Thursday, 15 May 2014

Creating an 'abled' society on the web

“After my training at PANKH, I feel able, confident and self-reliant. I can now work, like any normal person, earn money and  take care of my family’s needs.”
-       Reshma Razak

PANKH – Wings of Destiny is an initiative that aims to train people with disabilities (PwD) and provide them employment opportunities in retail industry. The initiative thus aims to create sustainable livelihoods for PwD and also promote inclusive growth in retail sector.

In the world of job hunting, not having an equal opportunity can put you at the back of the pack. Imagine for people with disabilities; not even having an opportunity would mean that they are not being recognized and acknowledged as worthy enough. Millions of people with disabilities face barriers in finding jobs and getting promoted. And it’s surprising that it’s just not physical barriers but our attitudes towards them act as the biggest barrier.

At Pankh, it’s our endeavor to convert this disability into an ability factor. 1 in 7 people around the world are disabled bringing the total figure to 1 billion people, about15% of the world's population. Of this 785 million are of working age.  That’s right. There are so many people with ability that we all can factor in into our workplace.

The Indian retail industry is slated to grow from its current market size of 500 billion USD to over 1.3 trillion USD by 2020. Besides being one of the country’s largest employers, which employees around 33 million people, the retail industry offers specific benefits that make it accessible and attractive to People with Disabilities employees. Additionally, people with disabilities can create diversity which is good for the business because they not only improve workplace morale and elevate customer service but are untapped resources of skills and talent who only helps in enhancing various business opportunities. Keeping this in mind, we have initiated the Pankh program, where we are committed to create sustainable livelihoods for People with Disabilities and also promote inclusive growth in retail sector.

Pankh has already started its journey to transform the lives of disabled people in Mumbai (According to the latest census, there are around 17600 people with disability only in the city of Mumbai, out of which around 10,600 are of working age) by training 170 youth since the time of its inception.

Mumbai Pankh chapter was launched on 7th May 2013, at Malti Dayal Primary School, where regular classes are held under the expert training and supervision of our trainers Pradeep More and Taslim Shaikh. The first batch saw 34 students being trained and placed in Dominos and HyperCity. With the spread of word and the commendable dedication showcased by these young enthusiasts, more retail brands like Lifestyle, Reliance, Mad over Donuts, KFC, CCD, Star Bazaar and Timezone joined the bandwagon and hired our trained People with Disabilities students.

And to celebrate this one year journey and the undying spirit of commitment and service, Pankh launched a unique website, which will not only support the People with Disabilities’ but also the recruiters and organizations who would want to be a part of this noble initiative.

Click Here to view the website. 

Unique aspects of the site-
  • A responsive site that will work on any technology and platform. One will be able to alter the size of the fonts and page conveniently without altering the alignment of the site.
  • A visually impaired viewer would be able to access and maneuver through the site through audio assistance
  • Recruiters will directly be able to hire our students from the site after reviewing all their details
  • Support to the People with Disabilities students by detailing out the various types of disabilities and how they can transform this into an ability through the various training modules

Present on the occasion were more than 140 students from Pankh (alumni and present batch) and Mr Chetan Shah, Lions Club of Juhu, one of the initial partner’s of the initiative who had all gathered to celebrate their partnership with Pankh and be a part of this unique journey.

Pankh is planning to expand its wings in Pune, Nasik and Nagpur in the coming months. 

‘FDI in retail is like the genie uncorked’

An Indian model Big Bazaar is an example of a modern retail format that keeps Indian needs in mind.

Prof Nitin Sanghavi says the time is ripe as Indian retailers have evolved

Nitin Sanghavi believes FDI in retail is a genie that has been let out of a bottle and can’t be put back in. The professor of retail marketing and strategy at Manchester Business School and Distinguished professor of Retail Management, who will also manage the new Centre for Excellence in retail management at the Great Lakes Institute of Management, Chennai, believes the Indian retailer is entirely capable of taking on the challenge of retail biggies if they come in. He says huge investments are needed in Indian retail and FDI will come in in some form or the other eventually.

