Magic Bus Finds Tech Magic

Effective usage of a host of technology tools has enhanced the efficiency of Magic Bus business operations.

Magic Bus India Foundation equips children and young people in the age group of 12 to 18 with the skills and knowledge they need to grow up and move out of poverty. The children on the Magic Bus Livelihood program successfully fend off destabilizers such as child marriage and child labour. They complete their secondary education and go on to become first-generation salary earners having secure careers in the organized sector.

The youth-centered Livelihoods Program connects the aspirations and potential of young people to available market opportunities. Magic Bus builds their employability skills and maps their job potential based on individual strengths and mobility. The organization works with support structures like parents, the community at large and local government institutions to ensure social, emotional and economic well-being for all young people living in that area.

The Magic Bus programme consists of multiple components to be delivered along a 12-18 year old continuum. At each point in the continuum as well, there are different outcomes that are being tracked for a single set of stakeholders. Additionally the programme is currently funded by over 50 funders (CSR, Foundations etc), with the internal teams endeavouring to stitch this together to form a thread of experience for the end stakeholder.

Role of Technology

Technology is an integral part for the existence of any organization, which wants to scale for impact. It also helps bring integrity and stronger processes, which translates into credibility. “Therefore at Magic Bus we have successfully rolled out automation across different functions covering Operations, Finance, HR and Customer relationships. Creating strong governance processes brings in rigor in the program delivery and stronger impact for the participants. And we have effectively done this through the use of technology,” informs Jayant Rastogi, Global CEO, Magic Bus Foundation.

“At Magic Bus we have automated program and business operations to create strong governance processes, efficiency and rigour in programme delivery. Technology has brought in a very strong & impactful delivery improving the lives of the hundreds of thousands of our participants,” he adds. “Embarking on an innovation journey we transformed an organisation which was in data “catch up” mode to an organisation which uses data analytics for decision making. It was a journey of reinventing ourselves to manage and facilitate scale, improve delivery efficiency and efficacy and improve impact,” reveals Rastogi.

The innovation helped Magic Bus create a cohesive, end-to-end, data capture mechanism. This helped the organization build a suite of interlinked solutions which present a single version of truth, simplifying information flow. The result was transparent, accurate and clear data, making the organisation agile and improving stakeholder inclusivity.

Tech Tools in Usage

The internally developed online platform OASYS (Operations Automation System) specially designed to enable and allow tracking of outcomes is the cornerstone of Magic’s tech journey. The specific and unique functions include potential ‘migration’ of children from one funder to another, establishing specific norms to classify ‘drop out’, an annual session plan that can be modified and adapted through the year and the capacity to design different ‘master programmes’ in case a funder requirement is such. In OASYS data is also collected in real-time therefore reducing the time lag to react to a situation.

The unique feature of this solution is that it pulls data from this complex system that is customised for Magic Bus, into simple, easy to use dashboards that a potentially new user will be able to comprehend. This ability to translate what is essentially internal and nuanced in the organization to that which is lucid and transparent for the external stakeholder (funder, government etc) is perhaps the most significant feature of this solution, claims Rastogi.

There are quite a few other technology solutions being used at Magic Bus Foundation in conjunction with OASYS. Some of these solutions include

Automate operations and track session delivery through multiple apps – OASYS + Sixer Class + PowerBI + Survey CTO – OASYS is the Operations Automation System developed and deployed by Magic Bus across its programmes. It interfaces with Survey CTO, a tool that is used to facilitate various kinds of data collection on handheld devices. OASYS enables timeliness and veracity of field data, thus empowering field teams to make data-based decisions, and empowering Regional and Head Office teams to be more accountable to external stakeholders such as donors and government.

The Sixer Class application tracks the lifecycle of a youth in the livelihood programme i.e. from enrolment to placement tracking including “settling in” support. It helps Magic Bus understand the participation, attendance, placement opportunities including conversions and dropouts. The applications give insight into curriculum coverage and employee performance.

