipline and innovative measures in regard to earned income,” says Basu.
Anudip also aims to have a continuing dialogue with major international and Indian donors, and lending institutions to manage its cash flow. “The ultimate aim is to have a steady increase in earned income without compromising social mission,” concludes Basu.