30/06/2015 6:58 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

Why People With Disabilities Need Opportunities, Not Charity

Walter Zerla via Getty Images

Pooja is 23 years old and comes from Tiptur, a small town near Bangalore. She works as a data processing executive in a BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) company in Bangalore. This is nothing out of the ordinary -- thousands of young people from small towns and villages in India pursue their dreams in large, where they mostly look for jobs with IT and BPO companies.

However, Pooja is not like everyone else and her challenges are much greater. Polio has left her paralysed from her waist down, meaning that many companies balk at hiring her. Fortunately, she has carved a niche for herself at Vindhya Infomedia, a BPO based in Bangalore. More than 90% of Vindhya's 1056 employees are differently-abled.

Vindhya began operating in 2006. My wife, Pavithra Y S, who is chairperson and managing director and I, the CEO, are the founders. We started by employing three physically challenged people. Today, we have over a 1000 employees and projected revenue of $4.2 million for 2015-2016. Vindhya is a pioneer in end-to-end back office processes for micro-finance companies and contact centres in various regional languages, for many industries. Digitising and business analytics are some of the services the company offers; the more these services diversify and expand, the bigger the increase in the number of jobs for differently-abled people and their chance of living a dignified life.

"More than 90% of Vindhya's 1056 employees are differently-abled."

In the NGO sector, other organisations are doing similar work to create paid jobs and societal integration for people with disabilities. Vindhya is unique because it is a "for profit" organisation and has purposefully moved away from the NGO route. Our idea was to bring business and philanthropy together, envisioning an entirely new model of job creation for differently-abled people, one that is self-sustainable. We realised that people with disabilities need opportunity, not charity, in order to live life with dignity.

Time and again, our employees have proven that their productivity levels are not lower than those of "regular" employees. In fact, Vindhya's growth has been largely due to the quality and reliability of its employees' daily work and dedication. A significant part of the company's growth comes through customer referrals and expanding services for existing customers.

All of our customers are well known companies in India. They have opened their hearts and minds to Vindhya's social mission and, in the process, increased their social impact significantly. I am eager to extend the customer base to other countries in order to offer our company's employees the opportunity to prove their capabilities and shift mentalities internationally.

Pursuing its ambitious mission, Vindhya had its share of challenges, but Pavithra, the MD, has never lost faith in the fact that customers would appreciate high-quality work. She says, "Companies that had not previously opened their doors to people with disabilities were doubtful of their professional capability as their learning curve was longer. Most new clients tested us with only pilot projects, but once we were able to convince them of our delivery capabilities, there was no looking back."

Vindhya's vision is to reach 5000 employees by the year 2020, increase delivery centre across India and serve global customers.

To watch a day in the life of a Vindhya's employee, click here.

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