Rajendra Joshi

Saath Livelihood Services
Year founded: 

Saath’s public-private partnership model is integrating slum residents in the Indian city of Ahmedabad into the formal economy while improving their living conditions.

Focus: Education, Health, Financial Inclusion, Labour and Unemployment
Geographic Area of Impact: India
Model: Hybrid Non-Profit
Number of Direct Beneficiaries: 40,000 (2009)
Annual Budget: US$ 1.25 million (2009)
Percentage Earned Revenue: 60%
Recognition: Social Entrepreneur of the Year, India, 2009

In 2007, UN-HABITAT estimated that 1 billion people worldwide live in slums, and that this figure is likely to double by 2030. Rapid urban migration will exacerbate this problem in India, where more than 60 million people live in slums. Slum residents often have substandard housing, insecure land tenure, poor access to basic services and a systemic lack of opportunities. Simultaneously, slums are vital pockets of economic activity; there is considerable potential for wealth creation if their residents can participate in the formal economy. While government infrastructure investments and programmes are essential for uplifting slum populations, there is a dire need for social enterprises to help them utilize resources offered by the public and private sectors.

Innovation and Activities
Saath’s work in Ahmedabad, in the Indian state of Gujarat, has demonstrated that a market-based approach can successfully generate socio-economic wealth for slum populations while creating market opportunities at the base of the pyramid for companies. Its Integrated Slum Development (ISD) approach offers an array of services across healthcare, education, livelihood development, microfinance, infrastructure and information.

Saath’s work began in health and education when founder Rajendra Joshi saw the need to provide basic public services in the face of government failures. Today, these programmes impact 14,000 households annually. Since the 1990s, Saath’s Slum Networking Programme has brought slum residents, utility companies and the Gujarat government together to provide water, electricity and road infrastructure to over 6,000 households on a fee-paying basis. Saath’s livelihood programmes with employers have placed 25,000 youths and housewives into formal sector employment, and are complemented by its growing microfinance practice. Saath has also expanded these services to rural Gujarat along with its natural resource management programmes, impacting over 7,000 households.

Saath’s latest innovation is the Urban Resource Center (URC), which serves as critical linkage points to connect slum residents with information, knowledge and services from governments, NGOs and private companies. To date, four URCs serve 13,000 households across Ahmedabad for an annual subscription fee. Saath is also actively working with academic institutions, NGOs and urban planners to draft policy suggestions that address land tenure issues critical to slum development.

The Entrepreneur
Rajendra Joshi was born and raised in Tanzania before moving back to India for post-secondary education. During this time he was struck by the inequality among different castes and communities. After working as a salesman for two years after graduation, he was introduced to the work of Father Emiro Reviti, a Jesuit priest working in Ahmedabad’s slums. As an educator, Joshi developed a curriculum to attract and retain students in schools. His experience allowed him to listen to stories of slum residents first-hand as they displayed both anguish and hope amidst difficult living conditions. He also realized that contrary to popular belief, slum residents were actually willing to pay for essential good and services, and not solely interested in free handouts from the government and NGOs. This sparked Joshi’s desire to pioneer a sustainable response that would help lift slum residents out of poverty and place them at the centre of development.
For scaling up and sustainability, he has promoted a for-profit entity, R3 Resources Pvt Ltd.