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BW Businessworld

Lighting Up Lives Of Less Fortunate

‘It’s precious receiving the award. It’s an op­portunity to con­nect with leaders from the business world who are working towards social and eco­nomic transfor­mation’

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He is a collective well-being expert who has reached the pinnacle in her profession in just 11 years. As a sustainable livelihood lead, Amruta Bahulekar is a prime pillar in Pune City Connect as head of programme of its Lighthouse project. The Lighthouse project, which strives to impart skills to the less privi­leged so they may have access to a sustainable livelihood, is a collaborative initiative of Pune City Connect and the Pune Municipal Corporation.

It is a sustainable livelihood programme for the disad­vantaged urban youth. The Light­house strives to unleash social and economic transformation of the communities that these youth come from, by equipping them with workplace competencies and skills. It has achieved a great deal in an enormously short span of time. Most of the Lighthouse enrollees are in the 18 years to 30 years age group.  

Amruta Bahulekar, who has a Masters degree from the pres­tigious Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), has demon­strated tremendous leadership in bringing together corporates, the government, civil society or­ganisations, citizens, employers and skilling partners in the city to provide a sustainable livelihood for the youth enrolled with the Lighthouse. At present 4,200 youth are enrolled in the Lighthouse programme and another 1,699 students have completed the skills development programmes. Over the last two years 967 of  Lighthouse students have been placed in various industries.

Pune City Connect comprises eight non-profit com­panies. It provides a platform for collaboration between the Pune Municipal Corporation, corporates, NGOs and citizens. Its prime objective is to institutionalise a forum where various stakeholders may work in synergy for the development of the city.  Pune City Connect works in the spheres of sustainable livelihood, education and digi­tal literacy, and has set itself a goal to give wings to the dreams of more than 25,000 youths and some 100 slum communities by 2021.

Bahulekar’s project, the Lighthouse, has its own mile­stones. Four Lighthouses are functional in different wards of Pune, namely Aundh, Yerawada, Hadapsar and Wa­raje. As much as 60 per cent of the enrollees for the Light­house programmes are women and about 80 per cent of the placed students have never had independent earnings before. Relationship building with more than 150 com­munities in the city is Bahulekar’s contribution to society.  Not surprisingly, many smart cit­ies have expressed a keen interest to adopt the Lighthouse model.  

Bahulekar gives her mentors, namely Ganesh Natrajan, Sonali Ojha, Ruchi Mathur and Pervin Verma, credit for her success sto­ry. “Sonali’s programme design, Ganesh’s vision of revolutionis­ing skills development across the country, Ruchi’s selfless commit­ment to bring all the stakeholders on board for large-scale change, her pursuit of excellence and  Pervin’s  mentoring in terms of value-based change designs have provided constant support to me,” says Bahulekar.  
She sees the recognition that the BW 40 under 40 rating brings as an opportunity to share her vision with prospective talents around the nation, who may take the idea forward. Ba­hulekar says, “It’s precious receiving the award. It’s an opportunity to connect with the leaders from the busi­ness world who are working towards social and economic transformation.” Her message to the youth is also her motto in life. In taking up new jobs, it’s important to not take fear driven decisions, she says. “We can always make things work from the space of our values with our inner strength,” says the young leader with conviction.