For 62 percent of the 1,600 strong employees in this BPO (business processing outsourcing), it is their first job. The phrase 'first job in a BPO' immediately throws up vivid images — a BPO filled with exuberant fresh-out-of-college boys and girls walking in and out, office floor buzzing with calls, the constant typing on keyboards, a noisy terminal filled with millennials talking to customers.
Yes, they are exuberant and the floor is buzzing, but they are not who you are imagining. These people are among the 2.1 percent of India's population who have various types of disabilities (according to Census 2011) and they work for Vindhya E-Infomedia — a BPO that enables the differently-abled to provide exceptional customer experience.
As soon as you enter Vindhya, you will be greeted by a visually impaired receptionist who will request you to wait till he calls Pavithra — an entrepreneur who has made a valiant effort to empower the specially abled.
Pavithra started Vindhya with one mission, to run a successful business that creates a social impact. "I am a commerce graduate, I never worked anywhere before starting Vindhya," she says. "This is my first job. What I knew was excel sheets. I lost my dad. I was the first girl child and I got married. I couldn't continue my studies. I was taking tuitions for kids."
"Once when I was talking to my husband, he told me, you should do something bigger than this. While we were talking about it, we saw a disabled person crossing the road. Immediately we said, why not this community? We were looking at some job where a person with a physical disability can sit and work comfortably. So, this was the best thing that could come together - business with impact. That's how Vindhya was started, in 2006."
By her own admission, Pavithra started with just two employees, without any knowledge about disability or the infrastructure requirements. However, with every single differently-abled person joining in, she learnt something new.
"We got an office which was on the first floor and there was no ramps and no lifts. People who came in actually made things happen. They said it doesn't matter if you don't have this, what we need is self-respect, dignity and independence. People started giving us a lot of learnings and over a period of time, we brought a lot of different changes," Pavithra says.
Apart from basic English and typing skills, the most important criteria Pavithra looks for in a candidate is a positive attitude. The positive energy is contagious at Vindhya, smiling faces answering calls patiently, unperturbed by the CNBC-TV18 camera crew hovering around.
Commitment Towards Work
Pavithra says her employees' commitment towards their work is unmatched. But not just customers, even prospective clients she visited shared a similar apprehension, 'Will these people deliver?'
"Because I don't look disabled, that was a bigger challenge, to prove to them that we are not trying to take advantage of the people who are coming here and trying to work," she says.
Vindhya E-Infomedia is headquartered in Bengaluru where it has two offices and there is a branch in Hyderabad.
The company also has an on-site model, with employees stationed across 30 different customer locations. This helps to sensitise organisations about the needs of differently-abled people.
Employees at Vindhya are paid at par with industry peers and the company has an attrition rate of less than 7 percent, according to Pavithra. Girls leave after getting married (due to relocation) or people quit if there are any medical complications. "However, when they leave for better job opportunities, I feel immensely proud," she says.
Pavithra's ability to see the differently-abled through a prism that goes beyond sympathy has provided a meaningful livelihood to these individuals. Take the case of Nagaratna, an employee who 'suffers' from dwarfism. After joining Vindhya Infotech, she is single-handedly running her house and has saved enough to send her sister to a medical college.
Vindhya provides boarding and lodging facility for people who move from different parts of India. "What we want to create is an opportunity," says Pavithra. "We also provide interest-free loans for our employees, for emergency needs to be addressed. We provide baby care centre and also support the education of one child per employee. We provide wheelchairs and other assistive aids for people with different disabilities."
It's been 12 glorious years for Vindhya. The company's 'inclusive' business model is appreciated by all its clients. Vindhya E-Infomedia has won the trust of its distinguished clientele — Ujjivan Small Finance Bank, Yes Bank, L&T Finance, RBL Bank, Government of Karnataka, Wipro, Mindtree.
A self-proclaimed go-getter, Pavithra is now setting up an inclusive campus, the largest BPO in India, where people with all kind of disabilities can live and get trained to work.
Pavithra is the recipient of NITI Aayog's Women Transforming India 2016 award and 'Top 100 Women Achievers In India' President Award 2016. The biggest lesson this first generation entrepreneur has learnt from her specially abled friends is, stop cribbing about what you don't have in life and keep smiling.