Chennai

Social enterprise opens doors for adults with intellectual disability

Common cold has forced intellectually challenged Sridhar R to stay away from work for a week but he is longing to get back. From his home in Keelkattalai to Kumaraswamy Avenue in Sholinganallur, Sridhar takes pride in directing the autorickshaw or leading his mother to the small unit where he is an ‘intern’. Here, he spends a few hours weighing and packing items – an activity that he seems to be liking so far. Recently, with the ex gratia he earned, Sridhar wanted to buy a digital watch.

“We are happy to see him engaged as it is after a long search that we found an enterprise ready to take him,” says Vijaya Rangabhashyam, Sridhar’s mother.

By roping in two neuro-diverse individuals, Suchiram Foods, a Chennai-based start-up that launched its operations in October last year, has made a humble beginning in opening up opportunities for people with special needs.

Started by Padma Kalyani R, who left her corporate job to take care of her son who is on the spectrum, the enterprise plans to create an eco system in which people with intellectually disability are given earning opportunities by leveraging their strengths.

“We plan to take on board two more interns in the coming months,” says Padma, who worked with a few special schools during her bachelors programme in special education.

How does the enterprise work? Padma dons the chef’s hat, pounding various spices at her home in Sholinganallur to give flavourful sambar powder, kanji mix, millet dosa mix and idly dosai milagai podi .

While weekends are reserved for the preparation, weekdays are when they are taken to a small unit where the spices are packed by the interns.

“The caretakers/parents of the interns are invited to stay with them while they are engaged in the work of packing and sealing these spices into different pouches,” says Padma.

Skill development

She says the interns put in four hours a day and the timings are flexible. “There is no obligation from the interns, whatever is possible from them they do,” she says. At her gated community, the orders are delivered by Padma. “Sometimes I take an intern along as this is a way to train them in social skills,” she says.

Suchiram Foods collaborates with individuals and entities who empower people with intellectual disability. One such association was with Mirra Charitable Trust, who train people with ID in multimedia skills. The team designed the logo for the enterprise.

Need basis

“We want to grow organically and wherever possible our aim is to engage and train them so that it offers them a sustainable revenue,” says Padma.

The enterprise is happy with the way the model is running so far and the orders that it has been packing for people from other cities too.

“I am not running with a target. Our objective is to engage and give the neuro diverse some productive hours. During my interactions with them in these months what I have seen is that each one is different. They do not need elaborate instructions, just allow them to work at their own pace and they will give their best,” says Padma.

Padma says what the enterprise is doing is an aspiration. “We were able to implement our plans because of the patronage offered by our community, The Central Park South, and support from family and friends.”

Visit them on Facebook or email suchiramfoods@suchiramfoods.in


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Printable version | May 24, 2022 6:31:34 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/social-enterprise-opens-doors-for-adults-with-intellectual-disability/article38313100.ece