In recent years, the Indian government has focused on making schools more accessible so that more Indian children can participate in India’s extraordinary economic growth. Enrollment in India’s public and private schools has increased, yet the country still struggles with improving the low quality of education. It’s estimated that 53 percent of fifth graders can’t read at a second grade level. Meanwhile, 46 percent can’t solve a two-digit subtraction problem. Unfortunately, the quality education challenge in India extends beyond primary and secondary schooling. Although India is experiencing strong economic growth, there is an imminent shortage of skilled employees. In a workforce of more than 495 million, less than 10 percent possess employable skills despite informal and formal vocational training programs. Over the next ten years, 500 million youth will need to be skilled to support market demands.

We are encouraged by the new and unprecedented focus placed by the Indian government on improving education quality, job training and catalyzing an environment for entrepreneurial growth. We know that giving people living in urban poverty the right financial tools, skills development and employment opportunities can lead to better health and education. We have learned that urban youth from low-income families are ambitious, and they seek a path to the middle class and not just a minimum wage job. We know that all parents, no matter what their economic status, want the best education for their children.


We opened our India office in 2006 so we could foster high-quality education and improve family economic stability among India’s urban poor. We want to have an immediate, measurable positive impact on the lives of individual children, while at the same time catalyzing systemic change. We employ a range of financial tools, from traditional philanthropic grants to mission-driven impact investments – using whichever strategy that we can measurably prove will help transform the most lives.

To those ends, we partner with a range of stakeholders, including governments, businesses, NGOs, implementation experts, community organizations and other philanthropies. We actively consult with all our partners, helping them to problem-solve, assess performance, course correct and plan for the future.

One of the most critical factors in helping families establish financial stability is finding the sweet spot between what people think they need and what works in India’s market. Our goal, over the next five years, is to support the creation of more than $1 billion in annual income for families through training more than five million youth and placing three million youth in meaningful jobs.

The scope and complexity of India’s economic challenges requires attacking them from all angles. We look at the realities of the market, the challenges we face and potential solutions. That whole picture allows us to find the solutions that can work and survive and change lives. We’re partnering with like-minded organizations to offer market-based financial tools that prove successful among the urban poor. To support skills training. To empower India’s entrepreneurs. To capitalize on opportunities and apply what we’ve learned. To improve the lives of the urban poor.

Every child —even those living in urban poverty— should have access to quality education. But that will take time. By 2018, we’re aiming for 80 percent of the students in programs we support to reach grade-specific competency. Improving India’s school system, implementing reliable assessment tools, empowering high-quality educators and increasing student outcomes requires a lot of effort by a lot of stakeholders. That’s why we’re working with others in the philanthropic world who share our belief in the need for innovative education programs and assessment tools to help children learn and achieve more.