For Dilbagh Singh, life seemed like one long struggle. Having lost his parents when he was barely two years old, he saw adversity very early in life. He stayed with his uncle who raised him and educated him until class 10.
Once he completed the examinations for class 10, Dilbagh decided to start earning a livelihood. A resident of Kular village in Ludhiana, Dilbagh grew up seeing the menfolk in his village manage and herd cattle.
He decided to do the same.
As life moved on, he got married and had two children. With an income not crossing Rs 5,000 a month, making ends meet was proving to be a huge challenge for this family.
“Till a couple of years ago, we were perennially struggling to make both ends meet. My income was a meagre Rs. 5,000 per month and it was not even enough to pay our kids’ school fees. I was depressed. My dream of building a beautiful future was falling apart,” says Dilbagh.
Even paying the school fee for the children was a challenge for Dilbagh and his wife.
While many families from his village migrated to Canada, he chose to stay in India and keep looking for better opportunities. “My wife and I had a chance to migrate to Canada or Australia like many of our relatives and villagers. We decided against it. I wanted to live in my village, my nation, and weave a bright future for our small family,” he says.
Change of course
It was perhaps a chance encounter with the team of ICICI Academy for Skills (IAS) that changed the course of Dilbagh’s life. ICICI, as part of their community outreach programme, was conducting a session on ‘Diary Farming and Vermi-composting’ in Dilbagh’s village.
It was on the persistence of his wife that he enrolled for the free session.
Recollecting the struggles before he enrolled for the session, Dilbagh says, “I owned two cows that produced approximately 10 litres of milk a day. The fat content in the milk was almost below average, and there was nothing that I could do about it, or at least at the time I didn’t know that something could be done to get better yields.”
The session empowered both the couple to dream bigger; they were now armed with enough information that enabled them to make a 360-degree change in their lives.
At the completion of the session, he applied for a loan of Rs 30,000/- with which they bought more cattle. Since they were now aware of the techniques to follow in dairy farming, they were better equipped.
From rearing two cows, the couple now manages 23 cows and two goats. From producing 10 litres a day, the cattle started producing enough to supply to a nearby dairy.
“Determined to change the course of my life, I immersed myself in the programme and asked many questions during the sessions. Our trainer – Gurbaksh Singh was not only extremely knowledgeable but genuinely helpful. He made sure that I learnt the A to Z of managing a farm and looking after our cattle. I was particularly impressed with the module on ‘Goal Setting, Risk Taking, Time Management, Commitment and Dedication”. The application of the learnings from this module helped me in developing what I call an ownership mindset,” he says.
On an average, Dilbagh now earns well and cannot be happier that he can provide his family with a good life. “Today, I earn up to Rs. 75,000 every month, sometimes even more. My cattle are now healthy and the quality of milk they produce is the best in our village. We have expanded our farm to 23 cows and 2 goats. We employ two people. From our savings, we have constructed our own house in the village. My daughter and son are in Standards 7 and 3 respectively at the best school in our vicinity and we are saving for their higher education,” he says.
What is the ICICI Academy for Skills programme?
Started in 2013, this programme aims to help skill and create sustainable livelihood opportunities for India’s underprivileged youth. Having impacted more than 1.3 lac individuals, this programme is certainly benefitting large sections of society.
The curriculum design and content development, including the setting up of labs and the training of the trainers is undertaken by Knowledge Partners. For instance, Voltas is the Knowledge Partner for repair work on central air conditioning; and Schneider Electric India Foundation for the repair of electric and home appliances. Their involvement also ensures the industry relevance of the courses offered.
The ICICI Academy for Skills provides placement assistance to trainees through industry partnerships and has achieved 100% placements for all its trained youth.
Dilbagh and his family now lead comfortable lives. The children can now go to school without a worry about the family’s finances.
And like the fortunes of this family, the programme aims to transform and change many more lives for the better.
“Thanks to the intensive training at the ICICI academy, I have now developed an entrepreneurial mindset and am ready to scale to the next level. My plans for the future include increasing the number of cows to 50 and expanding the cattle shed,” Dilbagh concludes.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)