BENGALURU: Pavithra Y Sundareshan always believed in ignoring the apparent weakness in individuals, curiously probing their real value. As a result, it is evident from her 12- year-old business process outsourcing (BPO) company, Vindhya e-Infomedia, that peculiar, unfathomable combination of business and kindness can indeed become a successful reality.Started in 2006, the firm provides employment to 1,500 individuals who are mostly physically challenged, hearing impaired, socially disadvantaged women and border cases of autism.
Raised in a middle-class family of working parents, Pavithra was exposed to the toils of people, having lived close to a slum, witnessing pains of the weaker sections of the society coming to her doctor mother’s clinic. She started to slowly develop a soft design of compassion in her inner self, but which got masked with other pursuits of life.While studying chartered accountancy, her father passed away, and circumstances led to marriage at the age of 19 years. Her husband Ashok Giri D, who was then overseeing operations for a few top-end IT companies, gave her the freedom to conduct free camps related to art for children at their home.
“Once while discussing with him about the huge disconnect he witnesses on a daily basis between qualification and the nature of job people do, the thought hovered over the section of people who have low self-confidence but are capable to achieve if provided the right platform. As we pondered on the idea and it was getting concrete, we saw a disabled man crossing the street, and that was when we firmed up on our idea,” Pavithra recollects.
The design of compassion which was masked, revealed itself and took proper shape with the incorporation of Vindhya e-Infomedia. “The mix of my social mindset and my husband’s business aptitude created the foundation. But acceptance was a key issue because inclusion was not part of Indian lives a decade back. Capturing the imagination of the client was not difficult but quality and productivity was always questioned,” she says and adds that with time the initiative became vendible and today they have a huge, loyal client base involving the top names in the country, especially in the microfinance space. “Wipro has been a loyal customer since the beginning,” she mentions.
Their first visits were to skill development centres for people with disability as well as NGOs working with the disabled. Starting with five employees, and facing numerous challenges of convincing clients about the potential that their initiatives had, the duo drove the company to what has become a prominent BPO. “Of our total staff in Bengaluru, 67 per cent are differently abled. Our Hyderabad office is managed entirely by people with disabilities,” says Pavithra.
A few of their employees work out of the customer’s location too and according to Pavithra, while it makes business sense, she has experienced sensitisation levels of the client undergoing a massive change and undertaking such an initiative has moved out of being a corporate social responsibility into a mainstream priority. With well-defined and simplified processes in place and work flow divided into two floors — Data floor and Voice floor, training is imparted differently to each employee who joins the firm looking at their level of disability, type of disability and their abilities. At the Data floor, where business integrated non-voice data services are offered, it is mandatory for everyone to learn sign language.
Pavithra has ensured that accommodation needs are met for those in need, quality food is served, interest-free loans are offered, all required aides are provided and one child of the employee is provided education on behalf of the company.Vindhya’s vision is to reach 5,000 employees by the year 2020, increase delivery centres across India and serve global customers. Her next plan is to set up a full-fledged accessible campus where employees can work, stay and even live their other aspirations while creating indirect employment. “We are looking to start the campus in Telangana since the government has been very favourable,” she says.As she surveys her staff which works 24/7, 365 days, Pavithra can well pat herself for she overcame the tough test of integrity by bluntly refusing to compromise on their initial idea of elevating differently abled lives in a thorough professional environment.