Kiran Shinde, Deputy Chef de Partie at the prestigious hotel chain JW Marriott, (grinning at you in the picture) is a success story for the books. He grew up as an orphan at an ashram in Pune. He worked several odd jobs to make ends meet. If it wasn’t for his training at Mahindra Pride School, Kiran believes his future would have been murky.
What is The Job Factory?
Over the last decade or so, Mahindra Pride School through its skilling programme has drastically changed the lives of many young people. All the 100,000 youth who pass out have a job in hand on the 90th day of their training. Philanthropist and entrepreneur Manoj Kumar has chronicled 75 such inspiring stories in a new book, The Job Factory.
In an exclusive interview with The CSR Journal, Kumar said, “The idea of capturing the stories of underprivileged youth who overcame various obstacles and reversed their ovarian luck first came when Anand Mahindra visited the Mahindra Pride School (MPS) in Chennai back in 2013. The stories he heard impacted him so deeply, he rebuked the use of referring to these youth as belonging to weaker sections of society as he believed they are part of the stronger sections of our society.”
100,000 jobs created
The thought of capturing these stories in a unique manner lingered on and when Mahindra Pride School reached a remarkable milestone of creating 100,000 jobs for underprivileged youth largely from SC/ST background, it coincided with the Mahindra Group ushering in their 75th year. The creation of 100,000 jobs for socially and economically disadvantaged youth across India was made possible entirely by CSR grants received from the Mahindra Group of Companies. The Job Factory thus captures the lives of 75 such youth.
Stories of hope
Kumar met all the youth featured, interacted with them, and listened to their stories. Ask him for the most inspiring ones, and he says, “How do I choose between sharing the story of Abitha of Chennai, an orphan who was forced to marry her uncle but ran away and now has a job with Maersk; Naveen who stood outside temples for food today is a quality analyst at Global Healthcare Pvt Ltd or Sunandini of Varanasi who managed to salvage herself and her mother from the clutches of her abusive alcoholic father and now has a stable job as a sales associate.”
An independent artist based in Kerala, Nijeena Neelambaram, met each of these students, heard their life stories, and captured it in the form of sketches which are an integral part of this book. These black-and-white sketches depict their life before joining Mahindra Pride School. While the sketches delve into their past which they wish to forget, the photographs captured by Nevin John, who also designed the book, show how these youth overcame their struggles, earned a job thanks to the skilling at Mahindra Pride School, and reversed the ovarian luck.
These stories of struggle are met with compassion which is truly Mahindra Pride School’s “magic sauce”. Once considered as a liability to their families and the society, the past binds all the students at Pride Schools, according to Kumar who is the founding CEO of Naandi Foundation. Rockefeller Foundation chose Naandi Foundation as one of the ‘Top 10 Visionaries’ in the world for the Food Vision 2050 Prize, declared in New York in August 2020.
The $200,000 prize recognised the application of Naandi’s Arakunomics model in regions of Araku, Wardha and New Delhi. The model led to the Food Vision 2050 that follows an “ABCDEFGH” framework centring on: Agriculture, Biology, Compost, Decentralised decision-making, Entrepreneurs, Families, Global Markets, and ‘Headstands’, or turning current approaches on their head.
Inclusive and diverse
As for Mahindra Pride School, the programme is essentially meant for socially and economically underprivileged youth of the country. “This was the mandate given by the Mahindra Group to Naandi in 2006 and this is what precisely has been followed till now. All students who join the programme fit this set of criteria. There is also a clear mandate to have as many girls to enrol in the programme during the selection process called the Road Show – where our volunteers visit various communities to exhort students to join the skilling programme. These mandates ensure we always maintain diversity and inclusion across all our Mahindra Pride Schools,” says Kumar.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, MPS switched to a hybrid module, with both digital and offline face-to-face teaching and skilling at the centres. MPS is totally free of cost for every single student. Each MPS location, apart from offering its 90-day skilling programme, ensures each student gets a nourishing meal and conveyance expenses incurred in the duration of the programme. Currently, there are schools in Hyderabad, Varanasi, Pune, Chandigarh and three schools in Chennai. There are 4 batches held every year and aspiring students can walk in and enrol themselves.