Kriti Vaaradhi: Understanding the challenges of establishing an urban ultra poor pilot

Developed by Hyderabad-based Kriti Social Initiatives, the Vaaradhi pilot was designed to provide local urban ultra poor households with a comprehensive array of services to improve their income levels and standard of living.

Ultra poor households in urban areas face a unique set of challenges, as the high cost of meeting a family’s basic needs leaves even the simplest goods and services out of reach. Through the Sorenson / Unitus Ultra Poor Initiative, in 2010 Kriti Social Initiatives launched the Vaaradhi pilot to introduce new livelihoods and improve the standard of living in the Film Nagar slum of Hyderabad. Designed to increase incomes for the households most in need, the pilot coupled a variety of job skill-development activities with healthcare, financial inclusion, and supplemental education components.

In creating the program, Kriti sought to minimize the disruption to what little income ultra poor households were already earning. The Vaaradhi pilot provided training to women in crafting incense sticks, making paper bags, introductory tailoring, and basic goods retail – all work that could supplement the wages earned by male members of the family. The livelihoods activity was combined with access to healthcare clinics, primary education services, and savings initiatives to allow households to build on the momentum of increased income.

The Vaaradhi pilot’s greatest successes were in the area of healthcare. Through an innovative blend of cost savings and direct marketing in target communities, health clinics saw higher than expected foot traffic for both preventative health education and primary healthcare services.

However, relative to those successes, the program’s most notable learnings were in the selection of income-generating activities introduced in the program’s first phase. Each of the four disciplines was chosen for its ability to complement the lifestyles of participating women. The two with higher continuation rates – paper bag making and tailoring – were those with the highest possible return on time invested. Other activities – such as incense stick rolling – unfortunately, were discontinued, as the resulting incomes did not adequately measure up to other livelihood opportunities available in the urban context.

The Vaaradhi pilot was Kriti’s first ultra poor program and one of the few in India focused on urban populations. In the course of delivering livelihood training, healthcare, financial literacy skill-building, and children’s education, the team gained valuable insights into the challenges of adapting rural ultra poor programs to suit the needs of urban populations.

Read: Kriti Vaaradhi Case Study Overview
Read: Kriti Vaaradhi Case Study Report (PDF)

More Resources:

Targeting the Urban Ultra Poor – Taking The Road Less Travelled (NextBillion)
Vaaradhi: An Urban Ultra Poor Intervention (Searchlight South Asia)

Sorenson-Unitus Ultra Poor Initiative Project Page >