Saarathee's employees are showing India that disability is just a matter of perception
In 2010, as telemarketing head for a leading telecom company, Richa Bansal had an opportunity to work with people with disabilities. "We were given a project to hire visually impaired candidates from the NAB Centre for Blind Women & Disability Studies in Delhi", recalls Bansal. "It was a pilot project for some PR mileage and CSR visibility but they were productive, dedicated and committed and it was a business case at the end of it all".
That experience stayed in Bansal's mind and was the start of a journey that led her to found Saarathee in partnership with Arjun Vishwanathan.
In January 2018 I set up Saarathee as a for profit customer contact center, where people with disabilities would be employed because they bring value to the job - for themselves as well as for the clients. And thus was born Saarathee! - Richa Bansal, Co-founder, Saarathee
Saarathee aims to support clients with their business development and customer relationship needs and in doing so create an equal opportunity workplace that offers sustainable livelihood for people with disabilities.
Starting with seven recruits for the social sector, today Saarathee has 20 visually impaired employees working in multiple processes. It reaches out to clients across sectors like healthcare, education, retail and ecommerce. Among the services the team offers is campaign management that enables companies to conduct customer connect campaigns in a seamless way.
"The Saarathee team took great pains to understand the purpose of our marketing campaign, which was an email campaign to schools", says Mandeep Singh Bacher, Mindscan Education, a client. "Having understood our campaign, they were instantly able to add elements, which we had not thought of. This resulted in a proper campaign being planned".
Encouraged by such responses, Bansal has plans to scale up in a big way. One of them is the launch of a virtual calling process which will open doors to people with severe disabilities. "I also want to include an international process to nurture talent in that space and offer the best we have in that domain", says Bansal.
Backing her is a dedicated team of employees, many of whom have surmounted some incredible challenges to get this far. Like Neha Yadav, team leader of the healthcare processes. Yadav, who is visually impaired, would initially be accompanied to the office and back by her parents. Today she travels independently.
"Saarathee has given me a feeling of independence, not just in financial terms but has also helped me overcome mobility challenges", says the 24-year-old. "It has also given us a platform to prove ourselves, to show that we can perform like anyone else. This will help change the mindset of people in our society".
For Nitesh Kumar, from rural Bihar, Saarathee has offered an opportunity to grow in ways he never imagined. Kumar, team leader in the retail process, is 100% visually impaired. "I am a team leader for the Amazon process and my role is to take care of the performance of the teams and ensure coordination between the client and our team. Saarathee believes that a disabled person can perform a job as efficiently as anyone else, an attitude that is missing in society".
It is this sense of empowerment that Vineet Saraiwala believes is Saarathee's biggest achievement. As Deputy Manager of Future Group Retail Saraiwala is a key part of his organization's efforts to build workplace inclusion. "Saarathee is an example of how a strength from a particular disability can be leveraged by industry and it's great to see people with visual impairments working in the sector by employing technology".
An awareness that needs to be built up in the Indian workplace scenario in a major way, something that Saarathee and its team is enabling in crucial ways.