Disabled youth are regaining their confidence and scaling the professional ladder at the EuroAble call centre in Mumbai

Disabled youth often feel dejected, especially when it comes to finding a job and being able to live independently. When a group of young disabled people, determined to go forward, were brought together under a corporate social responsibility initiative nearly a year-and-a-half ago, they did everything to make it successful.

Sixteen months of professional grooming, growth opportunities and exposure to the market transformed their efforts into one of the first call centres in the country to be manned and operated by differently-abled employees. They now feel proud of themselves and are happy with the way their lives are shaping up.

In March 2011, during the inauguration of ‘EuroAble’ — a state-of-the-art call centre set up by Eureka Forbes in association with the National Society for Equal Opportunities for the Handicapped, the organisers had claimed that the platform would prove the worth and ability of the differently-abled. More than a year later, the company has earned recognition and awards for its effort and has doubled the number of employees from 40 to 80. It now plans to expand its operations in southern India as well. It also plans to recruit candidates with hearing and speech impairment to operate the web-chat section of the call centre.

“The employees handle the entire north India operations from here. They take calls from Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra. They seem extremely happy with their work. They have taken up new challenges and new roles. Now they conduct training for the new recruits,” Vinath Hegde, general manager, customer relations manager of EuroAble, said.

“Whenever any international client comes for a visit, they confidently show them around and ask them about opportunities in the international job market,” Ms. Hegde said, explaining how their confidence levels have soared.

“To keep up their morale, we have to continuously undertake some team-building activities. Recently, we conducted a yoga workshop for them. They have a cultural committee and the entire office celebrates every festival with fanfare. Even the families of the employees participate in the celebrations.” she said, adding that the attrition rate at EuroAble is very low.

“This company is our right. This is our home. We belong here,” said Sarika Sanjay Varude, who has been crippled by polio since childhood. She is married and has a teenaged daughter. When asked about her goal in life, she said, “I want to become EuroAble,” reflecting how intrinsically the company is related to each employee’s life, dreams and aspirations.

Twenty-eight-year-old Deepak Sonawane was unhappy in his previous job. “I used to wonder that despite being more qualified, why did I not get promoted like everyone else? When I asked my boss there, he told me, the reason was my disability. I felt dejected and humiliated. That was the first time someone made me aware of my disability so explicitly. But this place is for me and for those like me. In the last six months, I was given many opportunities. I handled many challenges,” he said enthusiastically. “The work environment is good here. Everyone is a professional. Your work is valued. You are not judged on any other parameters, except your work. It means a lot,” he added.

There are yearly appraisals and the low-performing employees are made to undergo rigorous training. “We know we will not be removed from the job.