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Last week, we introduced four of iMerit Metiabruz’s data experts. This week, we delve deeper into their stories, and get a glimpse of iMerit from their eyes. How did you first become interested in iMerit? Rukhsar: I would always notice how happy my cousin was after a shift working at iMerit, so I thought to myself, “Why don’t I give it a try?” Hearing about her experience with her friendly […]

Last week, we introduced four of iMerit Metiabruz’s data experts. This week, we delve deeper in to their stories, and get a glimpse of iMerit from their eyes.

How did you first become interested in iMerit?

Rukhsar: I would always notice how happy my cousin was after a shift working at iMerit, so I thought to myself, “Why don’t I give it a try?” Hearing about her experience with her friendly colleagues there got me really interested in joining iMerit. It seemed like a fantastic opportunity.

Arfana: I heard about so many different work centers, but when I heard about iMerit it sounded different. I learned that this organization is working for human development through the support of rural communities and their livelihoods, and it made me happy and very interested to work with iMerit.

Zaheda: There are lots of things that attracted me to working with iMerit, but the first of these would be my curiosity in learning about the IT sector and my desire to learn more about the professional world. I’ve always had a passion for technology and a desire to see myself as a more independent individual. Before joining iMerit I had spent my life as a student, but I had always wanted to have a profession of my own, one where I could see myself as an independent person. I’ve always loved learning about technology, and here at iMerit I learn about technology every day. I’ve added to my skill set, too. Now I’m a professional person and I have an identity that I can call my own.

How have you grown personally or professionally as an individual?

Mushtari: iMerit has given me the opportunity to really enhance myself. When I first joined, I had very little knowledge about computers and the IT world, but because of iMerit, I’ve had the platform to learn so many different things – networking security assembly, for example. It is in thanks to the iMerit community that I have had this opportunity to learn and grow as I have.

Rukhsar: Personally speaking, I was a very shy girl in my school days, but since joining iMerit I have developed the habit of interacting more with people. This has turned me from an introvert to an extrovert, and it has also brought immense confidence in me. Not only that – it’s also helped me to speak frequently in English. All these factors have definitely allowed me to grow as a person. Professionally speaking, after having observed my managers and fellow team leaders, I’ve noticed how hard they work and the way they speak and behave with others. I’ve tried very hard to embody similar leadership qualities that they have set as an example. This has helped me to get promoted as a Team Leader here at iMerit Metiabruz. It feels good to be recognized as a leader in this office.

What are some of the skills that you have learned while here at iMerit?

Arfana: I have learned so many things here at iMerit – it’s hard to put them all into words. I’ve been working with iMerit for around five years now, and in that time I’ve definitely developed and advanced my leadership skills. For example, I’ve learned how to motivate others, like the members of the team I lead. I’ve improved my communication skills and also learned how to learn from past failures and shortcomings. I have learned that leadership can play a large role in our career development.

Mushtari: I have learned so many things during my time here at iMerit: IT skills, management, and workplace etiquette, for example. I’ve also had the opportunity to improve my English communication skills here, too. All of these things relate to one another, so the skills I’ve

learned here get practiced again and again.

What is your favorite thing about working at iMerit?

Mushtari: My favorite thing about iMerit is that here we can learn and work

simultaneously. This is the only center in this area where girls can work; so many

girls love to join our office.

Arfana: My favorite thing is the Communication Training by Anita, the Annual Functions, and that we can learn and work simultaneously.

What would you tell someone who is interested in working with iMerit?

Rukhsar: I always talk about my office work environment to my relatives and friends. I tell them about how much I enjoy working in iMerit, as this is a center where mainly girls work. We work as a family together. iMerit gives a great opportunity to all educated girls of Metiabruz to work and earn a livelihood and become self-dependent. Not only that, several girls also help to run their family by working in this office. Lots of girls I’ve met in my community have been inspired by my experience here. After listening to my story, some have also joined iMerit.

