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They Are Converting Rural India Into Entrepreneurs And Skilled Employees


This is part of a special series on social innovations made possible by the Marico Innovation Foundation.

From providing various skills and training to connecting the students with potential employers, TARA livelihood Academy is bridging the gap between the rural community and employment. From offering on-ground work experience to building capabilities and linkages for starting one’s own enterprise, TLA is covering all grounds. Read more about their work.

Roop Singh Yadav comes from a small village near Jhansi. Born in a financially weak family, where his parents worked as labourers, Yadav never imagined a life with a decent job that paid well; especially as he was able to study only till standard 8. He then paid Rs.500 for a five day training with TARA Livelihood Academy and today he is working with Kwality Walls in Delhi and earning Rs.7,000 per month.

This is one of the many cases where TARA’s intervention has changed the life of rural youth, women and community groups, filling them with big aspirations.

TLA helps the rural youth, women and marginalized community to find better income opportunities.
TLA helps the rural youth, women and marginalized communities to find better income opportunities.

As per a report by Ministry of Labour and Employment of India, unemployment among rural youth in India is highest today since 1993-94. According to the report, about 5% rural youth aged between 15-29 years remained unemployed in 2011-12 as compared to 3.5% in 1993-94. With India set to become the nation with the youngest population by 2020, it indeed is an alarming situation if the most energetic and productive generation is being wasted.

Lack of skills and opportunities is widening the gap and this is where TARA Livelihood Academy comes into the picture. With a focus on large scale creation of sustainable livelihoods, TLA is using various training programmes to convert rural population into able entrepreneurs and skilled employees.

With increasing competition and higher expectations, skills and knowledge have become the differentiating factors in any job. TLA aims at training workers to make them easily adaptable to the changing demands of employment and technologies.


Bridging the gap

TLA is part of a larger development organization The Society for Technology & Action for Rural Advancement (TARA), a social enterprise that has been working as an “incubation engine” for providing various development solutions in India since 1985.

“As a development organization, we came across various job seekers or potential entrepreneurs. We figured out that lack of skills and opportunities are the biggest hurdles when it comes to getting a job for rural folk. To bridge this gap, TLA was started,” says Shrashtant Patara, CEO, TARA.

TLA also aims at identifying potential entrepreneurs and helping them.
TLA also aims at identifying potential entrepreneurs and helping them.

Launched in 2007 by the Development Alternatives (DA) Group, TLA focuses on three things:

  • Employability skills – This programme helps various job seekers find suitable jobs. Through several vocational and skill trainings, TLA helps marginalised communities, especially youth and women, to develop better skills. Some of the most sought-after training are for floor executives in retail sector, masons, construction workers, security guards, office attendants, etc.
  • Entrepreneurship development – Focusing on identifying potential entrepreneurs and later on providing required skills and resources to them, this programme is all about enhancing entrepreneurial skills of marginalised communities. From helping with the business plan formulation to the right market approach, TLA aims at training potential entrepreneurs from scratch.
  • Executive training – This programme focuses on mid-career workers of various NGOs, government agencies and corporate. The idea here is to provide them with some additional skills to upgrade their efficiency, giving a boost to their career.

TLA offers various interesting programmes like beautician training, retail management, security guards training, etc. “All the training programmes focus on practical learning and ensure that the candidates are able to implement these skills in their life and work place,” says Patara.

The Approach

TLA first reaches out to suitable candidates through various vocational training centres in the villages. A programme is announced and publicized where interested candidates can apply.

TLA works with various government institutions to minimize the cost. “The idea is to use the existing resources rather than spend money on constructing new buildings and centres,” says Patara.

TLA has trained over 10,000 people so far.
TLA has trained over 10,000 people so far.

For example, TARA Community College, a project in partnership with Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), is a convergence between education and various skill development efforts of the Government. The team of 30 sets up these training centres temporarily to make it easier to cover more area.

TLA actively seeks out various government and public institutions in every region, collaborates with them and then offers affordable training courses to the students. Focusing on short and relevant courses, TLA offers training in skills that can be quickly learned and implemented by the candidates. TLA also customizes its courses as per the requirements of the participants for a better learning experience and clear understanding of the subject. The learning process is a mix of interactive sessions, presentations, discussions and hands-on exercises.

After the completion of the course, TLA advertises in various companies for placements and helps the candidates in getting deserving jobs. The in-house placement agency forges industrial tie-ups to ensure jobs. Some of the major clients of TLA include GAIL (India) Ltd., Hewlett Packard (HP); Noida Power Company Limited (NPCL); Bajaj; Government of Madhya Pradesh (DPIP Project); NABARD; University of Applied Sciences, Austria; ILO.


The Challenges

“The biggest challenge was the outreach. We did not know how to convince people that the skills are important,” says Patara. As the people they help have very limited financial resources, they are often reluctant to spend on extra training.

TLA team gives practical training that the participants could implement in their jobs.
TLA team gives practical training that the participants could implement in their jobs.

Another challenge was to build the network. The model which TLA followed required a lot of support from government and other institutions. “If we wanted our model to work, we needed to have in place networks that could provide such training. Finding the right type of people was again a challenge,” says Patara.

Apart from this, the financial restrictions of the students came as another challenge. As they did not have the ability to pay the full cost, TLA started to subsidize the fees to get more students on board.


The Impact

The initiative that started with providing training for around 500-600 candidates has trained over 10,000 people so far in 300 training programmes that have been conducted since 2000. TLA works extensively in the Bundelkhand area and six other districts in Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.

“TLA has successfully built capacities of around 18,000 people in Bundelkhand – around 60% of these are successfully linked to sustainable livelihood opportunities,” Patara says.

The initiative is extremely helpful for those who cannot afford to pay for skills training. As TLA works with already existing government infrastructure, a minimal fee is charged by the beneficiaries and 80 percent of the cost is borne by the government itself.

TLA aims at utilizing existing resources and training centres rather than creating new buildings.
TLA aims at utilizing existing resources and training centres rather than creating new buildings.

“We have seen a tremendous improvement in the situation. People have secured jobs in the villages which has reduced urban migration. Apart from that, women have also started working which adds to the family’s income and improves their standard of living,” says Patara.

The Helping Hand

When it comes to working with various agencies, it becomes difficult to manage everything with such limited resources. That is where Marico Innovation Foundation’s Social Innovation Acceleration Program (MIF-SIAP) gave them a helping hand.

MIF helped TLA to come up with various growth strategies to scale up the programme. “Sometimes you need to get a push to grow. They guided us in so many ways that we had never thought of. We never planned to scale up to this extent, but MIF’s support gave us a lot of encouragement and made us think at a larger level, enabling us to look at the demand side,” says Patara.

Future Plans

The short term goal is a rapid growth in Bundelkhand and to expand to other areas in UP and MP. Apart from this, providing training in a larger number of sectors is in TLA’s plans too. Subsequently, TLA plans to expand to four more states and open 24 more training centres.

With organizations like TARA Livelihoods Academy, we hope see the gap between rural skill sets and employment shrinking. To know more about their work, visit their website:

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