Unitus Ventures (formerly Unitus Seed Fund) is very pleased to announce that we have made a seed investment in Bodhicrew Services based in New Delhi!
Bodhicrew is a skills development and job placement and support company focused on the unorganized sector. Bodhicrew provides livelihoods opportunities to poorly educated young adults by giving them technical training and placement in a better paying job. Many of the young adults are coming from impoverished rural communities, so Bodhicrew helps them with the transition process and sets up support networks as they migrate to urban environments for the jobs. Initially, Bodhicrew is focused on supporting young woman into pre-screened domestic worker (or as they call them “domestic officer”) jobs under the brand “Just Help”.
Unitus got to know the Bodhicrew founders over the past few years as they’ve managed other ventures. I’ve known Bodhicrew Chairman Manab Chakraborty in his role as CEO of Mimo Finance, a Unitus MFI partner, also based in New Delhi. We’ve also worked with Bodhicrew CEO, Vivek Kaushik in his capacity of overseeing the PnP ultra poor pilot project funded by Unitus Labs.
In fact, the idea for Bodhicrew came out of the PnP ultra poor pilot. Vivek met a lot of ultra poor people who had migrated to urban environments in search of a better life. Almost all of them had not realized their dreams and were stuck living in temporarily slums and barely surviving. Many had lost connection with their families and were hopeless. Few of them had any skills to get jobs and even if they did they had no idea of where to get jobs.
Vivek and Manab did a lot of thinking about how they could help these desperate people. They believed that they could have more scaled impact if they could operate as a business rather than a charity, so they started to research the low-skilled jobs market. They immediately saw a huge supply gap right in their midst in Delhi. All of their friends were complaining about how hard it was to hire and retain quality domestic workers. So, they started to put together the pieces, the processes, the partnerships and everything else for implementing their first pilot. They learned a lot and developed a business plan to implement a scaled pilot which ultimately we agreed to fund.
What we like about Bodhicrew
There is a huge skills deficit gap in India. There are 10’s of millions of young adults with no skills and therefore are unemployable while there are a vast number of employers who have job openings that they cannot fill. One stunning statistic is that there are one million (10 lakhs) new young turning 18 every MONTH in India … and this will continue for decades. So, not only are there a massive existing under-skilled working age population, it’s only going to grow.
The Bodhicrew founders have a very strong commitment to building an ethical business which is sustainable. There are many fly-by-night, shady recruiters out there who find workers for employers. The result is very high attrition as the workers are not prepared to succeed in the jobs and the employers don’t have the patience or the skillset to train them effectively. Also, low-educated workers are often confused and frightened by their typically “first real job” environments and they don’t have social support systems as they’ve migrated far from their homes.
Bodhicrew is building up support systems for workers placed in jobs. For instance, domestic workers are placed in clusters within walking distance of each other and organized into a self-help support group. Bodhicrew is organizing monthly melas — festival-like gatherings in a common public area where they will arrange for government, NGO and other support services to participate. Additionally, Bodhicrew negotiates work rules and rights with employers which are not commonly formalized in this sector and often lead to problems.
Bodhicrew is also offering valuable services to employers including a worker replacement program if there are any issues complemented with an emergency worker replacement program for special unexpected circumstances. Additionally, the social support services provided by Bodhicrew are likely to decrease worker attrition which means less effort is required by employers to on board new workers.
Unitus Capital acted as a financial advisor to Unitus Ventures (formerly Unitus Seed Fund) on this investment.