What has been one of your most memorable experiences here at iMerit so far?

Mushtari: At the 2016 iMerit Picnic, my name was announced as the recipient of the Ownership Award. I was so shocked – I really can’t express my feelings in words now, thinking about that moment when Radha Didi (iMerit CEO, Radha Basu) presented me with the award. It was really one of the sweetest memories of my life.

Rukhsar: In the last iMerit Picnic in February, I sang a song in front of a huge, appreciative audience – it felt very good to do that. It also gave me a lot of confidence and courage to face similarly daunting challenges in the future.

Zaheda: In the beginning when I first joined, we were working a lot and faced many issues. We didn’t have very reliable internet then, but all of us were driven by our ambition. We had the curiosity to do this kind of work to the best of our ability, and we were also a symbol of women’s empowerment from our locality. All those people who thought that girls are not able to work in offices were proved wrong. We showed them that we have the power to do these things. Now, many people love to see their daughters working here in Metiabruz. Working with iMerit has been one of the most memorable experiences of my life.

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iMerit’s Metiabruz center has no shortage of drive n and talented young women redefining the role of women in their community, and blazing a trail as iMerit’s resident data experts. Four of these women take part in the Advanced Leadership Communication Training, led by Senior Communications Trainer Anita Chakrabarti. These four women – clockwise from top left, Zaheda,  Arfana, Rukhsar, and Mushtari  – are leaders among their peers, examples […]

iMerit’s Metiabruz center has no shortage of driven and talented young women redefining the role of women in their community, and blazing a trail as iMerit’s resident data experts. Four of these women take part in the Advanced Leadership Communication Training, led by Senior Communications Trainer Anita Chakrabarti. These four women – clockwise from top left, Zaheda,  Arfana, Rukhsar, and Mushtari  – are leaders among their peers, examples by which to follow. Recently, we sat  down to learn more about their journeys.

Arfana completed her Market-Aligned Skills Training (MAST) course at Anudip Foundation following her graduation, at which time she joined iMerit. After joining iMerit, she says, “[her] real life started.” Arfana began as a Data Entry Operator, and quickly moved up to the position of Team Lead at iMerit Metiabruz. In the Advanced Leadership Communication Training sessions, Arfana is jovial, happy to share with the group her thoughts and opinions. On the floor she is poised, accessible, task-oriented, and hardworking. She displays sound leadership qualities and sets an example for her juniors and colleagues.

After finishing her graduation, Rukhsar considered finding a job in Kolkata. A cousin of hers told her about an opening at iMerit, so she pursued the opportunity. She had heard that iMerit was a good office environment, and that it employed cooperative managers and support staff. Members of her family were supportive, encouraging her to pursue what they saw as a great opportunity. Rukhsar quickly completed the MAST course at Anudip, was granted an interview with iMerit, and earned the position of IT Executive, a position she holds today. On the floor, Rukhsar displays a calm and confident sense of leadership. When leading her team through a new project, whether image-matching, sentiment analysis, or something entirely new, Rukhsar remains poised, approachable, and gentle. She is a delight to work with and have as an integral part of the Advanced Leadership Communication Training.

Mushtari began her journey to iMerit through word-of-mouth knowledge from a friend of hers at school. After completing the MAST course at Anudip, Mushtari joined ExperTech Solutions as an entry-level Technician. After two months of working in this position, iMerit Chief Delivery and Development Officer Anindya Chattopadhyay called her and asked if she would be interested in being a Technical Associate at iMerit. Since then, Mushtari has advanced to the level of Senior Technical Associate. I have had the pleasure of working with Mushtari, both on the floor and in the Advanced Leadership Communication Training sessions, where her quick wit, clever mind, and conscientious spirit always add to our training sessions. As an IT expert, her know-how and contributions to the Advanced Leadership Communication Training team and the greater iMerit community are invaluable.

