Monday, March 08, 2010

City woman does a Gates, with quiet dignity

City woman does a Gates, with quiet dignity
DC | BENGALURU Think business

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and philanthropy and whose name first springs to mind? Bill Gates?
Think again. Closer home, in Bengaluru, a 26year-old woman is going a step further than the software magnate, making philanthropy an integral part of her business.
Pavithra runs Vindhya E-Infomedia Pvt. Ltd, an IT and ITES firm that employs 194 employees, 95 per cent of whom are differently-abled. But it's not only about being a goody two-shoes: "We are not running a not-forprofit organisation, but a profitable company," says Pavithra.

"I was initially reluctant to hire two hearing impaired women, because I thought communication would be a problem," Pavithra recalls. "But they convinced me to hire them."

That changed everything. Today Vindhya's clients include companies like Wipro, Titan and Yahoo! Whoever said business and philanthropy can’t thrive together must surely eat his words because Bengaluru girl Pavithra has proven beyond a doubt that it is possible.

The chirpy 26-year old runs Vindhya E-Infomedia, which provides IT and IT- enabled services with a dif- ference — 95 per cent of her 194 employees are ‘differ- ently-abled’. And yes, the company is profitable.

Squashing any scope for the usual questions, she says, “We are not running an NGO or a not-for-profit organisation but are striving to run a profitable company.

The only qualification I seek from the differently-abled before I recruit them is atti- tude. The attitude to achieve something in life without expecting sympathy or char- ity from anyone.” It all began one day, when Pavithra noticed a young cripple pacing up and down her street. “The young man looked worried and I could- n’t help but ask him why he looked so anxious,” she recalls. “He said that despite acquiring a degree, no one was willing to employ him because of his physical dis- ability.” His reply changed Pavithra’s life. She decided to start a BPO business which would employ only the disabled.

She took up office space in Rajajinagar and started with 2 ortho-challenged young men. She pledged all her jewellery, put together her husband's savings, took a loan from a bank, and wait- ed patiently to clinch her first deal.

The first order came from a business networking site, of which she was a regis- tered member. “A florist had posted a job requirement of his on the site and he was my first customer. It was a basic data entry job, where all his billing data had to be entered into an Excel for- mat,” says Pavithra.

Today, the company offers data entry, data processing, data conversion as well as document management

services and counts customers such as Wipro, Titan, I-FLEX Solutions, Natural Search, Yahoo! Janalakshmi, Management Dynamics, Flatworld Solutions, and Ujjivan Microfinance among others.
As more orders came in, Pavithra put up a big banner outside her office: "Wanted data entry operators. Physically challenged people only need to apply."

Two women who were hearing impaired walked in soon after and convinced Pavithra to employ them.

“They communicated with me by writing on a piece of paper and I was reluctant to hire them at first because I didn’t know how to commu- nicate with them. They said they would teach me sign language, which I learnt in a month. Today, the official language at Vindhya is sign language. I did this to break down barriers between those who can speak and those who can’t,” says Pavithra.

Her efforts did not go unnoticed -- you only have to look at the number of awards that came her way since she set up the firm in June 2006.
She received the Shell Helen Keller award within 18 months of inception; the Canara Bank award and more recently, the Tata-TiE (The Indus Entrepreneurs) Sthree Shakti award.

"This is my first job. I started when I was barely 22. As I have zero exposure to corporate life, I am con- stantly learning everyday and certainly did not expect these awards so early in the company’s lifecyle,” she says.

Pavithra is confident of raking in Rs 1.2 crore in rev- enue by March end and dreams of growing her fledging company to a strength of 5,000 different- ly-abled people by 2015.

The firm, then, will make a difference to 5,000 more lives.


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