146, Gayathri Vasudevan, LabourNet | Sustainable Livelihoods through Education, Employment and Entrepreneurship

LabourNet is a social enterprise that enables sustainable livelihoods by bridging the gap between education, employment and entrepreneurship.

Gayathri Vasudevan, LabourNet | Sustainable Livelihoods through Education, Employment and Entrepreneurship

Gayathri Vasudevan of LabourNet

Gayathri Vasudevan worked in crisis situations. She provided humanitarian aid during a riot. She provided aid in the aftermath of an earthquake. But she found the work depressing. “I wanted to do more solutioning,” she told me.

After completing her PhD, she worked for the United Nations, International Labor Organization for eight years. There, she saw a disconnect between the policies she was helping to draft and the results on the ground. She remarked, “In India, we’re very good at white papers. We can write very well. We define everything well. But our execution didn’t work.”

A thought occurred to her. “What if we’re able to combine private sector acumen and way of doing business, with a policy thought process which the states and the UN have, and ensure the execution of the same on the ground?” This combination of business, policy and execution led her to create LabourNet.

LabourNet is a social enterprise that enables sustainable livelihoods by bridging the gap between education, employment and entrepreneurship. They work primarily in India with informal sector workers. They are the largest social enterprise working in the vocational space in India. The challenge, as Gayathri sees it, is that “There are a lot of people in India who do not complete education.” This keeps many stuck in poverty.  “Most people get a job, but are underemployed,” Gayathri explains.

LabourNet works with families who earn around 15,000 – 20,000 rupees per month. That’s around $250 for a family of five, or less than $2/person/day. LabourNet works with men, women and youth.

Their work with men primarily involves migrant men who come in from the rural areas to earn money and to send it home. LabourNet makes them productive, by providing skills so that they can earn better.

Their work with women is largely in the urban areas. Because women are often expected to be at home, and therefore do not earn money, many are at risk of a single catastrophic event sending them into poverty. LabourNet provides them with skills so that they have a chance to earn through a business or job.

When it comes to young people, many are completing high school, and then entering college. They aspire to a professional career. Many of these young people do not see many of the jobs available as something that an educated youth would do. LabourNet helps them to learn new skills quickly so that they can earn.

According to Gayathri, there is no tradition of re-skilling in India. LabourNet provides a path for anyone to learn a new skill in a module, without making a multi-year commitment. Gayathri has a message. “It’s all right if you dropped out of school. It’s all right if you finished school but haven’t got a skill. You can come and learn a skill. And you don’t have to do it in two years.”

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Gayathri Vasudevan

“There are a lot of people in India who do not complete education.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”‘Most people get a job, but are underemployed.’ Gayathri Vasudevan, @labournet”]

“Five people in a family with less than $250/month.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”‘We are looking for people at the base of the pyramid.’ Gayathri Vasudevan, @labournet“]

“The men that we work with are mostly migrant men.”

“Our focus is to see that they earn better, so you train them to be more productive.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”‘One event in their life and they are in deep poverty.’ Gayathri Vasudevan, @labournet“]

“They see those jobs as not things educated youth have to do.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”‘They are practically a lost generation.’ Gayathri Vasudevan, @labournet“]

“The last five years have been revolutionary in the vocational skills space in India.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”‘You can learn and earn.’ Gayathri Vasudevan, @labournet“]

“I attempted to work in crisis situations. It was too depressing.”

“I wanted to do more solutioning.”

“What India is very good at is policy making.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”‘Our goals are social.’ Gayathri Vasudevan, @labournet“]

“We are attempting to make it profitable, but serving the base of the pyramid.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”‘I had to reinvent the story a few times.’ Gayathri Vasudevan, @labournet“]

[spp-tweet tweet=”‘I’ve had to learn how to run a business.’ Gayathri Vasudevan, @labournet“]

[spp-tweet tweet=”‘My own education journey has been long and tough.’ Gayathri Vasudevan, @labournet“]

[spp-tweet tweet=”‘It’s been a roller coaster ride.’ Gayathri Vasudevan, @labournet“]

“I hope the model is a model that others will want to replicate.”

“For me, LabourNet is a concept that needs to be replicated.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”‘Whatever is your mission, you have to stick by it.’ Gayathri Vasudevan, @labournet“]

[spp-tweet tweet=”‘I have been told often that I’m quite stubborn.’ Gayathri Vasudevan, @labournet“]

“Patience, time, persistence, you have to listen, but take the decision at the end.”

“I’d like to see more people thinking vocational education, upskilling and reskilling.”

“You have to give them the skill to earn. That’s the best charity one can do.”

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About the Author
Tony Loyd is a TEDx speaker, podcast host and the author of Crazy Good Advice: 10 Lessons Learned from 150 Leading Social Entrepreneurs. He is a former Fortune 500 executive with extensive experience in strategic planning, talent management, and leadership development. Tony is the host of the podcast Social Entrepreneur where you can hear the stories of changemakers who are making an impact on the world.

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