The International Labor Organization’s (ILO) Asia-Pacific Employment and Social Outlook (APES0) 2020 report, states that the unemployment rate in the Asia-Pacific remains the world’s lowest at 4.1%.
If we consider Malaysia as an example, the country has seen an unprecedented increase in youth unemployment in the last decade, with about 10.9% of the unemployed population in 2019 being between the ages of 15 and 30. Many of these youth are graduates; educated, yet unemployed.
In an endeavor to tackle this social problem, TCS, along with Malaysian oil and gas major, Petronas, was part of a unique initiative in the South East Asian country. The program was designed to focus on addressing youth unemployment, while leaving a positive impact on communities through social entrepreneurship. TCS' extensive knowledge in successfully conceptualizing, implementing, and driving such sustainability initiatives in India, had made them the ideal partners in the endeavor, and this community-centric, collaborative outreach effort, Social Enterprise Education Lab (SEEd.Lab), was launched in January 2020.
Social Innovation Takes Root
The 12-month incubation program focuses on empowering unemployed Malaysian youth to become financially self-sufficient, while also creating jobs through their social startups. SEEd.Lab incorporates an end-to-end journey that spans over the essential stages of a startup’s growth. Its participants, aptly named SEEd.lings, are guided through the process of ideating, drawing up their vision and plans, incubating their ideas to build solutions, and commercializing their social enterprise to scale and grow across a target market.
Fostering a culture of innovation through a series of sustained innovation cycles, the program’s curriculum is designed to train these youth to empathize with challenges in the community and to generate innovative ideas to address these. Testing and validating these ideas further to develop business solutions to social problems before pitching them to investors for sustenance and funding is a crucial part of the process.
The SEEd.Lab program leverages knowledge and skills from TCS’ vast talent base in the areas of design thinking, technology research and innovation, and digital solutions. The social enterprises that have participated in the initiative over the last one year since launch, were given insights to develop skillsets through a series of masterclasses and workshops by recognized coaches and subject matter experts from TCS. It is the first such initiative by TCS outside India and paves the way for offshoots of this model to grow the world over. Indeed, SEEd.Lab is a testament to what a global organization can achieve by partnering with local communities to work successfully within a local ecosystem and impacting the lives of those within it.
The initiative in the last one year alone has given birth to three startups, namely Teman – a care companion service for senior citizens; Foodlabs – a cloud kitchen facility for foodpreneurs to expand their business; and Solvnex – a super app focused on developing and connecting freelancers and gig talent across Malaysia.