Jumpstarting the lives of economically underprivileged women

Jumpstart Skill Foundation founders Namrata Bhammar and Radhika Majmudar discuss their aims of empowering women and transforming lives

"It was 2014 and I had recently completed a two-year stint at a leading food manufacturer in India. I have always felt very strongly about how women should be financially independent and wanted to do something for those women who don't have an opportunity like us to progress on a professional front," says Namrata Bhammar, a food technologist, who has spent over eight years working in UK and India (the FMCG sector). “I have acquired significant experience in managing, nurturing, and developing cross-functional teams with a focus on project management. This has helped me develop a profound understanding of the skill set required for employment and what it takes to succeed in the corporate world.”

Namrata bounced the idea of empowering women with Radhika Majmudar, a friend in her social circle, and Radhika was immediately onboard. Radhika is an educationist with a passion for continuous learning and has over 11 years of experience in the field of education and training.

"During my 2.5 years tenure as the head of the institute and principal of a K12 school, I have gained vast experience in administration and management of an organisation. I have created many programmes and content for learning through my innate curiosity in making creative solutions for development techniques and administration," says Radhika.

The two women co-founded Jumpstart Skill Foundation, a section 7 registered company, with the aim to uplift economically underprivileged women through skill development, employment, and job creation for women who have not had the chance to complete their formal education; a metamorphic change from an unskilled labour to a skilled professional within a set industry.

On a lighter note, Radhika says, “Namrata and I are a part of the same social circle for many years now, but we became much better friends after JumpStart brought us together!

Jumpstarting their way to empowering women

The co-founders believe that economic independence for a woman is the key – it not only helps them contribute to their family's well-being but also empowers them with a sense of self-respect and confidence.

The programme is targeted to women in the age group of 18 to 50 years. The minimum educational requirement is a 10th grade graduate. The majority of these women come from the economically weaker sections – SC, ST, and minority group. Women who are divorced, separated, unmarried, widowed, victims of any sort of abuse are the focus group.

'On paper' to ‘on ground’

To bridge the gap between education and employment, the duo needed to identify the basic 'skill set' required for the job roles that they wanted these women to aspire for. "We conducted our own market research by sending out questionnaires to various industries, which included hospitality, retail sector, offices, etc. The responses from the questionnaires helped us arrive at our basic course outline and core training modules," says Namrata. Having the intel on the ‘skill set’ and expectations of the employer helped them to design the framework of the course.

Modus operandi

At the moment, Jumpstart has two classrooms, one computer laboratory and nine educators to train the women enrolled in the programme. The course duration is about 18 weeks and the registration fee for students (women) is Rs 500.

There are variety of courses offered – English communication, computer skills, image enhancement and grooming, personality development, and leadership and supervisory skills. These courses gear the target audience for office administration with accounts and tally, and sales and retail. The career options after this course range from receptionist, personal assistant, secretary, HR/admin work, accounts executive, customer service executives to sales support staff, store supervisors/managers/inventory management.

There are additional training sessions on health, legal rights at a workplace, self-defense classes, etc.

Revenue, impact, and challenges

Namrata talks about the revenue model, "The initial capital investment for operations was put in by the directors to operate Batch 1–Batch 2. Currently, our revenue model is based on donations through associates and fund raising. We are also now in the process of associating with companies and other organisations for CSR funding and Batch Sponsorship." The average cost of running a batch ranges between 1.1L and 1.3L. Jumpstart has collaborated with various small and medium scale enterprises based out of Vadodara for placements.

Jumpstart skill foundation is currently running their fourth batch. Radhika says, "By the end of Batch 4 we would have trained a total of 35–40 girls in the field of professional skill development. We aim to train an additional 60–80 students in 2016." The average placement per batch is about 90–95%.

he only major challenge they face as an organisation presently is gathering funding. "We are now working hard to build a self-sustaining financial model for our operations," says Namrata.

The duo are in unison about the five-year roadmap for Jumpstart to expand as a skill development platform to as many Tier 2 – Tier 3 cities in Gujarat as possible, for example, Ahemdabad, Rajkot, Surat, Gandhinagar, etc. "We are working towards creating a one-stop shop solution for training and recruitment of women for all lower–middle tier jobs," they say.

Namrata and Radhika named their organisation name JUMPSTART because the name is congruent with their dream to kick-start a movement focussed on providing training in employment-enhancing skills for a better tomorrow. They say – Our story is that we are creating opportunities to empower women and transform their lives to inspire future generations. My dream is to give every girl in every household the opportunity to dream and achieve a better future of economic independence through professional skill training and employment.

The above article by Snigdha Sinha first published on social.yourstory.com in Oct, 2015.