Anita Ahuja has resourcefully combined principles of enterprise and social service in converting waste to fast-selling upcycled fashion products sold in high-end retail outlets abroad. Her organization, Conserve India, uses its own patented technology to convert discarded plastic bags and industrial waste like seat belts into commercially viable products like bags and belts.
Her idea addresses both, the growing waste crisis and the unemployability among informal sector workers. Her factory in the Bahadurgarh Industrial area uses purchased industrial waste from surrounding factories and employs over 300 unskilled workers. It is however, not just a production unit but, also a skill development center. Workers at Conserve India are involved in all aspects of the business, ensuring opportunities to learn useful skills and building professionalism and equity at the same time. Anita sees it as a bridge factory where people come train, learn, work and go work in other places as well. The training programmes focus on both hard and soft skills including multiple technical skills to ensure work opportunities in other factories using different machinery.Workers are also encouraged to develop their own start-up businesses and are provided with necessary loan amounts.
This has not only helped raise incomes, but also instilled a sense of dignity and allowed workers to either enter the formal work sector or start their own business. Until date, around 1200 unemployed workers have successfully undergone skill training with Conserve. Going forward, Anita plans on increasing the production capacity of their factory to create more on-the-job training opportunities. She is also discussing the scope of a skill development program with the Haryana Government. This program will look at the requirements of an upcoming Footwear Park in the Bahadurgarh Industrial Area and train the slum dwellers living around it with relevant skills. She hopes this will ensure their employment in the 1700 factories that will soon start operations in the footwear park.
Note: This was updated in March, 2014. Read on for the ELECTION profile