Power BI – This tool tracks performance indicators of the Childhood to Livelihood program like outreach, session delivery, participation, rescheduling, employee performance and other critical parameters. It enables different views for the same data set. One can view critical metrics by Geography, Program, Donor & Project.

There are Mathematics and English remedial learning apps for our participants in the program. Besides this, there is learning and development through the Magic Bus Academy application that has learning courses.

Digitize back office operations – Microsoft AX, HRMS – HRMS enables Magic Bus to leverage business intelligence to improve employee retention and track candidates as they move through the recruitment pipeline. Microsoft AX enables improved financial processes across the regional and central finance teams. This includes timely capture of income from all donors and capturing expenses on field.

Manage sustainability operations –CRM and Call Centre – Enhance donor engagement with robust tracking of donor information and engagement history so that Magic Bus can maximize donations.

Nuts and Bolts to Track Tech

Magic Bus must have an extensive mechanism to control and monitor this kind of tech usage. “At Magic Bus we have a full-fledged IT function, headed by a Director of Technology,” answers Rastogi. IT at Magic Bus is completely aligned to business including being a key stakeholder in all strategic and tactical initiatives. It works together with other functions to craft appropriate solutions for the organisation and programme. “This approach has therefore enabled the adoption of solutions across the organisation enabling agility, smoother and efficient operations, improving field productivity and managing scale, claims Rastogi.

There are obviously challenges and bottlenecks in this enterprise mobility model. Training the field team spread across the country in 22 states where Magic Bus runs its program is a challenge and takes a longer time period. The Foundation a multi lingual staff, so training them with material in different languages takes longer. The field team did not have access to smartphones either. Magic Bus with support from Microsoft has now provided smartphones to staff lacking these devices.

Connectivity in rural areas is a challenge. This has been overcome by developing solutions which work in offline mode allowing users to synchronize data when they have good data connection. “Our apps have to support android phones of different OEMs with different versions of Android. This poses a challenge in software development as it needs to work seamlessly in this ecosystem,” adds Rastogi. Overall, there is a lack of an organised requirements gathering. The requirements are derived and formulated based on support tickets, problem reports and other discussions related to program and operational challenges.

COVID19 Impact

What has been the impact of Covid19 crisis and does technology help alleviate some of this impact? “Although Magic Bus works with the low risk population (children) and our delivery staff is mostly within the low risk age groups, we rely on face-to-face interactions and social gatherings. We have responded with speed, repurposing our teams to move to phone-based community outreach and engage in relief efforts in communities,” informs Rastogi.

This technology-based approach (e.g. phone IVR, community radio etc.) may continue even after the pandemic recedes and could be expanded to address core outcomes. To date, Magic Bus teams through phone call based standard messaging, have reached more than 100,000 children and their parents who are a part of its programs, to create awareness regarding COVID-19, ways to prevent the infection, appropriate hand washing, social distancing and the need to avoid crowds and stay home. “Our people’s passion to serve communities has truly been seen during this crisis. Our team of young leaders and employees have so far distributed food and relief kits to 52000 people across India, in the last ten days, but we need all the support we can get to enhance our outreach,” appeals Rastogi.

Future of Technology

What are going to be the main catalysts for Magic Bus Foundation in its digital transformation journey in the future? “We have built a strong communication channel, both TOP-DOWN and BOTTOM- UP, and this is able to align a large organization (with over 8000 direct & indirect employees) like ours very quickly on new programs, change in direction and strategies. We are trying to build a diversified funding portfolio and for that, one needs good financial systems which our ERP and financial diligence has brought. We have improved our cash flows and greatly strengthened our funding portfolio,” informs Rastogi.

Due to the technology roll out, in the programs the sessions get captured accurately as they happen and this information helps the Foundation take proactive steps to improve any program headed south. It also has brought in a very strong & impactful delivery improving the lives of the hundreds of thousands of the participants. “Again the technology and effectiveness of our programs has helped make us one of the biggest players in Livelihoods, All in all a good leadership team, strong financial processes & delivery with high impact & evidence gives confidence to the Funders,” concludes Rastogi.


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