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BPOs spot stability
- Industry starts to hire physically challenged

Bangalore, May 29: In a burgeoning sector of the economy, what is often seen as a handicap in society is suddenly an advantage in the race for jobs. And it has nothing to do with quotas.

The business processes outsourcing (BPO) industry, bleeding from a bitter war over poaching of staff, is reaching out to the disabled in the hope that they would be unlikely to job-hop.

Till last year, Nasscom, Wipro BPO, TransWorks, Progeon Ltd and 24/7 Customer had not a single physically challenged employee on their rolls. This year, each has about 15 and is gearing up to hire more.

“The companies that have employed them (the disabled) are happy with their quality of work and loyalty,” Nasscom chief Kiran Karnik said. “To a certain extent, the appointments will offset attrition because these employees are stable and do not leave for a better salary.”

The industry has neither earmarked a chunk of jobs for the handicapped nor evolved special norms for recruiting them.

“We have some disabled employees who were chosen like others ' (after) a communication test and technical test followed by an interview,” said S. Varadarajan, vice-president (talent engagement and development), Wipro BPO.

TransWorks (an Aditya Birla Group company offering customer care and BPO services) and 24/7 Customer (a Bangalore-headquartered BPO company) have a couple of employees who were trained at EnAble India, an NGO in Bangalore.

Progeon Ltd (subsidiary of Infosys Technologies Ltd) has listed the services of the National Society for Disabled, New Delhi, for a training curriculum for handicapped youth looking for openings in the BPO sector.

“This organisation has helped us train about 15 physically challenged staff, as also the supervisors and the support staff on the needs of these colleagues,” said Progeon CEO Akshay Bhargava. “Our buildings have facilities like ramps for them. Looking forward, I’m sure we will have many more (disabled) working here but I cannot specify the numbers.”

TransWorks senior vice-president (human resources) K.P. Nair was more specific. “We see half-a-dozen being placed here over the next 30-45 days. Looking ahead, we could have 30 to 50 in a year.”

The firms plan to hire people with disabilities for tasks such as quality control, email processing, data entry, transaction processing or voice and accent trainers. Openings in administration, training and human resource wings, too, are a certainty.

“Experience has taught us that people with disabilities are on a par with other employees,” said 24/7 Customer COO Shanmugam Nagarajan. In this company, recruitment has been simplified through an employee outreach programme initiated by EnAble India.

EnAble identified job opportunities in the industry and mapped the tasks and the methods a disabled person would employ to handle them overcoming barriers of technology, attitude and ability, said Shanti Raghavan, the NGO’s founder and managing trustee.

“We next showed them (at 24/7 Customer) how people with disabilities can fulfil their requirements,” she said.

The industry, however, is divided on whether such recruitment can offset attrition. The nay-sayers, Bhargava and Varadarajan, cite the growing gap between the demand and supply of trained manpower. Karnik and Nair believe the initiative can help contain attrition to an extent.

One constraint to recruiting more disabled is the telecom policy that prohibits a company from diverting its lease line to homes, Karnik said.

“Our telecom policy is an inhibiting factor for the physically challenged to work from home. We have brought this to the notice of the government,” the Nasscom president said.

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