learning on the job

How life skills training helped women in a Bengaluru garment factory (and why others should follow)

The programme developed by clothing manufacturer Gap Inc has helped women in the garment industry, a big employer, advance in their careers.

In 2014, Dolly Kumari, an outspoken girl who had studied up till Class 12, left her home in Jharkhand and journeying about 2,000 km South to a new job as a tailor at a garment factory in Bengaluru. Like most workers in this sector, when she first came, she did not think of staying beyond a few months.

Today, over two years later, at 21, Kumari is one of two assistant line supervisors on the factory floor of Shahi Exports Pvt Ltd, overseeing the work of 119 tailors. Her salary has risen 66%, from Rs 5,000 to Rs 8,300 per month. She talks easily of time management and effective communication, and hopes one day to become a floor-in-charge.

Much of her success, she said, can be attributed to a life-skills training programme called Personal Advancement and Career Enhancement, or PACE, designed by Gap Inc, a clothing multinational. Through two-hour sessions every week for 11 months, conducted by qualified PACE trainers, the programme taught Kumari, among other things, how to manage her time productively and communicate effectively.

In 2011, three US-based economists – Achyuta Adhvaryu, Namrata Kala, and Anant Nyshadham – conducted a randomised controlled trial at a few Shahi factories in Bengaluru, to ascertain the impact of PACE. The research found that nine months after programme completion, the net rate of return to her company’s investment in her job and life skills was more than 250%.

Helping workers worldwide

Cited by former US President Bill Clinton as an idea that is changing the world, in this 2012 TIME magazine article, the programme has trained 45,000 garment workers worldwide (including 26,600 in India, where it first began in 2007).

It contributes uniquely to the Indian government’s Skill India initiative, and indicates how workers can achieve new skills and companies can increase profits in a sector that can be critical to India’s economic growth. In recent times, this sector, as IndiaSpend reported on July 30, has been witnessing plateauing job growth and wilting export volumes.

However, with rising labour costs in China ($3.52 per hour in manufacturing compared to India’s $0.92 per hour in 2014), as Bloomberg reported in November 2014, India stands to gain from this competitive advantage. In this context, the PACE programme has the potential to change how the garment industry recruits, skills, and retains female workers.

Garments generate 13 times more jobs than IT sector

India’s textiles and apparel sector is the country’s second-largest employment provider, after agriculture. In 2015-’16, textiles and apparel directly employed 105 million people – 13 times more than the information technology sector or equivalent to the population of South Korea – and constituted 15% of India’s export earnings.

Every investment of $0.15 million in the apparel sector generates between 56 and 84 jobs, compared with an average of six jobs across all industrial sectors, according to government statistics.

Textile and apparel factories also play a crucial role in skilling and employing women: While female labour-force participation in India has fallen over the decade ending 2015, as IndiaSpend
reported on March 8, 2016, this sector has consistently generated more jobs for women than any other sector.

Source: NITI Aayog
Source: NITI Aayog

The organised apparel segment is expected to grow at a compounded annual growth rate of more than 13% over the next 10 years, according to this 2016 report from the India Brand Equity Foundation, a government-run trust.

Source: India Brand Equity Foundation, NITI Aayog
Source: India Brand Equity Foundation, NITI Aayog

In view of these statistics, and the potential for the garments sector to absorb even larger numbers of female workers, the researchers asked: how can garment firms be better incentivised to promote the well being of their workers?

How Shahi Exports benefitted from life-skills training

PACE was piloted in 2007 in Shahi factories, which now cumulatively employ more than 110,000 people. In 2012, Adhvaryu, Kala and Nyshadham evaluated the impact of the programme at five Shahi factories in the Bengaluru area.

The RCT covered 2,703 workers who had expressed interest in the programme, of which about 1,000 were randomly chosen to participate and the remainder allocated to a control group, which did not receive the training.

A production line of Shahi Exports Pvt. Ltd. in Bengaluru. PACE, a life-skills training programme, was piloted in 2007 in Shahi factories, which now cumulatively employ more than 110,000 people.
A production line of Shahi Exports Pvt. Ltd. in Bengaluru. PACE, a life-skills training programme, was piloted in 2007 in Shahi factories, which now cumulatively employ more than 110,000 people.

Through weekly two-hour sessions, PACE covered essential life skills such as communication, time management, financial literacy, problem solving and decision-making.

The cumulative costs of the programme to the company plateaued at $90,285 (Rs 61.45 lakh) at the end of 11 months since it started, while the gains continued to increase even after this period, standing at $321,145 (Rs 2.18 crore) at the end of 20 months. The low cost of administering the programme combined with the gains in productivity and person-days (a measure of factor manpower) explain its potential (click here for calculation of return on investment).

Workers who received such attention were more likely to enrol in skill-development training at the company, to save for their children’s education and to utilise state-sponsored pension and health care schemes. They also had higher self-esteem and displayed more sociability.

Lasting changes and increased wages

The experiment is unique in that it demonstrated that skill-development programmes delivered through companies have the potential to be profit-generating engines that also promote worker wellbeing,

Providing training in life skills to women does not just make them more productive employees; it also creates lasting changes in women’s domestic lives and increases their effective wage, because skilling is an in-kind transfer from the firm to the worker.

A training session under a life-skills training programme, PACE, underway at Shahi Exports Pvt. Ltd., Bengaluru. Through two-hour sessions every week for 11 months, conducted by qualified PACE trainers, the programme teaches workers how to, among other things, manage time productively and communicate effectively.
A training session under a life-skills training programme, PACE, underway at Shahi Exports Pvt. Ltd., Bengaluru. Through two-hour sessions every week for 11 months, conducted by qualified PACE trainers, the programme teaches workers how to, among other things, manage time productively and communicate effectively.

