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Home / Pune News / Disabled enabled to earn, and learn in Pune

Disabled enabled to earn, and learn in Pune

Entrepreneurs traverse ‘grey’ area of serving a greater good, and making money with the effort

pune Updated: Dec 14, 2019 16:40 IST
Namita Shibad
Namita Shibad
Hindustan Times, Pune
Dilip Deshpande (C) and the ‘special’ team of workers at Edarch with some of their products.
Dilip Deshpande (C) and the ‘special’ team of workers at Edarch with some of their products. (Ravindra Joshi/HT PHOTO)
         

An entrepreneur finds a need in the market develops a product or service to meet that need. Customers are happy, he employs people to scale, posts profits, he is happy. Economy smiles, GDP steady, s/he opens pursestrings to ensure corporate social responsibility and those beneficiaries are now happy.

Welcome to corporate utopioa. Except when, doing greater good is the business. The grease that ensures the wheels turn is not a pretty subject, but without it, the wheels will come off.

Edarch Trust and Josh Software are “companies” that are using skills and talent to serve the underprivileged sections of society. And make a profit. In that order. Or, so we are told.

Edarch is a company that has 17 disabled people who manufacture plastic components for the auto industry and competes. Josh has, along with TekVision and Niwant Foundation, built an app that has opened a whole new world for the visually handicapped. A market hitherto ignored.

Edarch

Dilip Deshpande has a doctorate in skill development and entrepreneurship from Columbia University and is a trained mechanical engineer

“I spent a few years studying NGOs that work for different causes and realised that while they try to impart some skill to people with different disabilities, they fail to find them employment. I thought of setting up this manufacturing unit.

“The visually impaired have a very good sense of touch. The hearing impaired are capable of concentration. The mentally challenged have physical strength. Why not use this profitably.

“I matched the jobs with the people’s abilities. An orthopedically handicapped person could well insert the dye into the machine; a visually handicapped man could rotate the spindle with ease. Then a fixed quantity of material has to be poured by the hearing impaired and the wheel of the machine is rotated and pressure is applied by the mentally handicapped person. In this way the entire operation can be handled by handicapped persons.”

“Currently our customers are KOEL, Kadambari Auto and Mahale, among others. I asked for just a small percentage of these purchase orders for the firms to judge the quality. We started making 500 pieces. Then people came to our unit for inspection. When we had finished they gauged our quality by stringent norms. And we passed.”

Customer feedback

“We are very happy with the products that Edarch supplies us. The issue is that they do not use assembly-line production so we cannot be sure that they will be able to deliver large quantities, like say 1,000 pieces a day. As far as quality goes they are comparable to anyone else in the business.”

- Sudhakar Rankhamb, Kadamabari Auto Parts

On the job

The mother of Yogesh Dalal (35), mentally disabled

“Yogesh is my only child and like all parents we were very worried about his future after us. Edarch has come like a god send. He has been working here for several years and is very happy. He feels useful to society. He makes things in a factory. He has progressed over the years and his self-respect is very high now.”

The mother of Vijay Kate (34), deaf-mute and borderline mentally disabled; married with a 7-year-old daughter

“My son is gainfully employed and spends time with people who are his friends. He brings home a salary. He cannot count, but keeps his money at the house temple and feels very happy about it. The pay is not enough to run the house, but his wife works at an anganwadi.”

Both mothers requested anonymity to keep the focus on their sons.

TekVision

Thies city firm gives the United Nations reason to be a client

Dnyaneshwar Nerkar (standing) and Siddhant     Chothe (third from left) are at the heart of Tekvision’s software for the blind. Tekvision now employs six people.
Dnyaneshwar Nerkar (standing) and Siddhant Chothe (third from left) are at the heart of Tekvision’s software for the blind. Tekvision now employs six people. ( Rahul Raut/HT PHOTO )

Siddhant Chothe, visually impaired programmer and Dnyaneshwar Nerkar, Chothe’s mentor and programming teacher

Says Chothe, “I completed my master’s in Computer Management and was working in the IT industry for a year. I quit my corporate job in in 2015 to start Tekvision. Nerkar taught other visually impaired people how to program. I wanted Tekvision to be able to give jobs to as many people as possible in the field of IT and also be a company that would make software technologies and tools accessible to the visually impaired.”

“I offered software services to various companies that helped us stay afloat in the early days. Then came expansion into accessibility. Let’s say a person with no legs can reach places because of the wheelchair, but if the place does not have a ramp s/he cannot get there. Ramps make places accessible. Similarly there are certain mechanisms that help the blind access computers. These are mainly talking softwares, but these need to be tested to be made compatible to specific needs. The webpage needs proper textual description for the software to read to a blind person. We added this service in our basket.

“I soon had clients from the UN to Icertis and several MNCs who wanted to make their data accessible to the visually impaired.

“TekVision now employs six people with visual impairment. The company is growing 20% y-o-y. We now want to jump into making software products and SaaS. I don’t want to reveal what we are developing until our patent filing is complete.”

Josh

Gautam Rege, coder and entrepreneur

Gautam Rege.
Gautam Rege. ( HT PHOTO )

“I left a well-paying job to start his my own company on a whim, as a friend told me that I would not be able to do business. I left my job at an MNC, but did not know what I wanted to do. I knew how to code, that’s it. My co-founder Asoka Sethupati and I had no finance or marketing background. We set up the Josh software.”

“We latched on to Ruby which was a coding language unheard of in those days. Soon we became specialists in Ruby. Using Ruby, Josh offered its services to various clients. We built CRM portals, predicts for logistics, healthcare, TV anyone. We were domain agnostic. We bring technology to the table and clients bring their domain expertise. ”

“We built a software that helped doctors figure out the nutritional requirement of a neonate infant. For a premature baby (preemie), nutrition is vital. Even for a highly qualified doctor it will take at least 40 minutes to calculate nutritional needs based on condition. Hospitals take the simple way out - glucose.

“This software we built could calculate a preemie’s nutritional needs in a minute. We offered it to hospitals for a fee. It was a successful product till one day a doctor called me up to say that the license had expired and he had a preemie baby who had to be given his feed. Calculating it even for the specialist would have taken 45 mins and a few hours for the hospital administration to pay the fee for our product. The doctor was asking me if I could help him. If I had insisted on the fee the child would have been in grave danger. I gave him the code over the phone. And then realised how important it was to be of use to people.”

“This one act of mine, to give the doctor the code for free, helped our fledgling business a great deal. People came to know of us because of this.”

“We then built an app for the blind for the Nivant Foundation. Nivant has been working with the blind for 20 years, teaching programming. They asked us if we could make a tool that would make it easy for the visually impaired.

“We created an app where a blind student can take notes on an android phone using a cable connected to a keyboard.”

“Nivant Foundation putt this app in the market. Josh is already making money. We have several clients and a turnover of Rs 20 crore.”