By Aaryan Sharma
Every cloud has a silver lining. Had I not visited Sakra World Hospital due to an ankle injury, I would have probably not had the opportunity to meet and interact with Anita, a silent employee working at Cafe Coffee Day. This interaction was very special, not only because it is always inspiring to come across Companies taking the initiative to hire skilled individuals who are differently abled but also because it was my first opportunity to interact with someone in sign language, which I had recently started learning. The employee, Anita, was pleased to meet someone who was trying to communicate with her in a language she understood well, while I was definitely motivated to learn and master the language to a much greater level than my current “functional” ability.
Cafe Coffee Day or CCD (as it’s popular known), has been doing some great work for inclusivity, setting yet another example that other companies can emulate. They currently have over 170 silent employees working in CCD cafes across India. They have partnered with many NGOs including Youth4Jobs, TRRAIN, and Gram Tarang Employability Services, who help with the recruitment process. Other than empowering the employees, this program also has a positive impact on the business. As Lekha A, the HR member who heads the program, puts it, the employees are very dedicated, hard working, focused, and have high compliance and integrity. There is always a lot of support and encouragement from co-workers and customers. We experienced this in our own interaction with Anita. We met her co-workers Chithra and Kavitha, who were very supportive and helpful. Anita works the same 8-hour shift as them, performing the same duties as well. The co-workers are sensitised and trained in sign language by CCD through partner NGOs.
“We are extremely proud to have such a dedicated workforce and are happy to do our bit in providing them career options which also help them get integrated into mainstream society.” – Venu Madhav, CEO of Coffee Day Global Limited.
To end on a personal note, I hope many more of us try and learn sign language so that communication is no longer a barrier to ‘inclusion’.