Until COVID-19 hit India, the differently abled members of ‘Thank U Foods,’ a livelihood initiative of the Indian Association for the Blind (IAB), were in major cafeterias of corporate companies across the country, getting orders for their baked goods and savouries.
M. Abdul Raheem, vice-president, Indian Association for the Blind and Founder, Chief Executive Officer, Thank U Foods, said that the organisation never anticipated the crisis that their newly launched 40-member crew of differently abled people would face.
“When COVID-19 lockdown began, our operations shut for a while. For five months, our employees who had gotten used to a rhythm and finally had a sustainable measure of livelihood, could not engage in manufacturing. We kept brainstorming about our future and finally decided to go online,” he said.
After taking into account packaging, shipping and logistics, IAB finally kicked off its online operations two months ago and has already received close to 700 orders over a span of 60 days.
Although the team has shrunk from 40 to 12 members at the moment, sales executive of Thank U Foods, P. Vijayan, says that it is only about time that they begin rebuilding their team again.
“When we were running our operations in cafeterias, we got to meet our customers and received feedback. Now, everything has shifted online and we are placing emphasis on improving better looking and safer packaging. We undertake customisation and have got fantastic feedback online,” he says.
Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer A. Jaseela says that the journey has been arduous but rewarding. Apart from selling online on their website, she says that they will be listing on major e-commerce sites like Amazon and will also be taking the retail route by collaborating with major retail chains.
“Our employees have already fixed appointments with major retail chains and have been successful,” she says.
Mr. Vijayan who has been with the organisation since its inception, says that the original 40 employees of the organisation continue to be supported by the Indian Association for the Blind as they are either provided a minimum salary or given groceries.
“With more people ordering in, we hope to begin full-scale operations with our original crew of 40 and also employ at least 60 more differently abled people who have lost their livelihood during the pandemic,” he says.
Currently, a majority of their orders are concentrated in metro cities but Ms. Jaseela says that they are also expanding in tier two and tier three cities as well. “Our Instagram page has tonnes of client feedback and is a testimony of our products,” she says.