QUEEN'S ROAD: The retail sector, which accounts for more than 10 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), has become a world of possibilities with its exponential growth pumping up the demand for manpower. Exploring these opportunities for the differently-abled, Trust for Retailers
and Retail Associates of India (TRRAIN) and Youth4Jobs jointly started the initiative ‘Pankh - Wings of Destiny’ in May 2011. Four years on, Pankh has given wings to more than 2,200 people with disabilities (PWDs), including 450 from Karnataka.
According to Ameesha Prabhu, CEO of TRRAIN, India has around 28 million disabled citizens and less than one per cent of them are employed though a majority have basic educational qualifications. Pankh gives them the chance to be independent. It trains them, creates job opportunities and provides them with a sustainable livelihood. Pankh has 23 centres in six states, including Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Gujarat, and has trained more than 2,200 PWDs. Trained in processing merchandise shipments, achieving store sales and profitability, administration of stores as well as communication with clients, they have been placed in various sections of the industry.
“The retail sector opens up a lot of opportunities. Several brands are coming into Indian markets promising at least 100 stores in the country. This means a lot of demand for manpower. Initially, we faced many challenges. People were reluctant to join the retail sector because they thought it meant long working hours Through Pankh, we are trying to change the mindset of the people with our workshops and sensitisation programmes. We want to prove that PWDs are as good as others in terms of productivity,” said Ameesha. She added
that it is a win-win for everyone involved as customers too become sensitive towards the retail brand when they see PWDs working for them.
Out of the 110 roles it has identified in the retail industry, Pankh has mapped 30 for people with orthopaedic, speech and hearing disabilities. Under the initiative, local NGOs too chip in to train the PWDs.
Tapan Das, co-founder of Youth4Jobs, said, “We started working for the disabled in 2010-11. We wanted to give them more opportunities. We observed that disabled people, if at all employed, are usually posted in the back offices. We want them to come to the forefront. We want to reach out to the larger population and convince them that PWDs are equally capable. We want to encourage retailers to employ them without any hesitation.”
Since 2012, a number of Bengaluru retailers including Megamart, Hypercity and Nilgiris have hired 450 PWDs from the five Pankh centres in the state. They train them for 15 to 20 days and also provide them with accommodation close to the workplace.
Veerayya, a 24-year-old who underwent training at the Dharwad centre last year, got an interview call from Megamart within a week of completing his training. He was selected for the post of customer service associate. “Pankh is a very good initiative for people like me. My family was so happy I landed a good job,” he said. At present, he is undergoing training to become a team leader. In a testimony to his hard work and consistency, he received two star awards for excellent customer service and one appreciation letter for 2014-2015.
Bistappa (27) was placed at Decathlon a year ago. “My colleagues initially thought I wouldn’t be able to work well as I am handicapped. They didn’t have any confidence in me. Now, they have changed their mind. They say that I work well.”
Pankh aims to open 100 centres across the country with the help of NGOs and provide opportunities to 10,000 disabled youths in the next two to three years.