Propelled by the positive results of this and other similar studies in the past five years, two of the researchers – Adhvaryu and Nyshadham – along with the head of organisational development at Shahi. Anant Ahuja, founded The Good Business Lab in March 2017. Funded through corporate social responsibility and research funds, the aim of the lab is to incubate, evaluate and disseminate PACE and other research findings that benefit workers and generate profits.

Cascading effect

The results of this study have helped to inform Gap Inc’s latest global expansion of the PACE programme, as well as contributed to Gap Inc’s licensing of select firms such as Shahi, to expand PACE in their factories or outside factories in community settings.

To date, Gap Inc has spread the programme across its vendor base in 12 countries, and more than 40,000 female garment workers have graduated from PACE.

Back in Bengaluru, Shahi assistant supervisor Kumari, who at 21 has already progressed to a senior level in her factory, said: “PACE improved my time-management skills, taught me not to discriminate on the basis of caste and made the overall work environment in the factory better.”

In an industry known for low skills and transience of jobs, Kumari does not want to join any other firm –even if it has a factory closer to home – that does not have a life-skills training programme. She wants to stay at Shahi, move further up the professional ladder, and in the process, motivate other women she lives with to be hard-working and ambitious.

This article first appeared on IndiaSpend, a data-driven and public-interest journalism non-profit.

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“My body instantly craves chai and samosa”

German expats talk about adapting to India, and the surprising similarities between the two cultures.

The cultural similarities between Germany and India are well known, especially with regards to the language. Linguists believe that Sanskrit and German share the same Indo-Germanic heritage of languages. A quick comparison indeed holds up theory - ratha in Sanskrit (chariot) is rad in German, aksha (axle) in Sanskrit is achse in German and so on. Germans have long held a fascination for Indology and Sanskrit. While Max Müller is still admired for his translation of ancient Indian scriptures, other German intellectuals such as Goethe, Herder and Schlegel were deeply influenced by Kalidasa. His poetry is said to have informed Goethe’s plays, and inspired Schlegel to eventually introduce formal Indology in Germany. Beyond the arts and academia, Indian influences even found their way into German fast food! Indians would recognise the famous German curry powder as a modification of the Indian masala mix. It’s most popular application is the currywurst - fried sausage covered in curried ketchup.

It is no wonder then that German travellers in India find a quite a lot in common between the two cultures, even today. Some, especially those who’ve settled here, even confess to Indian culture growing on them with time. Isabelle, like most travellers, first came to India to explore the country’s rich heritage. She returned the following year as an exchange student, and a couple of years later found herself working for an Indian consultancy firm. When asked what prompted her to stay on, Isabelle said, “I love the market dynamics here, working here is so much fun. Anywhere else would seem boring compared to India.” Having cofounded a company, she eventually realised her entrepreneurial dream here and now resides in Goa with her husband.

Isabelle says there are several aspects of life in India that remind her of home. “How we interact with our everyday life is similar in both Germany and India. Separate house slippers to wear at home, the celebration of food and festivals, the importance of friendship…” She feels Germany and India share the same spirit especially in terms of festivities. “We love food and we love celebrating food. There is an entire countdown to Christmas. Every day there is some dinner or get-together,” much like how Indians excitedly countdown to Navratri or Diwali. Franziska, who was born in India to German parents, adds that both the countries exhibit the same kind of passion for their favourite sport. “In India, they support cricket like anything while in Germany it would be football.”

Having lived in India for almost a decade, Isabelle has also noticed some broad similarities in the way children are brought up in the two countries. “We have a saying in South Germany ‘Schaffe Schaffe Hausle baue’ that loosely translates to ‘work, work, work and build a house’. I found that parents here have a similar outlook…to teach their children to work hard. They feel that they’ve fulfilled their duty only once the children have moved out or gotten married. Also, my mother never let me leave the house without a big breakfast. It’s the same here.” The importance given to the care of the family is one similarity that came up again and again in conversations with all German expats.

While most people wouldn’t draw parallels between German and Indian discipline (or lack thereof), Germans married to Indians have found a way to bridge the gap. Take for example, Ilka, who thinks that the famed differences of discipline between the two cultures actually works to her marital advantage. She sees the difference as Germans being highly planning-oriented; while Indians are more flexible in their approach. Ilka and her husband balance each other out in several ways. She says, like most Germans, she too tends to get stressed when her plans don’t work out, but her husband calms her down.

Consequently, Ilka feels India is “so full of life. The social life here is more happening; people smile at you, bond over food and are much more relaxed.” Isabelle, too, can attest to Indians’ friendliness. When asked about an Indian characteristic that makes her feel most at home, she quickly answers “humour.” “Whether it’s a taxi driver or someone I’m meeting professionally, I’ve learnt that it’s easy to lighten the mood here by just cracking a few jokes. Indians love to laugh,” she adds.

Indeed, these Germans-who-never-left as just diehard Indophiles are more Indian than you’d guess at first, having even developed some classic Indian skills with time. Ilka assures us that her husband can’t bargain as well as she does, and that she can even drape a saree on her own.

Isabelle, meanwhile, feels some amount of Indianness has seeped into her because “whenever its raining, my body instantly craves chai and samosa”.

Like the long-settled German expats in India, the German airline, Lufthansa, too has incorporated some quintessential aspects of Indian culture in its service. Recognising the centuries-old cultural affinity between the two countries, Lufthansa now provides a rich experience of Indian hospitality to all flyers on board its flights to and from India. You can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalized by Lufthansa to the extent that they are More Indian Than You Think. To experience Lufthansa’s hospitality on your next trip abroad, click here.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.