Prior to his academic career, Sanghavi worked with major retail organisations in the US, Europe, India and West Asia and was a visiting professor at Harvard Business School. He is also a director on the boards of several companies including Shoppers Stop and Hyper City. At the launch of the new Centre in Chennai, Sanghavi spoke to cat.a.lyst on the Indian retail scene. Excerpts:

Is there a case for an Indian retailing model? Do you think there’s a case for a hybrid model?
When I looked at the earliest expansion of retailing about seven years ago it looked like we were going to copy the West left right and centre. Fortunately, common sense prevailed. Lessons have been learnt, some at considerable financial cost. To me, we are going hybrid. I think in metros we are going to look at an online-offline combination. We have innovated many new ways of fulfilling customer needs with small changes.

We have still not conquered the buying and merchandising idea, stock management is still an issue. But, I think we are good at picking up the best we find, adapting and Indianising it.

How have Indian retailers adapted the model?
Some of the best examples I see are how we have started home delivery using ‘tuktuks’ (autos), which probably costs pennies while in the West we had invested in big vehicles to deliver, which added to costs, and then finally we looked at outsourcing. And what I find interesting is how Indian retail has changed the rules of the game. For example, in the West you see hypermarkets are over a 100,000 sq. ft, whereas in India it would be 40,000 sq. ft.

There is a view that India will remain a country of many markets and there will be a retail model for each of these markets that will evolve. Your view?
The Indian market is like the American one in some ways. Everybody says America is a homogeneous market and so many retailers have found to their cost that there is nothing like one market at all. Each state is different. Also, north California is as different from mid-California as is the south. So many people who have gone there have learnt at their expense how different it is.

But I thought the US market was dominated by ‘Walmartisation’?
Even Walmart has learnt that everything is not the same in America. When it went into California or even the East Coast it had to change so many things. I think in India the whole canvas is full of micromarkets, languages, customs, rules and regulations. Any retailer who manages to have an all-India presence should master that whole thing about which bit works where. In Shoppers Stop you would think that our stores in Chennai and Kolkata or Mumbai and Delhi are the same. It might look the same but many things are different, even the way we have to manage processes in the store have to be adapted, even the staff recruited are different. To me it’s very interesting that we will have our own model that is pragmatic, flexible but robust at the same time that can take care of this whole thing, because I can’t see India becoming one homogeneous market for years to come.

While Indian organised retail has been growing, not many have seen profitable growth?
I raised this point a few years ago, where I used to question this growth. Yes, growth is always good, but you may have much bad growth as well and nobody talks about profitable growth, profits are hardly mentioned. It’s more on the lines of how many more stores do you have, what is your store growth and so on.
Has that realisation dawned?
Slowly, I think what’s now happening in the business and economic situation has really galvanised thinking, to review the model. People are now going right to the basics and coming back with the fundamentals of business that have been messed up and overlooked. So, there will be some casualties and a fair amount of consolidation but that is fine, in any growing market it happens.

Do you see retailers growing profitably? Has Shoppers Stop come back on track?
Yes, Shoppers Stop has come back, Big Bazaar is going through a major revision but it will, like Shoppers Stop, come back in a leaner, fitter and more appropriate way, where it will be positioned, targeted and executed correctly.

Execution … that’s key in retail, right?
Yes, you see retail is detail and detail is people, processes, systems and all the small things that matter. But, people don’t have the time, they just look at the bigger things. But retail is a craft, sometimes it gets boring and tough but you have to really get down to the task.

To look at a larger policy issue, the BJP is talking about opposing multi-brand retail FDI if it comes to power, so will that halt the Indian retail growth story?
I think what’s going to happen is we will look at various ways of getting around that so there may be tie-ups where the man in the front says they are not going to change anything but at the back end they may change many things. That’s easier to come through. I think FDI has to come, the genie is out of the bottle and you can’t put it back in. Large hypermarkets will have an adverse impact on inefficient retailers anywhere.

