Volume 5 Issue 2 - January 15, 2007

"We are an equal opportunity company": Niranjan Khatri

Niranjan Khatri, General Manager of WelcomEnviron Initiatives, I.T.C. Welcomgroup, was recently awarded the N.C.P.E.D.P. – Shell Helen Keller Award. In an interview with Chitra S. Shankar, he speaks about I.T.C. and its innovative approach in employing disabled people. This interview is the third in the series starting 15 December 2006.

1. You have been awarded the N.C.P.E.D.P.-Shell Helen Keller Award in recognition of your contribution to the cause of disability. What is your reaction?

The scale of challenge is very large and a very humble beginning has been made. We still have a long way to go.

2. What are the specific policies of I.T.C. Welcomgroup with regard to employment of disabled people?

We are an equal opportunity company and in line with our policy, we have made a small beginning in this segment of the social issue.

3. What is the status of employment of disabled people in terms of their representation in the total workforce?

Right now the figures are miniscule. In 11 months, we have managed to employ 34 disabled people and 6 more have been shortlisted. They are likely to join us in the first week of February. Through our stakeholder engagement, another 25 have been employed.

4. What is your role in I.T.C.'s inclusive growth policy?

To learn, derive new insights and share with all for scaling up the work through myriad partnerships in multi locations of I.T.C. Welcomgroup chain.

5. Are you considering new strategies or technologies for greater inclusion of disabled employees in your group?

Yes as we are learning we are becoming holistic in our approach on a daily basis. P.W.D.s in rural areas are a neglected lot as compared to urban areas. Therefore, to create livelihood opportunities we have started a pilot project between International Development Enterprise (I.D.E.) and National Association for the Blind (N.A.B.), Delhi . I.D.E. has trained N.A.B. girls in making drip irrigation kit. This would be a major source of income for them.

We are also starting a project for hearing and speech impaired persons. We will teach them to paint. Once they have mastered the art, hotels can absorb some of them. Along with productivity, we look into the safety part as well. We will try to make them master trainers so that in turn, they can train others. We are also looking at assistive technologies in our hotels.

We are considering the Universal Design for our hotels.

6. What are your other significant contributions to the disability sector?

Our list is long but in brief we are doing the following:

  • Sharing our best practices with chambers of commerce so that scaling up the inclusion of disabled people takes place as soon as possible by the industry to innovatively address attrition, a win win approach.
  • Sharing the importance of making work place barrier free, use of existing work place innovatively to overcome the existing barriers, and use of assistive technology for creating enabling environment for disabled people.
  • Many articles have been featured in trade magazines, newspapers, and television channels to demystify this sector for faster “unlearning by the abled”!
  • Sharing with H.R. community that inclusion should be made a mainline activity as opposed to a corporate social responsibility activity.
  • Observing different areas for inclusion of disabled people in the work force safely and productively: e.g., painting jobs for hearing impaired people, placing food in the food trays in the flight catering business, and so on.

7. Do you have any message for the industry with regard to employment
of disabled people?

Indian economy is growing at 9 per cent per annum and we are aspiring to be a global economy. Hence the weakest links of our society need a helping hand to bring the disabled people in the mainstream by unleashing the creative managerial skills of the industry and by engaging the supply chain of the industry by example.

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  • "We are an equal opportunity company": Niranjan Khatri


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