GROW – Better Skills and Jobs with Evolving Skilling Initiatives


Pranav Kumar Choudhary


5 min read
  • Even though almost 30,000 youth are added to the workforce everyday, only 2% are skilled.
  • After learning from challenges faced in their first skilling initiative, Dr. Reddy’s Foundation launched their new programme – GROW.
  • There is strong focus on transparency, impact measurement, and sustainability to scale the high-quality initiative.

The reality unskilled youth faces in India

Param’s qualification on paper said Bachelor of Arts but the reality shone bright with each glass surface he fixed in plush corporate offices as a contract laborer.

There are many such Params in India today who struggle to bridge the gap between being education and employment. India, a country of roughly 1.2 billion people, is touted to be one of the youngest Nations in the world. However, while close to 30,000 youth are being added to workforce each day, only 2 out of 100 youth are skilled. As per reports, 178 million youth are unskilled and hence, unfit for employment. While this deficiency is being looked into at a national level, the quality of skilling initiatives taken up is also evidently dismal. According to The Wire Report, out of 18.03 lakh youth trained in 2015-16 as part of the flagship skilling program, only 12.4% youth were employed.

These numbers substantiate the need to design quality programs that are tangible & scalable and can help youth like Param to get better skills and better jobs.


Addressing youth unemployment in collaboration with the government

To address the complexity of youth unemployment issues in marginalized communities, Dr. Reddy’s Foundation had started its skilling initiative, branded as LABS – (Livelihood Advancement Business School) in the year 2000.

LABS was later adopted by many Government and Private Agencies in India and abroad. First major scale was done in all Indian States with partnerships with the Ministry of Rural Development in 2005-2011.  By Aug 2016, LABS has been able to impact the lives of more than 3.5 lakh youth with support of many Govt. and Pvt. Partners.

However, as LABS provided domain-based training, we learnt that if we can focus on the core employability skills – which is domain agnostic –, it will help to develop future ready skills. This will ensure better jobs (more than Rs. 10000 monthly salaried  jobs), leading to lasting careers.

Another issue we faced was a lack of learning outcomes measurement. There was a gap in capturing & matching the job aspirations and competencies of aspirants with employers’ requirements.

Evolving skilling solutions to meet changing market demands

To deliver high quality skilling at scale (on core employability skills like Communication skills, English, Computer Operations, Aptitude, Soft Skills, and Sector-Readiness etc.), GROW was launched in the month of Sep 2016.  An IT Platform was also designed that provides a robust match-making system,facilitating job placements based on competencies and aspirations.

The 3 key differentiators of this solution are:

  1. While most skilling programs are failing to achieve learning outcomes, GROW measures the skill shift through pre and post assessments, which is core to the program
  1. When most of the programs have limited impact on the quality of jobs students are placed in, our focus is to place them in more than Rs. 10,000 monthly salaried jobs
  1. While most of the programs are FREE, GROW provides differential fees to serve communities from various economic strata. For marginalised communities this program becomes completely free; others pay partial amount of Rs.5000-6000 which helps in identifying youth who are committed to skilling programs and also keep the program cost low from a scalability point-of-view.

The initial results so far have been encouraging and the trend looks optimistic. We have seen the average salary that youth earns in the GROW program increased to Rs. 9800.  The program is now implemented in more than 80 GROW centers spread across 20 states, and supported by various partners.

We are in the journey to stabilize this new model so that every GROW center impacts 160-180 students in year, with 90% skill shift, and all those who are interested get more than Rs. 10000 jobs.  We will be able to share our key learnings with the ecosystem by April 2018.

After attending GROW, Param works in a leading multi-national company as a Customer Service Executive, drawing a monthly salary of INR 18,000.  “I am happy to get a job in first attempt. GROW not only improved my skills, but also helped me learn new ones which is my biggest take away in life”, signs off a content Param.

About DRF:

DRF is a not-for-profit organization set up in 1996 to enable socially and economically vulnerable groups to take control of their lives. We develop and test innovative solutions to address complex social problems and promote scaling up of impact by leveraging partnerships. We work with Children, Youth (including Persons with Disabilities) Women and Households across 20 States in India.


A. Environmental Stewardship
To protect the environment, we organize programmes like mangrove nursery and Reforestation, Coastal and River Clean-Up, Community Based Environmental Solid Waste Management, Environmental IEC Campaign and Eco-Academy

B. Food Security and Sustainable Livelihood
To ensure a sustainable livelihood for the community, eco-tourism include Buhatan River Cruise Visitor Center Buhatan River Mangrove Boardwalk are run by the community. Others include Organic Vegetable and Root crops Farming, Vegetable and Root crops Chips and by-products Processing and establishing a Zero waste store.

C. Empowered Communities
To empower the community, we provide product and Agri-Enterprise Development Training, Immersion and Learnings Exchange Program, Earth Warrior Training and Community Based Social Entrepreneurship Training


Pranav Kumar Choudhary

Pranav is currently serving as Director-Operations, Dr. Reddy?s Foundation and leads Foundation's flagship skilling initiatives. Pranav has been very active in the area of skill development and has successfully directed a number of initiatives and campaigns. As a development professional, with 16 years of experience Pranav has worked on Social Research, Disaster Risk Reduction, Child Rights, Livelihoods and Skill Development themes and also got opportunities to lead Change Management, Leadership intervention in Organisation (Arbinger), and managed large scale Programs and Partnerships. He was also given the responsibility to provide leadership support during leadership transition in Dr. Reddy?s Foundation. Pranav has made significant contribution in the area of skilling by developing strategy papers, designing effective delivery models, bringing operational efficiency, building knowledge partnerships and publishing articles & papers.

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