Employment October 26, 2019
Hatti Kaapi’s coffee cups bring cheer for many reasons
There’s more than just good quality beans behind the magical coffee brewed by Bengaluru-based Hatti Kaapi chain. Read on to find out the secret. This story is being republished as Hatti Kaapi has won the prestigious Nipman Foundation – Microsoft Equal Opportunity Awards 2019.
Ask U S Mahendar, co-founder of Hatti Kaapi what the secret to his aromatic blends is and the answer will be a mysterious “blend of grace”.
Popular all across South India with a presence in other metros, Bengaluru-based Hatti Kaapi has established itself as a leading brand in a short span. Quite amazing given the stiff competition it faces from older names.
What makes the cuppa here especially cheery is the presence of a sizeable number of disabled people and elderly employees. People with disabilities make up one-fourth of the Hatti Kaapi workforce.
I tell anyone who asks me about the secret to the Hatti Kaapi blend that there’s a lot of grace. At any of our outlets, you will see three kinds of people – millennials, disabled people and senior citizens. All have come together to show that if you help each other, complement each other, it creates a beautiful blend. – U S Mahendar, Founder-Director & CEO, Hatti Food & Beverages Pvt. Ltd.
About six years ago, Hatti Kaapi started actively hiring people with disabilities and senior citizens. Walk into any of its outlet across Karnataka and you are sure to see a Hatti Hero, as they are called, manning cash counters, taking orders, and managing the store that sells takeaway food items.
The chain works closely with NGOs to identify potential recruits across various types of disabilities. Chumbitha, who is visually impaired joined Hatti Kaapi over a year ago and works at the Koramangala store in Bengaluru, which has among the highest footfalls.
“Before Hatti Kaapi I was working as an IT instructor at Narayana Nethralaya” says 25-year-old Chumbitha who travels 30-kms a day by public transport to get to work. “I have been here for one-and-a-half years now and I work as a receptionist in the administration department. My role requires me to communicate with customers and visitors, maintain cleanliness in the department, etc.. I was trained by the HR department for this”.
The approach, as Mahendar makes it clear, is not that of charity.
“We are very clear; our aim is to enable people to sustain themselves. When I see someone like Chumbitha who travels 30-km a day on her own to get to work, I feel extremely happy and satisfied as an entrepreneur because this is not just about making money but making someone independent”.
The efforts have won Hatti Kaapi numerous awards and honours including the NCPEDP-Mindtree Helen Keller Award 2017 and the Infosys Award. There are Hatti Heroes today in rural areas who are part of the mainstream and the company partners with various NGOs.
The change it has enabled is evident on the faces of employees like Anthony as he laughs and chats with customers at the Koramangala store. Anthony, who has Down syndrome and mild autism, looks forward to coming to work everyday. “I love meeting new people and talking to them. Also it is important that the store looks clean”.
It is feeling of confidence and satisfaction that the Hatti Kaapi team cherishes most of all. “When I see a disabled person, I don’t see the disability. All they need is a bit of attention, push and support. No sympathy”, says Mahendar firmly.
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