Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Achieving Self-Sufficiency

- by Saurabh Shah

India’s young adults, specifically those in low-income villages, survive on low-wage positions that may pay around $1 per day, forcing them to leave educational pursuits due to familial and financial pressures.  Pratham believes that helping these young adults access opportunities to improve their skills can ultimately improve their livelihoods.  After I learned about these issues, I wanted to enhance my contribution to Pratham beyond fundraising efforts and be engaged on the ground.  I received my MBA from UCLA Anderson in June 2012, and my employer, the Boston Consulting Group, provided a fellowship for me to engage in a social impact project for three months.  Excited to get involved, I worked on strategy for Pratham Institute, which aims to bridge the gap between India’s growing need for skilled manpower and the lack of vocational training in rural areas.  The objective was to make the Hospitality Center in Aurangabad self-sufficient – the costs to run the center outweigh the student fee revenue, primarily due to the high fixed costs to operate extensive facilities, i.e., guest rooms and external training rooms available for company off-site retreats.  Achieving self-sufficiency was imperative to its longevity since PACE-Aurangabad was a flagship center and had the largest capacity of vocational training centers across all industries.  Based on my analysis, I recommended that the center raise its price for guests to meet those of neighboring hotels, target additional customer segments such as local schools and decrease costs by creating student committees.  I presented my results to Madhav Chavan, who received it well and provided suggestions so that the project could be shared with current donors.

In addition to the rigorous analytical work, I formed long-lasting friendships with those in the Pratham Institute group by conversing over the three daily cups of chai, taking a turn in leading out the stray cat that decided to make our office its home, and communicating in Gujhindlish (my own language, a mix of Gujarati, Hindi and English).  Not having been to India in nearly twenty years, I stepped outside my comfort zone and became self-sufficient in the process.  Most importantly, I saw how teachers were changing the lives of students through PACE programs on a firsthand basis, and that the passion Mr. Chavan and the rest of the Pratham team radiate is addictive, serving as continual sources of inspiration.  I look forward to staying involved with Pratham on both the fundraising and operations fronts as I progress in my professional career.  I thank Pratham for an exceptional opportunity.

Saurabh Shah, currently works with BCG, and volunteered with Pratham Institute as part of a social impact fellowship program provided by them.

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