SGBS was just a group of neighbors doing Saturday bhajans. As a family, we were involved in music and dance. SGBS soon became one of the biggest cultural organizations. but apart from bhajans we were a group who had a huge social calling. “Around 1993 we had grown very big and decided to make it a formal body,”. This was a huge turning point moment for us.
We retained the name SGBS, just adding the word Trust. SGBS Trust took up three programs
1. “Utsav” which was all about celebrations and music and dance;
2. “Samstha” which provides funeral services &
3. “Shiksha” which funded children in school
But even as processes were put in place to educate underprivileged children, there was a sense of not doing enough, of not actually creating lasting impact. A lot of bright kids that the Trust had funded for 8-9 years suddenly dropped out of school, sometimes because their parents wanted them to bring in money, sometimes because of peer pressure or sometimes simply because they did not do well academically in one subject and began to feel like failures. The result was disappointing. The children went back to the slums, their formal education soon forgotten. “What have we actually achieved?” was the question that bothered the Trustees. And it was in seeking this answer that the seeds for Unnati were sown.
The credibility that SGBS Trust had built was so immense that we had people calling us and asking if we knew somebody for a job
Back then, they never asked if he knew English or computers. All they wanted was someone trustworthy. And we could place people. That got us thinking. We wondered why could we not train people and then give them a job?” And thus was born Unnati, an organization that works towards social transformation through vocational training.
Miracles happen here every day Whether it is the building that came up on land granted by the Government and constructed with the help of generous donors, the many infrastructure requirements that we had to set up, we believe that we were chosen by a higher power to empower the nation.
The coaching that students get at Unnati goes much beyond vocational training. Elaborating on the three principles upon which the Unnati program is built:
1. if we train somebody we must be able to get them a job.
2. We must enable the youth to be good and responsible citizens and be a part of the inclusive society by being able to present themselves in the society.
3. They must be change agents in their society.
Since then every student at Unnati is taught spoken English, basic computers, life skills and values as part of the curriculum, in addition to training in their core vocation.
Since a few of the Trustees were looking at Unnati as giving back to society, they do not charge the students for the training. In fact, free food and PG accommodation is provided to students in the Bangalore Centre.
But the biggest differentiator is the ‘Guaranteed Job’ promise that Unnati gives. Unnati’s 100% placement record remains unbroken since its inception.
Unnati is associated with The Indian Institute of Corporate affairs (IICA) as a training partner, to run a certified course in CSR programs for professionals. There are huge possibilities in terms of CSR funding today, CSR is no longer charity, Companies cannot just issue a cheque and claim they have done CSR. They need to show how they have impacted society.
Pratap Ramdas, Chief Manager, IR & Community Initiative at Tata Global Beverages Ltd., reiterates the sentiment. “It’s not just about donating money”, he says. “We believe we need to nurture the NGO-Corporate partnership over the long term.” His company has been partnering with Unnati for several years now, as part of the Tata Group Affirmative Action Program, which commits Tata companies to exercise positive discrimination in employing personnel from historically disadvantaged communities and in engaging them as business partners, without sacrificing merit or quality. So what made Tata Global Beverages choose Unnati? “The 4Es (Education, Employability, Employment and Entrepreneurship) which form the backbone of the affirmative action program within the Tata group is totally in sync with what Unnati does.” responds Pratap. “We also found that the group at Unnati was really passionate about what it was doing and extremely committed too. We actually saw skill development and placement happening.”