Sugandha Sukrutaraj

Ashoka Fellow
India,
Fellow Since 2007

Citation

This profile was prepared when Sugandha Sukrutaraj was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2007.
The New Idea
In India, people with intellectual disabilities are generally thought to be incapable of holding a job, let alone contributing to society. Sugandha feels that with appropriate and specific preparation, youth with IQs of less than 65 can in fact perform repetitive jobs. She trains young people with low IQs to work in information technology, doing low-skill, repetitive jobs, which the companies might otherwise outsource. She has developed a new model of learning, which  enables them to grasp the alphabets, numbers and words as objects and trains them to do effective data entry using the computer to his/her own degree of ability/competence. The collective abilities are thereafter used to out put low-skill back end work from mainstream companies that find it too expensive to do this work in-house and therefore outsource the same on contract to the AMBA CEEICs. The youngsters who are capable of working independently are placed within the mainstream organization.
AMBA CEEICs are collaborations through which Sugandha networks and attends to the whole person. Intel is one partner who provides the only certificate of merit jointly signed with AMBA, which the individual receives on completion of the training within his/her abilities. They also help document and update the curriculum and give AMBA some of the hardware required. The other partner is the CO/the Indian Air Force/Corporate within whose premises she sets up the AMBA CEEIC. Microsoft provides the software. The centers have many different requirements met by different organizations, all in kind to meet their needs.
The companies identify the jobs that they wish to outsource or for which they need trained workers, which allows Sugandha’s organization to tailor its training to specific tasks, increasing the success of new trainees. The AMBA CEEICs are similarly tailored for each individual student’s capacity and skill. In her innovative system, not only are parents of AMBA students involved in the training process, but, past trainees help to educate other intellectually challenged children. Even the mainstream Special Educators Training is done by the intellectually challenged trainer, through the different stages of training while setting up new AMBA CEEICs. The result is a new pool of low-skilled workers who can benefit mainstream companies while creating a job niche for a segment of society that has traditionally been excluded from mainstream economic activity. This improves the self-esteem of youth who are often neglected, even in their own families.        To do this, Sugandha has leveraged the resources of India’s armed forces and other COs. Her centers are located on military bases, and within COs which are situated around the country. She uses her military and corporate background to work with major corporations like Intel, Tata Indicom, Reliance Telecom, Special Olympics Bharat,  Hero Honda, Ford, Dinshaw’s Ice Cream, SBI, Gokulum Chit Funds, Ujjivan, Honeywell, HDFC and Canara Bank to name a few. She has placed intellectually challenged workers in companies such as these, as well as in government agencies, but a large percentage is employed at the AMBA Centers for the Intellectually Challenged (AMBA CEEICs). She is currently working with the government to get her course approved as an accredited certification and to also bring in data entry work from the Government. The collector and magistrate in Ujjain are working a model with her center at MANOVIKAS AMBA CEEIC in Ujjain. Should this be successful, he would support starting many more AMBA CEEICs doing data entry for the Government within M which could also be replicated into other states.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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