Rumi Sikdar: Inspiring Change in Education and Skill Development
In recent decades, the pivotal role of women in the Indian economy has become increasingly undeniable. Women’s contributions to India’s economy have been remarkable, and they continue to excel in various spheres of life.
The women workforce has emerged as a formidable force, significantly driving the expansion and growth of the Indian economy. Their increasing contributions over the years have unequivocally validated the hypothesis put forth by leading feminists, emphasising that women are equal to men in every aspect of life.
Throughout history, women have played a crucial part in facilitating tremendous progress in the economy. However, despite their visible and substantial contributions, gender bias persists at all levels of society, even within the most educated and developed segments. This bias prevents society from fully recognising and appreciating the significance of women’s contributions in all walks of life.
In modern times, women are venturing into new domains that were traditionally considered beyond their sphere of influence.
They are actively participating in economic, political, and social spheres, breaking barriers and reshaping societal norms. This expanded involvement of women across various sectors has further bolstered their impact on the Indian economy and society as a whole.
Rumi Sikdar, the CMD of Ants Consulting & Services Pvt. Ltd., is a remarkable individual who has exemplified empowerment and made a significant impact on the Indian business society. Her inspiring contributions have inspired not only women but also men alike.
Rumi Sikdar, CMD of Ants Consulting & Services Pvt. Ltd.
Rumi Sikdar completed her Master’s and gained experience in various social research, social organisation, and social business roles within the fields of education, community services, and skill development over a span of 10 years.
Rumi began her career as a research associate in the social sector before transitioning to the corporate world for a brief period. During her time as a consultant with various organisations, she developed a strong desire to establish her own business – one that could make a meaningful difference in people’s lives while being sustainable.
Motivated by this vision, Rumi founded Ants Consulting, an organisation that has gained recognition as a prominent vocational training institute focused on skill development and employment opportunities.
During her tenure with another company in 2005, she realised the prevalent challenge of industries and companies struggling to find trained personnel for entry-level positions while there were unemployed and employed youth in search of suitable employment and career opportunities.
Recognising the gap in educational options for school and college dropouts, Rumi decided to focus on empowering youth who lacked access to higher education and could benefit from training programs leading to entry-level jobs. This marked the inception of Ants Consulting & Services, initiating her journey as an entrepreneur.
Today, the skilling ecosystem has grown into a substantial 25,000-crore industry in India. Rumi’s creative mindset fuels her belief in the power of creative thinking to generate innovative solutions, services, and products. With a voracious appetite for reading and extensive travel experiences across India and 13 other countries, Rumi’s broad perspective influences her entrepreneurial endeavours.
She finds solace and tranquillity in gardening, considering it a means of stress relief and essential for maintaining peace and harmony in her life. Rumi’s two children serve as a constant source of inspiration and happiness for her. Furthermore, her husband, who serves as the Director and co-founder of Ants, plays a vital role as her greatest support system in successfully managing and scaling up the organization.
For Rumi, the most rewarding aspect of being an entrepreneur is witnessing the birth and growth of an organisation in alignment with her dreams. Being a social entrepreneur adds an extra layer of fulfilment as it allows her to make a positive impact within the community while running a business.
Ants Consulting and Services: Empowering Youth through High-Quality Vocational Education and Employability Skills
Since its inception, Ants Consulting and Services has actively worked towards establishing a nationwide network of centres that offer high-quality vocational education, ensuring affordability and accessibility for youth seeking gainful employment and career growth.
With over a decade of experience in delivering skill training and forging employment linkages, Ant’s overarching vision is to empower 300,000 youth from low-income groups by the year 2022.
Ants Consulting is a dynamic organisation that focuses on developing employability skills while fostering critical thinking, self-reliance, and interpersonal capabilities.
The foundation of their work lies in a contemporary teaching and learning approach inspired by the best practices of leading Vocational Education Institutions. They have been at the forefront of pioneering innovative Vocational Education Models, effectively equipping students with the necessary skills for success.
Through strategic collaborations with the Government, Industries, Corporates, and NGOs, AntsConsulting ensures that students receive skill training, relevant certifications, and employment opportunities in their respective sectors.