Zaheda has been with iMerit for quite some time. She was one of the original members of the Metiabruz team when it opened. Like the others, she also completed her MAST course from Anudip, after which she joined iMerit. Zaheda was very happy when she learned that there would be an iMerit center in Metiabruz. “We were all so happy because it had always been our dream to be more independent. We wanted to do something for ourselves and for our community. This dream came true when we learned that there would be a center here in Metiabruz,” she says. But many community members opposed the opening of the center in the beginning. Some didn’t have much faith in the idea that this center would really prove to be fruitful and supportive. But through hard work and perseverance, Zaheda and her colleagues here have changed some of these perspectives belonging to those who did not believe in their first steps. “Many people who were against this organization now appreciate these wonderful opportunities and jobs that Anudip and iMerit have created for us.”

Keep an eye out for next week’s interview with these four data experts!

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As it grows at a rapid clip, India has been drawing global attention from tech companies large and small. In years past, eyes have been focused on Bangalore or Hyderabad; businesses have established outposts in Delhi or Mumbai. What of Kolkata? This piece by USA Today journalist Jon Swartz highlights the unique opportunities and challenges tech companies face in Kolkata, and shows how iMerit’s work in skill development and livelihood […]

As it grows at a rapid clip, India has been drawing global attention from tech companies large and small. In years past, eyes have been focused on Bangalore or Hyderabad; businesses have established outposts in Delhi or Mumbai. What of Kolkata?

This piece by USA Today journalist Jon Swartz highlights the unique opportunities and challenges tech companies face in Kolkata, and shows how iMerit’s work in skill development and livelihood creation fits into the big picture of tech and entrepreneurship around the world.

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“iMerit delivers not just human-powered computing, but human-empowered computing. ” – Radha Basu, iMerit CEO iMerit has multiple centers around Kolkata, but perhaps the most unique is our Metiabruz center. Though all of our work is committed to training and employing women and youth, our Metiabruz center is entirely dedicated to the employment of women. Over 90% of iMerit Metiabruz Center employees are women. These are pretty staggering statistics for […]

“iMerit delivers not just human-powered computing, but human-empowered computing. ”

– Radha Basu, iMerit CEO

iMerit has multiple centers around Kolkata, but perhaps the most unique is our Metiabruz center. Though all of our work is committed to training and employing women and youth, our Metiabruz center is entirely dedicated to the employment of women.

Over 90% of iMerit Metiabruz Center employees are women.

These are pretty staggering statistics for a technology company anywhere, and even more so given the context in which we’re working!

The Metiabruz neighborhood is a semi-urban, community in Kolkata, where women are typically not allowed to work far from their homes. Often, women and girls in Metiabruz are not allowed to get a proper education, facing issues such as forced marriage once they turn 18, and limited educational options. However, iMerit’s center is working to change these attitudes and show that women can excel in tech workplaces, while honoring their family and community commitments. When iMerit chose to build a center in Metiabruz, there were no other office jobs available to women in the area. It was a long process, but together with supportive women, men and families from the community, iMerit was able to break ground on what is now a center employing over 250 women.

Today, women working at iMerit Metiabruz are able to earn stable, good wages, and help support their families.

View from our Metiabruz office

View from our Metiabruz office. © iMerit.

Parents and guardians who know about the positive effects education and employment have on women and youth no longer pressure their daughters to get married at a young age. Women and girls have proven themselves to be helpful to their families in ways previously thought impossible, and have begun to revolutionize the community for the betterment of women.

Eight hours by train outside of Kolkata is Ranchi, Jharkhand.

Located in one of the poorest states of India, Ranchi is a city in which there are very few stable, well-paying jobs. Many turn to coal mining – both illegal and state-sanctioned – which has incredibly negative effects on the environment and on the health of Jharkhand residents and migrant workers. Others turn to family farms, or unstable wage labor. Still others are drawn in by Maoist rebel groups in the area that promise safety or stability in exchange for allegiance. Youth find it particularly difficult to find work. They often travel hours each day or move to different cities entirely in search for job. Even before it comes time to seek employment, youth in Ranchi do not have many educational options, meaning that gaining skills for the new economy is very difficult.

