OCAD University
Business and Design Thinking
Alejandra Farías, Carrie Emblem, Hetvi Vyas, Shreya Chopra
Fall, 2020


Per official estimates, there are 4.75 million domestic workers in India(most of which are female), a gross underestimation as other studies suggest there could be close to 50 million domestic workers. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Indian Government imposed one of the most severe lockdowns and quarantine measures in the world, and New Delhi was one of the hardest hit regions.

Domestic Worker

As part of the unrecognized labour, they work in the informal sector; in a very ingrained caste system where they are at the bottom of the social pyramid.

Domestic workers suffer from subjective work conditions, as they are unable to negotiate working hours, conditions and salary. After the lockdown, many were fired from their jobs or had salary cuts, and were even deemed as “Covid carriers”.

Research Question

How might we design a solution to support part-time domestic workers in New Delhi to stay healthy and maintain a sustainable livelihood through situations of high vulnerability?


Stakeholder's Matrix of Needs

Here, we mapped the needs of every stakeholder to understand where their priorities lie and how could they have an effect on others. Then, we highlighted the unmet needs, which became valuable insights.

Power Analysis

The Power Analysis was used as a framework to identify the different sources where people can draw on to gain personal power such as capital, labour and consumer power, culture, information, knowledge, networks, or physical power. 

This served as a visual aid to see how domestic workers are left powerless and every other stakeholder has a direct or indirect influence over them, while the patriarchal system is perpetuated by taking away her voice. 

The proposed solution

Following the research and different frameworks to analyse the stakeholders’ needs, power and influence in the situation, we found a significant gap in the needs of domestic workers and their ability to meet them. Given their vulnerable situation, they are left at the expense of deficient government support and assistance from local NGOs.  It is so that we propose a skill development program as a first approach to a multi-layered solution. With this, we want to empower the domestic workers who need to be respected and valued in society for the essential role they play in the lives of many urban Indian households. 

Project Aarohan

Empowerment through education.

The word “Aarohan'' means growth in Hindi language, and reflects the continuous development and learning journey of domestic workers.
Project Aarohan is a skill training program forempowerment and self-sufficiency. 

Our focus is to use tested educational techniques to raise awareness, instill confidence and above all to generate a sense of self-worth among the domestic workers who have been neglected far too long.

Value Proposition

It provides an upskilling system that allows them to improve employment opportunities and job security, while providing them with soft skills athat can help with rights awareness and de-stigmatization of domestic work as “unskilled”. 

A working synergy between NGOs, Universities
and Resident Welfare Associations.

The NGO, such as Partners in Prosperity (PNP), first receives funds from grants and donors, and co-designs  the curriculum for the learning modules with local Universities' community service program. The idea is then presented to several RWAs with a high volume of unskilled domestic workers. 

Domestic workers are presented with short modules and skill development workshops that adapt to their schedules that also take place in the housing societies for added convenience to the workers. They are presented with  tailored a curriculum  including both technical and soft skills for their personal and professional development. 

Some workers who have successfully completed a certain number of modules will be offered an Ambassador title, through which they can attend specific feedback meetings and contribute their point of view and be the spokesperson for the community of domestic workers and even collaborate to creating content for modules.


The module’s learning content will be delivered in Hindi, the local language. Sessions are heavy on visuals and semiotics to allow the learning content to be more inclusive and comprehensive for all levels of literacy of the trainees. Live demonstrations like role playing and hands-on activities during the session will allow for applied learning experience. Finally, interactive sessions will allow participants to talk about their personal experiences in a safe, open environment.

Criteria for solution

The radar graph below was devised at the end of our research phase to analyze how we could evaluate our project success. It visualises how much of the criteria for our final solution we could be able to address in the first year and after the fifth year.

The rings represent the levels of satisfaction, or how much could we meet these topics. The levels are based on subjective metrics on how much could these attributes be perceived as met, somewhat met and unmet. The graph is meant to be a visual representation for our criteria evaluation.


Because this was a scenario where we didn't know how the pandemic would evolve, here is how we speculated what the next 9 years could look like for the project assuming execution in 2021.

We hope that in the second year with the availability of a COVID-19 vaccine, the batch sizes could be increased and the program be expanded to other local housing societies by leveraging partnerships with NGOs. By the 5th year, we hope to expand statewide and start pitching to national level NGOs like Reliance foundation for a wider reach. By 10th year, with the support of the government and Reliance foundation, we hope to be able to reach most major cities in India.


Some immediate challenges we could find include:

Futures Wheel

This foresight tool helped visualize  possible consecuences of the introduction of the Aarohan program. Some of these include, on an infrastructural level, the price of housing societies going up as these would become coveted places to live in because of better quality and trustworthy domestic work. However, middle class families could be uncomfortable with increased demands and find it hard to afford the services. On a socio-cultural level, the domestic workers would become more aware of their rights and options in order to navigate livelihood challenges. They will feel nudged to stand up for themselves and their family more. Finally, with respect to power dynamics, the employers and RWA could be humbled down to be more empathetic and caring for the domestic workers. 

A final word...

We proposed Project Aarohan, as skill development program that challenges the status quo by balancing stakeholder's power and influence. Run by both local actors (RWAs) as well as external actors (NGOs and Universities), it facilitates learning and sharing of resources towards better livelihoods for domestic workers. We seeks to provide hope and healing for workers, increasing their absorptive capacities, individual resilience and preparedness for challenging circumstances while leveraging the existing power structures to their benefit.

Using Format