Culture, Purpose & Passion are our key driving force – Jayant Rastogi, Global CEO, Magic Bus

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Magic Bus was recently in the news for being recognized as a Great Place to Work by GPTW Institute as well as earning the recognition for being one of the  best employers in the Nation Builders Category.  In this interaction with Jayant Rastogi, Global CEO, Magic Bus, we try to understand  about the best practices that have brought them so far, the impact this recognition on the organization, and the future plans at Magic Bus!


1.      Magic Bus’s recognition by GPTW Institute as a Great Place to Work and also as one of the best employers in the Nation Builders Category How does this recognition impact you?


We are very honoured to receive one of the most coveted and prestigious recognitions offered by Great Place to Work® in India and also for being recognised as one of India’s Best Employers among Nation-Builders.

We have been fostering a culture, led by purpose and passion. What sets us apart is our team of individuals, the best from the ‘for profit’ and ‘not for profit’ sectors, who are dedicated and committed towards our vision of alleviating poverty. Impacted by the COVID-19 global pandemic, 2020 was a very difficult year for us and the challenges continue in the current year as well, but the grit, resilience and agility of our teams help us soldier through. The certification recognises that we have created a culture that encourages our people to be real champions of change. The recognition has helped us reinforce that our employees take a great sense of pride in working with Magic Bus and that they believe in the mission, vision and values of Magic Bus.


For over two decades we have been working very closely with children and young people through a sustained long term intervention. The programme ensures; all children complete secondary education, ensures reduced risk of early marriage and young people have the right skills to be gainfully employed. And so we are really enabling young people in India to become employable, tax paying and responsible citizens, who can help themselves and their families out of poverty. In some cases they are establishing their businesses and creating jobs, giving back to the country. A passionate and motivated team also means we will bring out the best, to deepen impact and change many more lives.


A passionate and motivated team also means we will bring out the best, to deepen impact and change many more lives.


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This recognition is really a testament to our work. The certification has also reinforced upon employees how their work directly contributes to the mission of the organisation and how leadership demonstrates it every day. The Great Place to Work® recognition will go a long way in further enhancing our employee engagement, overall workplace satisfaction and will have a positive impact on attracting the right talent. Funders too want to work with organisations that have a driven team, are passionate about their work and are thriving in a culture that allows them to be their best selves.


2.      How would you describe your organization / workplace? What are the best practices that led you to achieve this recognition?

Whatever we do at Magic Bus, we approach it with three things: scale, innovation and technology.


  • We are an organisation that encourages new ideas and innovations. We encourage our teams to try and fail rather than not having tried at all. Having introduced innovations in programme and technology, we have been able to strengthen efficiency, transparency and delivery of programme at scale. This credibility is what funders look for, before they fund any organisation. We are transparent and fair with all our stakeholders, including our employees.


  • We believe in being agile and so it’s very important for our employees across the organisation to understand what we are doing and why we are doing it. We have built a strong and transparent cascade of communication which is top down and bottoms up. We also listen to our employees. Employees have various channels to share their views, observations and ideas. Our leadership team speaks to our employees on a regular basis through our employee connect programme. We then collate this data to understand areas of improvement so that we can address them with the right solutions.


  • Our culture of innovation has inspired employee loyalty, confidence and willingness to go that extra mile. Clear expectations are set which helps employees understand what they are working toward and how to achieve it. We have meaningful recognition programmes at multiple levels to promote a culture of


  • We have a firm focus on gender equality. We have provided the women at our workplace the right environment to work and succeed, leading to more women in leadership We have more than 50% female representation in leadership.


  • Our core values are the fundamental beliefs of Magic Bus that describe our culture. Our strong leadership team, the best from the profit and not for profit worlds, are very approachable. I believe when you are approachable, you are also able to hear the bad news as quickly as the good news. This means we can take quick corrective action and solutions can be implemented easily. Culture starts from the top. The leadership team at Magic Bus walks the talk in terms of our core values and this percolates across the organisation.
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  • Our field teams in the communities are our larger family. We are aware that the pandemic was particularly harsh on our teams who were at the front line. To support our employees in our offices and on ground we rolled out a number of initiatives to ensure their wellbeing and safety. We provided Covid-19 relief emergency kits and funds, oxygen concentrators, vaccinations and hosted multiple wellness activities.


3.      What are the learnings from your corporate career that helped you to achieve early success with Magic Bus


After my stint with Motorola Solutions as CEO, when I moved into the development sector, I thought I could bring in efficiency, systems & technology to help the sector scale its impact & outreach.


I saw opportunities in the sector but at the same time there was an overwhelming need for me to understand the sector better, while I was trying to bring in some of my experiences from the corporate world.


I am grateful that the sector has taught me a lot and I still continue to learn. I saw that the people from the sector are extremely passionate and if they are aligned & focused then the results are disproportionately higher than the efforts. I also had to learn to work with very little data, to make decisions, so all in all I think I have learnt much more from the sector than I would have brought in.


4.      What are your future plans for Magic Bus?


We have two components in our programme: Adolescent & Livelihood.


In the Adolescent programme, today through our community-embedded, school-based programmes we reach out to 4 lakh adolescents across India. We have proven the efficacy of our approach, demonstrating strong life and school outcomes among adolescents.


We have adopted technology to help us take bigger risks and deepen impact. We are partnering with systemic actors and innovating to achieve greater scale efficiencies. We aim to create exponential impact over the next five years. We are forging district/state level partnerships and working closely with government schools across 4-5 states to integrate our model. The programme will deliver life skills to 3-5 million adolescents to ensure their school completion and employability. The goal is to achieve continued catalytic impact –developing resilience, 55% more likely to be regular in school, 20% improvement in egalitarian gender attitude and higher aspirations for higher education up to 71%. These partnerships with government will identify innovations and efficiencies through direct delivery and support measurement of outcomes from life skills. This approach will engage with district and state level governments to generate buy-in on key outcomes as well as process.

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We aim to create exponential impact over the next five years. We are forging district/state level partnerships and working closely with government schools across 4-5 states to integrate our model.


On the Livelihood side of the programming, in the last few years, we have made significant inroads in skilling and placement, reaching 60,000 youth, connecting them to sustainable and meaningful livelihood opportunities. But during the pandemic we realised that we need to immediately address the unemployment situation.* Backed by technology, we scaled our programme to reach almost 1 lakh youth and adults, placing them in jobs.


Over the next 5-7 years we will skill and connect 300,000 – 500,000 youth and adults to jobs, ensuring long-term job satisfaction and career progression. We intend to scale our programme, leveraging partnerships and technology, to skill and connect vulnerable youth with higher-salaried jobs.


We are also a part of a key collaborative on Life Skills and Assessment. The initiative is unique, in that it is an opportunity to contribute to furthering the discourse on life skills measurement, besides enabling the government to scale up assessment across the state. Organisations will be able to share and learn technical expertise and best practices on assessments.


We are on our journey to being one of the leading organisations in the sector. We have made some path breaking changes as we move closer towards trying to solve a problem that has persisted for generations – poverty. With technology and innovation at the forefront we know we can achieve impact at scale. All this also owing to one of the finest leadership teams we have today and a thriving culture that is helping make this possible.

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