The thought of developing IT skills and jobs in this complex, rural context seems impossible.

Yet here, just like in our Metiabruz center, we see women and youth flourishing as they gain skills and carry out digital projects. iMerit created the first tech center in Ranchi, after our sister foundation, Anudip, began a skilling center here as well. iMerit employees in Ranchi, just like in our other centers, receive ongoing training and mentorship. By making these educational and employment options available, iMerit has impacted the lives hundreds of youth around the area. They report pride in the ability to support their families, and feelings of empowerment.

market_ranchi
Market in Ranchi. © iMerit.

These two worlds are different, but both are home to hundreds of thousands of bright youth ready to meet and exceed the needs of the new digital economy.

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The drive from central Kolkata to Metiabruz, a neighborhood on the outskirts of Kolkata, should be rather quick. Instead, traffic snarls along the busy roads leading through docks along the Hoogly River. Trucks hauling shipping containers jam the roads, with men hauling goods on carts jostling for space in a mismatched battle for right of way. The bustling movement kicks up cough-inducing amounts of dust, and coats everything along […]

The drive from central Kolkata to Metiabruz, a neighborhood on the outskirts of Kolkata, should be rather quick. Instead, traffic snarls along the busy roads leading through docks along the Hoogly River.

Trucks hauling shipping containers jam the roads, with men hauling goods on carts jostling for space in a mismatched battle for right of way.

The bustling movement kicks up cough-inducing amounts of dust, and coats everything along the roads with a thin dusty layer. The route from central Kolkata demonstrates what a key industrial location this is, with the shipping industry, power stations, and textile manufacturers vying for space.

You would never think that there are hundreds of women in tech in this neighborhood.

Once you enter Metiabruz, the commotion changes but doesn’t become less intense. Roadways are packed with shops selling everything imaginable, and a disproportionately high number of brightly colored kite shops will catch your eye. The air might carry the scent of biriyani or the melodic call to prayer from an area mosque.

The neighborhood is a maze of narrow ways lined with concrete buildings and informal homes next to which open drains and piles of garbage betray the lack of government services. Today, the aesthetics disguise the area’s history; it was once home to Wajid Ali Shah, the last nawab of Awadh (in present day Uttar Pradesh). The wealthy Nawab was exiled to this corner of Kolkata, where he lived a lavish lifestyle and indulged in his love of diverse arts, from poetry, and plays to dance. He is credited with the revival of the classic Indian dance, Kathak.

View from our Metiabruz office
Today, Kathak lives on in Metiabruz, but not much else would be recognizable. It is a poorly served area of Kolkata, with the majority of residents living in informal housing. The vast majority of the area is Muslim, a community that has been systematically and historically marginalized in India.

Work is not readily available, with daily wage labor being how many families get by. Yet, despite lacking in economic wealth, it is rich in potential.

iMerit’s Metiabruz center was built to encourage and empower this potential. Founded in 2012 by a coalition of individuals from iMerit and the community, our center serves over 200 young women from the neighborhood, providing them stable and empowering employment in a sector that seems out of place in this busy neighborhood. It is the only provider of IT jobs in the area, making it unusual already. The fact that it is targeted at upskilling and employing women makes it all the more noteworthy.

Yet we have seen immense growth among our young women, and change throughout the community. Our employees tell stories of once-skeptical families eventually fully embracing their decision to pursue education and encouraging their other daughters to follow the same path.

Respect for women as wage-earners, as students, as critical parts of the technology future, as dreamers, has grown.

Hundreds of families have a secure source of income that far outstrips the earlier potential for daily earnings in the area.

We will share these stories of our marvelous Metiabruz women in the weeks to come. Keep an eye out and let us know what you think!

 

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