Vineet Saraiwala, who helped make Big Bazaar more inclusive and accessible, is out with a venture for people with disabilities to showcase their talent and find jobs
Vineet Saraiwala suffers from Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP), a rare genetic disorder that causes loss of vision due to a breakdown of retina cells
As a business executive who leads inclusivity projects at Future Group, Vineet Saraiwala's job requires him to spearhead assignments across accessibility, pricing, home delivery and promotion analytics. While scouting for models and voiceover artistes with disability, Saraiwala says he was surprised to learn how difficult it was to land talent. "It's not that we don't have enough models and artistes with disability, but where do you find them? To route the search through NGOs, who would then connect me with a third party was arduous. I was looking for a single platform, where I could see their resumes, because ultimately, it's about ability and not disability."
Since he didn't find one, he decided to launch it. Atypical Advantage is India's first hiring platform exclusively for people with disabilities. Singers, dancers, masseuses, voiceover artistes, painters, and photographers are among the 16 categories, who are up for hire. Every listed person has a dedicated profile page. The platform also has a store section that retails products ranging from clothing, bags, jewellery and gourmet food made by disabled creators.
Over 200 aspirants have already signed up, including Pranav Bakhshi, India's first male model with autism, and models Virali Modi and Simran Chawla.
A jute bag and coasters created by differently-abled individuals available on the platform
"So many hospitals, police stations and educational institutes require sign language interpreters, but don't know where to find them. All we're doing is being the connector. Type your search and you'll find it in our directory. You can even filter through cities and budget," he adds. The segment called Mentor Circle allows influencers from various fields to volunteer to guide the aspirants.
As somebody battling visual impairment, Saraiwala knows the hardships of climbing the professional ladder. At 16, the IIM Bengaluru alumnus was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP), a rare genetic disorder that causes loss of vision due to a breakdown or loss of retina cells. It occurs in one in 4,000 people, and there is no available cure. "My brother and I were identified with the condition, which is one that worsens with time. Right now, I'm blind in the left eye and have 10 per cent vision in the right."
A recent report by recruitment platform Equiv.in revealed that of the 1.34 crore PWDs (Persons With Disability) who are employable in India, only 34 lakh have jobs, making the unemployment rate more than 70 per cent. Saraiwala says the pandemic has only exacerbated the situation as PWDs find themselves more marginalised. A few companies, however, are working towards inclusion. In 2014, SAP Labs India launched its Autism At Work initiative. IT firms such as Cisco, Dell and Capgemini, and some hospitality and retail sector firms have also begun to embrace diversity.
Interestingly, Saraiwala's website is devoid of ads and corporate branding. "I believe in the no logo, no ego approach. Our aim is to promote and empower the individual. We want to collaborate, but with entities who understand where we are coming from."
Saraiwala's first milestone in spreading accessibility was democratising the shopping experience at retail chain Big Bazaar for people with disabilities across the country, using physical infrastructure, shopping assistance and the quiet hour, which is a sensory friendly experience for people on the autism spectrum. With his new venture, he only hopes to spread the love.
Percentage of Persons With Disability (PWD) in India who don't have jobs
To register, Mentor, Hire atypical advantage.in
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