Tanaya Sen, a student from Durgapur in West Bengal nearly had to stop going to school due to financial difficulties. She decided to take matters into her own hands and finance her studies by herself. Tanaya joined the first batch of trainees at the Essar Jono Bikash Kendro
and learnt bag making and kantha (traditional Bengali embroidery). She now earns money by stitching apparels for people in her neighbourhood. Not just that, Tanaya also assists the main trainer at the Essar Kendro
and is proud that she can continue to study while helping her family financially.
Tanaya and thousands of success stories like hers are the result of Essar’s community-focused business philosophy — commitment towards the progress of communities along with Essar businesses. The Essar Lok Vikas Kendras (ELVKs) that dot the vicinity of various Essar business facilities train women and youth in tailoring, embroidery and bag making, as well as arrange computer skill workshops for students. These centers are the best examples of translating community-focused business philosophy into action.
The ELVKs evolved from a Community Relationship Centre (CRC) that was set up in the 1990s in Hazira, Gujarat. The CRC was meant to mentor young children through a blend of recreational and educational exercises to support their all-round development. Around this time, India was adjusting to liberalization which raised the aspirations of its people. Income enhancing opportunities took centre stage. Responding to the emerging realities, Essar focused on evolving the CRC into local hubs of skill development. In August 2006, the center was rechristened the Essar Lok Vikas Kendra, Hazira. It focused on equipping children with newer skills such as using computers, which would be relevant in the changing employment market.
The ELVK also began training women and young girls in tailoring and embroidery. Women who traditionally cultivated vegetables or worked in dairies along with their family members now had an alternate source of income. Even now, ELVK Hazira organizes refresher courses to help women and girls enhance their skills.
Nayna Patel manages the ELVK in Hazira. A qualified school teacher from Damka village, she joined Essar in 2006. “As a local, I was familiar with the ELVK and knew that I wanted to be a part of it. Yet, when Essar offered me the opportunity to lead an ELVK, I was apprehensive. But my team leaders reposed full faith in me. Today, I am proud to lead an institution that has helped so many locals set up their own businesses and find employment,” she says. Essar later set up ELVKs around its business locations in eastern and central India. Two ELVKs, known as Essar Jono Bikash Kendro, were established in Durgapur in April 2013. They offer training in kantha, the traditional hand embroidery of this area.
In April 2014, an ELVK was set up in Garhakhan village in Madhya Pradesh’s Singrauli district. It trains youth in making bags. Once the trainees complete the course, those eligible will join the production unit and a fresh batch will then get trained, thereby spurring a self-sustaining economic cycle.
In the same month, Essar set up its second ELVK in the Hazira belt at Junagam village. Another ELVK is being set up at Salaya in Gujarat where the Essar Oil Vadinar and Essar Salaya facilities are located. This will train people in the production of apparel, orthopedic products and sanitary napkins.
All the ELVKs develop market linkages and introduce the artisans to designers from reputed institutes. This helps the artisans to further hone their skills. ELVKs encourage peer learning and motivation towards self-employment. They also act as a platform for women and youth to discuss developmental issues concerning their health, educational needs and empowerment.
The journey of the Essar Lok Vikas Kendra has been momentous. It has come a long way since the inception of the first one in Hazira. It’s a matter of pride for the Essar Foundation to assist ELVKs that play a critical role in bringing about personal development, and economic empowerment of people.