Dharavi's Educational Turnaround and the Rise of Workverse

Samyak Chakrabarty

Founder of Workverse and Nimaya, acclaimed as Forbes Asia's most influential social entrepreneur.

On the web:

What’s the backstory, and how did you come up with this idea?

So many years ago, I think it was in 2018, I had financially adopted a higher secondary education institution in the Dharavi slums of Mumbai. It was closing down and I had recently sold my first company in youth marketing and advertising. And I had, you know, taken my exit and I was looking for something meaningful to do with that money. And I heard about this higher education institution, Sri Ganesh Vidya Mandir closing down. So I spent about six months over there because I just didn't want to financially adopt the school, but I also wanted to work towards its development. We added more computers, more skill development courses, English and so on for the kids.

One fine day I was sitting in the field and having my lunch and this young boy, one boy, Ganesh, came up to me and said, “Bhaiya, yeh school jaake kya fayda? Mere bade bhaiya ko toh naukri nahi mil rahi hai, wo graduate ho gaye hai. Toh school jaake, college jaake, achche marks lake kya fayda? Unhone apne engineering me top kiya tha, fir bhi unko employers bolte hai ki wo job ke liye smart enough nahi hai. Aur ab toh robots aane wale hai,toh jo log smart nahi hai, smartly kaam nahi kar sakte, unko toh robots replace kar dega. Toh phir padke kya fayda?”

And that question really shook me, because this is a hard fact that, people with just degrees and academic intelligence will not really succeed in life, soft skills like critical thinking, problem solving, emotional intelligence, smart thinking, that will be required. In a sense,employers will hire people who can start thinking where AI stops. But all this was not available, this exposure was not available to the masses. So this conversation and subsequent deep thought got me my next, I would say, purpose more than business idea was to take soft skills to the masses, and in a very experiential learning format, which is the backstory behind Workverse.

How did you build Workverse? 

We researched 1000 plus HR heads, employers, team leaders to really understand where intelligence and soft skills used in actuality, because one thing to say soft skills are essential. It's one thing to say that you know humans will be required for different kind of jobs what does that really mean so we surveyed thousand plus HR heads, team leaders to really understand in what scenarios do freshers apply skills like critical thinking, problem solving, emotional intelligence then we can we took those scenarios created a bank which formed the basis of our content and then we converted these content into role plays and simulations where students actually assume the role of a core team member of a team in an imaginary company and actually enact these scenarios and therefore they learn these soft skills by doing. 

What does success mean to you and your company?

I think success for Workverse is how many careers we transformed, how many learners leveraged the exposure we provided to grow faster in their career so that for me success is, I don't really care about number of users or numerical success. We look for qualitative depth and the impact we've created in our learners lives and also employers where bosses now feel they have less to micromanage because our trained teams are more intelligent and more hands-on. That is success for me. 

What has been your biggest struggle and greatest achievement?

I think contradictorily my greatest trouble has been finding smart people to help me build this, I mean we have great duels, but it has been hard to find co-thinkers, co-creators. I'm very lucky to have a few but I wish, I had more and I would have reached much faster and would have been able to create a much deeper impact if I had people who who wanted to do more out of their career than just work because nowadays most most gen z and young millennial talent look at work just as a medium to pay the bills but I wish I had more people who added more purpose to their work like I do and could have created something much greater. 

I think the greatest achievement so far is, “Once in my office, I saw these three big boxes of mangoes and I was surprised and they were from Ratnagiri, the Ratnagiri farmers association. I was pleasantly surprised and then there was a letter written in Marathi. So, we had basically done a project in Ratnagiri at a college, where essentially farmers children went and we had actually got a bunch of them not just jobs but great jobs and when I read the letter from the head of their farmer association saying many of their kids now earn Rs. 25,000 - Rs. 30,000 a month working in a corporate which is a huge amount for them, that just brought tears to my eyes because, the farmer never thought that his son or daughter could break free from the glass ceiling but we enabled it so that I would say the greatest achievement so far.


If you had a chance to do things differently, what would you do?

I would actually reimagine my hiring instead of looking for people with expertise. I should have looked for hunger, ambition and then trained them to achieve that expertise because hunger and ambition is a greater attitude and is a more valuable attitude than somebody just having a skill set but lacks this attitude. I think I would have done that differently.

How do you look at AI adoption into the business?

We actually use AI for back-end office processing at best, but we as a company are all about enhancing human intelligence and keeping humans relevant at the workplace. So most certainly we will not bring AI in any way that takes away anyone's job for sure.

What drives you personally as an entrepreneur?

The purpose of solving unemployability for Bharat is what keeps me up every night, every day and keeping me coming to office. I'm not chasing a valuation, But I'm creating deep permanent value for the millions of lives that we will go on to touch through our work.

Where can we go to learn more about WorkVerse? 

Our website