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Online platform Digiabled helps disabled people in remote Chhattisgarh achieve financial independence

Studies show that over 70% of India's disabled population are unable to find regular employment. Digiabled, an online platform, is changing that by connecting people with disabilities in remote Chhattisgarh to the rest of India and providing them with the means to become financially independent.

Finding sustainable employment is a major challenge for people with disabilities in India, especially in rural, remote areas. Just how hard was brought home to Kunal and Aditi Gupta when the couple started an initiative to provide business training to rural youth in 2012 in Chhattisgarh.

The Gupta decided to change their approach when they realised that providing job placements for disabled youth would be difficult. They started looking at ways to provide livelihood opportunities where they lived, in the villages itself. An idea that led to Digiabled, an online platform that enables disabled people to achieve financial independence.

We trained them in assembling LED bulbs and provided them with the raw materials. For the first few months, they worked together in-group and sold their products locally. During this time our role was just to train them and provide them with necessary connects to raw material. But that model of working had problems, as they did not have the brand with them and were unable to provide after sales support. So, we decided to increase our support to them, and that's when we started as Digiabled in December 2018. - Kunal Gupta, Co-founder, Digiabled

How it works

Digiabled has a simple working model. The team provides the raw material to make LED bulbs, solar lanterns and power banks to the disabled associates who put them together and give the finished products back. After due quality checks, they are paid according to the work done.

"We pay Rs ₹ 5 for an LED Bulb, ₹ 30 for a solar lantern and ₹ 40 for a power bank", says Aditi, the co-founder. There are plans to expand this to include Bluetooth music systems, USB cables, USB power adapters, wooden BT speakers, Smart Lightings and car chargers. "At present our associates work on a demand basis. It all depends on sales", she adds.

So far over 35 disabled people called Digiabled Associates have signed up with the online platform. Work is provided on a rotation basis and the platform reaches out to people of all disability types, barring blind and low vision people. "If a person can hold and use soldering iron, he can work", says Kunal.

A team of trainers give feedback to the Digiabled Associates on a constant basis with each product graded so they can improve on their skills. The finished products are sold online and offline. Currently the disabled associates are located in Sukma and Jashpur in remote Chhattisgarh. This brings along with it its own set of problems. "Logistics is the major concern, as raw material has to be transported to very remote areas with no easy connectivity and the finished products have to be brought back", says Aditi.

The transformation it has brought about in the lives of the disabled associates is best expressed in their own words.

Transforming lives

Tejpartap Singh in Jashpur, says he is now regarded as a person of ability in his village. "After I was lost my leg in an accident, villagers would say things like, 'he is of no use now'". Tejpratap never lost hope and Digiabled has helped him regain independence. "I have become financially independent. My ability is being recognised by everyone and people give me respect".

Vijay Xalxo, who is physically disabled, is happy with the regular work and money. "Earlier I would get work for a week and then nothing for months. Now I am getting a decent amount of work and can do more".

For Ambika, becoming a Digiabled Associate has brought her closer to her childhood ambition of becoming an engineer.

"Due to my disability, I could not study much and spent my childhood watching friends play and do things that I never could. Now I assemble bulbs and lanterns which is somewhat close to my ambition of studying engineering. Like the bulbs I make are lighting up people's homes and lives, I can now make my parents proud and light up my life too".

Digiabled is looking for ways to expand its customer base and recently took GST from Karnataka so as to be able to sell products through Amazon India. Attempts are also being made to reach out to corporates. Very soon, the products made by Ambika and other disabled associates of Digiabled will light up many more lives.

Find out more about Digiabled by clicking this link

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