INDIA, NOVEMBER- Youth from remote villages in the rural areas surrounding Ahmedabad, Gujarat were among the first successful graduates of the Retail Opportunity Training Initiative, a collaborative effort by Global Fairness Initiative, the Self-Employed Women’s Association of India (SEWA), and the Walmart Foundation to provide essential confidence-building and practical skills training related to India’s rapidly expanding retail sector.
The trainings, which typically combine a period of classroom instruction followed by on-the-job training, focus on personal aspects such as communication skills, professional appearance, and confidence building while also covering essential retail and customer service topics such as product presentation, cross-selling, and marketing. For students with primarily agricultural or domestic backgrounds, the trainings provide a unique opportunity to become familiar with speaking in public, interacting with strangers, and even using computers for the first time. Said one participant of the experience:
"I was very quiet at the beginning of the training. But after three days I started to talk and contribute. For this I would like to extend my gratitude towards the Master Trainer as she put a lot of effort into helping us open up. A lot of role-playing practice during the session really helped me build up my confidence. I have never used a computer in my life, so appearing for the online test was a huge achievement for me."
For many participants, ROTI training marks the first time they have visited a city or entered a mall. One young woman commented:
"My parents are farmers. I used to spend most days doing household chores and helping out my parents in the field. One fateful day, SEWA’s coordinator introduced me to Retail Management Training and encouraged me to join. Typically a girl leaving the village is not entertained in our rural community and I had to face many challenges. However, I never gave up as I had already set a goal for myself and would not stop unless I achieved it. After ROTI training, I have become confident and am ready to face interviews. My decision to work has been acknowledged by my family and they support me wholeheartedly."
Despite the relatively short duration of the training, participants come away with long-term goals, plans, and excitement for the future:
"[ROTI] gave me insight into how I could do things differently in my career and even led me to start thinking of being an entrepreneur. My internship at Central Mall was a completely new and difference experience—the culture, people and environment were all new to me. I learnt so many things. I wish to open a garment shop in the future, thanks to ROTI training for providing me with the required knowledge of retail."
As ROTI heads into its second year, GFI looks forward to expanding program participation by incorporating feedback and lessons learned from these graduates, improving community outreach, and leveraging partner networks. By providing the skills and training needed to obtain jobs in India’s growing retail sector, GFI, SEWA and the Walmart Foundation will continue the work of empowering youth from low-income areas through full employment and sustainable livelihoods.
by Twila Tschan