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75 Companies Transforming India's Livelihoods

Written by Capria Admin
July 7, 2014

Our Livelihood 75

India’s future will be defined by its ability to enable a generation for gainful employment and the extent to which it can meaningfully absorb its growing working population. In this series focused on the Livelihoods sector we’ve shown India must increase annual training capacity 8-10X from 4.4M to 50M while increasing annual job creation sevenfold from 5.5M to 35M, in order for India’s economy to continue growing at a rapid pace and for it to achieve its potential demographic dividend.  These challenges are particularly interesting not only because of their potential business opportunities and impact on India’s 1 billion strong BoP population, but also because of the innovative and scalable ways companies are using cutting edge technology and business practices to respond to India’s rapidly changing market realities.  We’ve identified 75 of these companies, along with key trends, hotspots and game changers with the potential to transform how Livelihoods are approached and empowered in India.


Research Scope and Criteria: Starting with 150 Companies

To gain a better understanding of the space we reviewed over 150 companies, surveying conferences like Sankalp Forum and Spark the Rise, researching startups backed by a number of VC’s like Intellecap and Nexus Venture Partners, and leveraging internal research.  After reviewing these companies, we narrowed the field to 75 by focusing on their potential for scale and to impact large numbers of BoP populations, along with factors such as their:

  • Significance to the training & education conversation
  • Successful use of innovative and scalable business models
  • Disruptive use of technology to enable producers of goods and services to compete

While the majority of the ventures included are India-focused and for-profit, you will also find a few of the following types of organizations as well:

These organizations were included based on the significance of their business models, the ways they are leveraging market-driven principles to impact livelihoods, or because of the potential for comparable services in India. Last but not least, it is important to note that areas often associated with livelihoods, such as Education, Banking and Financial Inclusion (BFI), Micro-Finance (MFI) and Agriculture fell outside the scope of this research and were excluded for the reasons enumerated here.

The results: our “Livelihood 75”

The Livelihood sector does not have a single cohesive supply or value chain, which made creating a taxonomy challenging.  Using the criteria mentioned, we found the following four sub-sectors made the most sense:

  • The Trainers – The vocational education and skills training ecosystem
  • Job Creators – Direct inclusive employers, or Labor as a Services facilitators
  • Marketplaces & Matchmakers – Companies connecting job seekers to better opportunities, or connecting consumers to low-income providers
  • Platforms & Supply Chain Enhancers – Ventures creating the platforms, distribution channels & enhanced supply chains to help SMME’s compete.

While there is (potential) overlap between these categories, companies were ultimately organized in a way that helps to highlight the overarching themes or trends in the space.  In the crafts sector for instance, eComm platforms like Indian Artisans Online or Nethaat, enable artisan producers by creating marketplaces to disrupt exploitive supply chains.  While these could fit in either category, they ultimately landed within marketplaces to highlight the importance of providing producers a way to meaningfully connect with B2B and B2C opportunities.

Four Trends: Trainers, Job Creators, Marketplaces & Disruptors/Supply Chains

By clicking on the image to the right, you will receive access to the companies arranged by sector.  Within the document, 75 Livelihood Companies Excelthe following information is available per company, their: name, a one line description of their work, a 1-2 word category description, and their respective web-site.  With this information in hand, its time to dive into the four sub-sectors of our Livelihood 75.

The Trainers – The Vocational Training and Skills Ecosystem

Companies in this space are focused on filling India’s post-secondary education and training gap by providing the market-aligned training and placement necessary to ensure meaningful employment. An example of this is seen in the Hyberbad-based Youth 4 Jobs.  Youth 4 Jobs is a market-linked vocational training and placement organization focused on training low-income rural youth and PwD (People with Disabilities) with market-aligned curriculums for placement into organized sector jobs (a few corporate partners are seen in the image to the right).  Another startup enjoying success in this space is iStar, due in large part to their unique partnership model which integrates training services within universities. Through leveraging facilities, iStar provides industry-relevant skills at a uniquely affordable price; thereby enabling higher levels participation and therefore impact.

Three potential game changers in this space are:

  • Remote & Mobile Learning providing students with education which requires less travel and is more affordable. E-learning will enable training providers to deliver content at a high level of quality and provide better objective assessment of student outcomes, helping to ensure employment.
  • Financial solutions to ensure students are able to procure the skills & training needed, and that the providers of these solutions are able to scale. (Learn more in Who’s Picking Up the Check? Financing the Training of 500M by 2022)
  • Country-wide employment or skills training registry to help ensure a standard level of quality for both trainees and employers. Marketplaces like Babajobs or Just Rojgar will be able to provide means to highlight job seekers’ training credentials, making them more employable.