Around 10 to 12 years ago, I wrote a paper for the government. Yes, at that time I had said not to let in foreign retailers because it would have killed local industry like it did in many growing countries. Our retailers would never get the chance to develop and evolve to the level we are at today. It was the right thing to do.
But, we have matured and we are strong and agile. And, we need huge investment in retail. Reliance, and perhaps Birlas, can do it because they are capable of it.

Big companies will need to invest in the supply and distribution chain creating the efficiency that we need in the business right now. So to me, FDI should project the transfer of knowledge, the expertise and the investment we need.

(HBL, 8th May 2014)


TRRAIN Foundation has taken another step forward towards empowering the youth and providing them with a platform to venture into the retail segment, fully equipped with the right kind of knowledge and experience.

TRRAIN Foundation kick-started the Employability Education program at Nashik, earlier this month with the aim of training youth (SSC & above) in various retail sectors, retail selling, personality development and etiquette. This 30 day program will give the youth an opportunity to embark on a career in the Retail industry and also assures that all the 30 students in the batch will get an interview opportunity with the leading retailers.


With Vadodara emerging as a commercial and IT hub, can growth and development be far behind. A growing economy only implies the growth in spending needs and aspirations of individual thus enhancing the scope of retail sector and employment levels. And whenever there is an opportunity in retail employment, Pankh always has the best solution.

Taking its flight forward, Pankh (an initiative by TRRAIN & Youth 4 Jobs Foundation) in partnership with Society for the Training & Vocational Rehabilitation of the Disabled (SEVATIRTH) launched its first program in Vadodara. The program aims to empower the youth to break from the shackles of helplessness and become independent and self-sustained. The training will see 30 youth, between the age group of 18-29 suffering from either or both orthopedic and hearing disabilities, trained in the various aspects of retail. Not only training, but Pankh also endeavor is to create livelihood to all our trained youth. We have achieved 100 percent placements till date. Pankh plans to train and employ 150 students across 5 sessions in this financial year.

This centre will not only cater to the local students but is open to youth from Ankleshwar, Bharuch, Surat, Valsad and Vapi.  This centre reflects TRRAIN’s commitment to create sustainable livelihoods for PwD and also promote inclusive growth in retail sector. For the convenience of the students coming from adjoining areas, free accommodation will be provided at Sevatirth.

This is the second Pankh centre in Gujarat, with the first being operated from Ahmedabad in partnership with Blind People Association (BPA). The centre came into existence on December, 2013 and has trained 24 students with an additional 22 students undergoing training at present.

The first training batch is scheduled to start on May 19th at Sevatirth. 


Disability is a matter of perception. If you can do just one thing well, you're needed by someone."- Martina Navratilova

To celebrate the undying spirit of commitment and service towards society and the retail industry, Pankh partnered with Tech Mahindra to inaugurate the ‘Pankh Tech Smart Centre’ at L S Raheja College, Mumbai. Present at the launch were Prabhakar Sarwade, Head of Technology Procurement Function, Tech Mahindra Ltd, Jegan Tharmaraj – CSR Head Mumbai – Tech Mahindra Foundation, Gil Roy – CSR Head – Mahindra & Mahindra, Elizabeth Zachariah – Director -HR, (Mumbai, Middle East & Asia-Pacific region)– Tech Mahindra Ltd and  Prashant.S.Mehta, Honorary General Secretary, Sadhana Education Society. They not only addressed the present batch of 30 students but also assured them that they would assist them in every way possible. 

Ms Elizabeth, Director -HR, (Mumbai, Middle East & Asia-Pacific region), Tech Mahindra, said, “The reason why we are here is reaffirming the belief in the work that this organisation is doing. We were on the lookout for projects where we could contribute. Pankh is doing excellent work in the area of Persons with disabilities. It is very inspiring for us and we see a good reason for using our funds out here.”

Mr Jegan Tharmaraj further reflected on this , “This is a flagship programme of Tech Mahindra Foundation. In this centre, we are focused on children with hearing, speech and orthopaedic impairments and how to make them enter the retail world. Our aim is to reach to around 200 youngsters, every year. We shall be teaching them foundation skills and technical skills. Though, our main focus will be on soft skills to make them independent and self-reliant.”