“Please come,” says a smiling front-desk person. It’s only when she turns that I see she walks with a limp. As I walk on, a wheelchair-bound employee whizzes into the boss’ room with a report. She zips out before I get there. Behind one glass partition, I see people on PC consoles shooting off orders. All of them, I later discover, are people with special needs. They work for a company that offers non-voice back office services for MNCs and domestic players. Welcome to Vindhya E Infomedia Pvt Ltd in Bangalore.
“We always wanted to combine business with philanthropy,” beams an amiable Pavithra YS, managing director of the firm, “and I believe there has been a great response to an idea like this.” A BPO that began in June 2006, the company has 200 employees from across the swathe of south India. The company won an award from the Karnataka state government for innovation in enterprise last year.
While they may be physically disabled or have hearing impairments, none of these so-called ‘disabilities’ come in the way of fun at work. “The only criterion for our selection is that the candidate has to have some aptitude for computers,” explains CEO Ashok Giri. Once candidates apply, they take a test and undergo a training period. For those low on confidence—and that is the key concern—says Pavithra, counselling is always at hand. Pavithra and Ashok double up as counsellors.
Pavithra and Giri both opted out of their corporate careers for Vindhya. With help from NGOs and institutions working with the physically challenged, they began screening and enlisting employees for their workforce. For people from outside Bangalore, they even arrange temporary housing at a place not far from office to help the new employee acclimatise.
“We’re treated just like normal people,” beams a wheelchair-bound Girija N, 26, a diploma holder in electronics. “And we’re pulled up if the work isn’t satisfactory.” Work for her is a regular 9 to 6 schedule, five days a week. “And all of us have good fun lunching together.” At the end of one working year, employees are up for appraisal.
For all that, this is only the beginning for Vindhya, says Pavithra. Next up is another BPO—this time run by widows. Vindhya has been in talks with the Karnataka government and various social organisations in the south and has already begun trial runs with a handful of possible candidates. At this stage, Pavithra doesn’t want to reveal more. But rest assured of one thing. “We believe in giving employees the opportunity and confidence that society doesn’t sufficiently give. These are people who need dignity and not charity.” I look around, and see Girija N with earphones wink.