Job Creators

Companies in this space are improving livelihoods indirectly through facilitating transactional employment or contract services in a Labor as a Service capacity (like Get Domestic Help or Caravan, or, directly through job creation and utilizing practices like inclusive employment to employ individuals who would not otherwise have opportunities to join the workforce (ie, PwD, marginalized women, disadvantaged youth, etc.).  A great example is seen in Mirakle Courriers who is addressing the “invisible disability” impacting the 8 million deaf adults in India, 67% of which are unemployed due in large part to challenges surrounding training and employment because of their disability. Mirakle Couriers empowers low-income deaf men and women through creating employment opportunities and by helping them achieve financial independence. Three potential game changers in this space are:

  • Labor as a Service (Laas) is providing a scalable way to meaningfully integrate service providers into the workforce through non-exploitive employment opportunities and better wages (Get Domestic Help, Jack on Block).
  • Assistive Technology is opening doors for people with disabilities and organizations to be inclusive (Barrier Break).
  • Inclusive Employment & Sourcing is providing businesses the ability to create models designed to support inclusive employment (Vindhya), along with a steady flow of loyal, workplace ready employees (V-Shesh).


Marketplaces & Matchmakers

Companies in this space are using digital marketplaces to help individuals and groups connect to better opportunities; be it candidates connecting to better employment opportunities on job portals like the BoP focused Just Rojgar, or, consumers connecting to low-income providers for a better quality or price.   A great example of a marketplace is the crafts focused eComm Crafts Villa aiming to become the ‘Etsy of Asian.’ By creating a platform with B2B and B2C capabilities, Crafts Villa is cutting out the middleman to offer 50,000 products from over 1,000 unique sellers. Three potential game changers in this space are

  • Online Marketplaces transforming how producers of goods and services and small businesses ‘do business’ by providing B2B and B2C connections ranging from local villages to global consumers (Indian Artisans Online, Mela Artisans).
  • The growth of mCommerce (and eComm) being driven by a young generation of mobile-first internet users and the growing affordability of smartphones (One Kirana, Jiffstore)
  • Matchmaking services transforming entire industries (and the livelihoods) by providing consumers new levels of quality and convenience (One example is seen in the such as transportation via the boom of driving solutions such as AutoRaja or mGaadi)


Learn more about these game changers within our new articles exploring mCommerce, mCommerce: Transforming Business As Usual for India’s BoP, and, mCommerce: Why India’s Future is in the Palm of Its Hand.

Platforms & Supply Chain Enhancers

Companies in this space are creating the platforms, distribution channels and enhanced supply channels necessary for SMMEs (small, medium, micro enterprises) to compete in an increasingly complex and modern marketplace.   A great example of a venture in this space is seen in eKutir, which is focused on engaging innovative new products and services for the BoP market.  To accomplish this, they work to share knowledge, build partnerships, and to mentor last-mile social entrepreneurs in order to realize the transformative potential of knowledge and ICT (Information & Communications Tech.) to improve lives, reduce poverty and empower people in rural areas. Three potential game changers in this space are:

  • Last Mile Distribution focused simultaneously empowering entrepreneurs while creating the last mile distribution channels and linkages rural markets desperately need.  (eg, Frontier Markets, SURE India, & Unilever’s Project Shakti)
  • Mobile Platforms providing SMMEs access to platforms which provide business and management capabilities previously only available to larger companies (inventory management, online support, distribution assistance, etc), such as Jiffstore, OneKirana
  • Ecosystem Enablers using technology to develop the foundations to support widespread future commerce, such as Delhivery which is simplifying the End-to-End logistics of E-Commerce for doorstep delivery, and PrimaSellar, which is enabling the retailers of tomorrow via a cloud-based retail platform for small vendors.



While a more comprehensive overview of the sector and different approaches can be found in No Handouts Required- a Hand Up to a Better Livelihood, at a high level our selected “Livelihood 75” companies represent two macro-level approaches to creating Livelihood solutions:

  • By filling the education and training gap necessary to provide modern high quality goods or services to facilitate employment.
  • By disrupting inefficient and exploitive markets via the market access and linkages necessary to connect and compete in today’s economy.

These approaches focus on empowering India’s greatest resource—people—while simultaneously on job creation to ensure there are employment opportunities to be had.  This simultaneous growth has the potential to not only transform India’s national economy, but more importantly, to transform the future outlook for the hundreds of millions of Indians currently living without hope of livelihood on the margins of society. In the next article of this series, India’s critical shortage of skilled labor is explored by addressing one of the central challenges facing the vocational skills and training ecosystem, Who is going to pay for it? The students seeking training, the businesses seeking employees, the government seeking to jump-start the economy, or some combination of the three? Find out within Who’s Picking Up the Check? Financing the Training of 500M by 2022.

Next livelihoods article: Who’s Picking Up the Check? Financing the Training of 500M by 2022

Visit the Livelihoods Sector Page for additional news and new research


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