All the courses offered by the organisation are certified by the Sector Skill Councils (SSCs) or other relevant certifying bodies. Furthermore, AntsConsulting provides comprehensive support to students, assisting them in securing placements and building long-term careers.
Transforming Education for Empowering Youth
Rumi recognised the urgent need to overhaul the education system as many graduates lacked job readiness, resulting in low productivity. This realisation drove her to establish Ants Consulting & Services, with the aim of bringing about a paradigm shift in education methodology.
Starting as a social initiative, Ants became an organisation focused on skill-building through effective education. Rumi’s dream is to create a strong organisation that promotes lifelong learning, incorporating various models of education and skill-building to empower youth throughout their journey, including skilling and reskilling.
Milestones in the Journey
For Rumi, her most significant achievement is building Ants Consulting from the ground up. From the very beginning, they established a strong culture, clear goals, and a compelling vision.
What’s remarkable is that even after 12 years, their vision, goals, and culture remain relevant, and they have stayed true to their initial path. This consistency has led to a low employee turnover, a strong reputation in government business, and a consistent ability to stay ahead of industry trends.
Embracing Setbacks as Stepping Stones
Rumi realises that out of every 5 initiatives, 4 may not yield significant revenue and are eventually discarded. However, they do not perceive these endeavours as failures; instead, they consider them valuable learning experiences.
Such setbacks do not deter them but rather strengthen their resolve. It is an indication that the team is unafraid of taking risks and embracing challenges.
As a result, Ants Consulting has emerged as a prominent success in providing skill training across various settings, including schools, colleges, villages, slums, madrasas, construction sites, and transport depots. Rumi acknowledges that their current achievements would not have been possible without undergoing numerous setbacks along the way.
Inspiring Idols and Paradigm Shifts
Rumi holds several ideals that have shaped her perspective. She greatly admires Azim Premji for his simplicity, humility, and his ability to build a world-class company. She finds inspiration in Warren Buffet’s commitment to philanthropy and his dedication to creating a sustainable world.
Additionally, Rumi looks up to Angela Merkel as a true leader who successfully guided her country through a recession and managed the integration of one million immigrants while also fostering unity in Europe.
The ideas to start a new business venture or bring significant changes in an existing business/at the workplace were stimulated by C.K. Prahalad and his book “Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid.”
This influential work opened Rumi’s eyes to a new paradigm, one that focused on creating a business model capable of addressing the needs of the 80% of India’s growing young population. This realisation fueled her desire to make a difference and provide opportunities for the majority of the population who had been underserved or overlooked.
Rumi finds her greatest inspiration in her husband, who also happens to be her business partner. His influence has encouraged her to think outside the box and consider alternative perspectives. When it comes to the impact of her professional life on her personal life, Rumi sees no clear distinction.
She wholeheartedly invests herself in any endeavour she undertakes, whether personal or professional. As a woman entrepreneur, she embraces and enjoys both aspects of her life, blurring the boundaries between personal and professional spheres.
Rumi attributes the success of Ants Consulting to two fundamental factors: their focus on people and work culture and their emphasis on technology. During the early stages of the organisation, significant efforts were made to develop the employees and establish a strong organisational culture. Recognising the transformative potential of technology, it became a key area of focus for Ants Consulting.
Delegation of tasks and responsibilities, coupled with granting employees the freedom to work, has been a guiding principle. Rumi defines success as the continuous growth and longevity of Ants Consulting, envisioning it as a revolutionary force in the education and skill-building realm that extends beyond her and her co-founder’s involvement.
“The success of Team Ants stems from our unwavering dedication, boundless creativity, unwavering integrity, willingness to take risks, strong team spirit, and disciplined approach”, shares Rumi.
Rumi envisions a future focused on enhancing the efficiency of Ants Consulting’s services. To achieve this, she has outlined several key plans:
- Extending accessibility to unreached rural areas for quality skills and education.
- Establishing zonal centres that can evolve into skill universities.
- Creating research institutions to advance understanding and application of skills.
- Developing demonstration units to showcase excellence in skill training.
These plans aim to enhance efficiency and expand the reach of Ants Consulting’s services while contributing to the development of a skilled workforce.