Social Inclusion of Disabled People in India – A Case of Mirakle Courier, Mumbai
Mirakle Courier, Mumbai
Mirakle Couriers is a courier agency that provides employment for the hearing impaired. We can see them in orange coloured t-shirt having logo of Mirakle Courier on the road of Mumbai City. Mirakle Courier is the only privately run, for profit organization in India that employs only hearing impaired people. The company hired men and women from underprivileged part of the city train them and deploy them for courier service. Salary given to employees is competing to same industry. For this work company has been awarded the National Award for the Empowerment of People with Disabilities by the Ministry of Social Justice, Government of India in the year 2010. It has also won the Hellen Keller Award, Echoing Green Fellowship in the year 2009. The award is given to outstanding employers of person with disabilities as well as the most outstanding employees with disabilities.
Many of us see the person with disabilities a helps less guy. What they can do in these types of situations? How they can stand their own feet? But these issues can be resolved by providing better opportunities to them. We can create an inclusive environment for them. Mirakle Courier is exactly doing this by involving person with disabilities. Being a private company it was difficult task for the company to work on this business model but the company did it.
“In India people with different abilities have been discouraged for a long time; as a result of this discrimination, there is a strong sense in their minds that they are not capable of anything. I am just using the word ‘they' for reference, we are one team and there are no differences,” says Dhruv Lakra, Founder of Mirakle Couriers. On the website of the company it is written that “We are not a charity and do not help deaf people, we merely help them help themselves. Most of them have grown up in an over-protected environment or have been badly treated for being physically different. We believe that to overcome this we must help bring out their true inner potential. We do this by employing them in a highly competitive and professionally demanding courier business where we push them to rise up to the occasion. By working with us they gain copious levels of confidence while also gaining financial independence. The result is that many of them are able to go back home and support their families rather than having to be helplessly dependent on them.”
According to Rohan Mehta, Marketing & Media person at Mirakle, “Deafness is invisible disability. People who are deaf can read, write and see so a courier company was a good idea as it does not require much speaking. Besides, the deaf have an excellent visual sense. They are very good at remembering roads, building and even faces, which is a good skill to have in the courier business.”
“We have maintained a zero-defect record.
No packet has been delivered to a wrong address, so far.”
Dhruv Lakra, Founder and CEO, Mirakle Couriers
Lakra clearly mentions that the company is full for profit organization so that they can be independent for their operation and they will not have to bank upon any donation. Private sector must realize that it has a responsibility towards people with disabilities. But more than that, there are disabilities that do not prevent person having them from working in the mainstream. If the corporate sector recognizes this, many more people will find a better means livelihood. If the private sector is given incentives to hire persons with disabilities, it might help the situation in India, Lakra suggests. He points out that the corporate sector in the United States and in several European countries have clear policies – such as tax benefits – for hiring the disabled. The Indian government needs to adopt such strategies, he feels.
Origin of Mirakle Courier….
Mirakle Couriers was founded in January 2009. Started by Dhruv Lakra who combined his education and experience in both the business and social sectors to come up with a for-profit social enterprise. The idea to help the deaf was triggered by one particular incident he experienced while traveling on a bus in Mumbai.
Once upon a time, Dhruv was sitting on a bus next to a young boy looking eagerly out the window. In fact he was not just eager but actually being very restless. He was looking around anxiously, seeming slightly lost. Dhruv asked him where he was going but the boy did not respond. It took him a few seconds to realize that this boy was unable to hear or speak. He was deaf. Though the bus conductor regularly announced the stops this boy still did not know where he was. Dhruv took out a piece of paper and wrote to him in Hindi asking him where he was going. Through the back and forth pen and paper exchange, it suddenly dawned on Dhruv how difficult life was for the deaf. Something as straightforward as a bus became a struggle.
It is an invisible disability. You can not know when someone near you is deaf as there are no obvious physical attributes, and so it is totally ignored. It is also a silent (voiceless) disability. There is very little public sympathy for the deaf, and by connection, a severe lack of government support for them in India. Particularly when it comes to employment there are no opportunities because no one has the patience or the foresight to learn deaf language and culture. This is how Mirakle Couriers was born.
Over the next few months Dhruv spent time exploring the deaf culture and learning Indian Sign Language. He focused on a courier business because it requires a lot of visual skills but no verbal communication. The deaf are extremely good at maps reading, remembering roads and buildings because they are so visually inclined.
Over the last two years Mirakle Couriers has grown to operate in 2 Branches in the city, employing 70 deaf employees and delivering over 65,000 shipments per month. While the men work in the field, the women operate the computers. The company hopes to train the men to take up supervisory and managerial positions as well.
Lakra says it has not been easy convincing companies to give his firm business. “Corporates are reluctant to hire us as they are scared that parcels may not reach the destination or that we do not have adequate capabilities to handle important documents,” he says. “Furthermore, courier services are a ruthless business. However, we are good at what we do and have landed some big clients like Vodafone, Aditya Birla, Godrej and Boyce, and that has been extremely beneficial. As companies begin to realise their corporate social responsibility, they may show more interest in hiring us.”
Mirakle has carefully worked on its operations and has fine-tuned logistics to provide a well-oiled and error-free system. Lakra says this was necessary because the work was to be carried out by persons with disabilities. Text messages on the mobile phone have been an extremely useful tool in their work. Yet there are problems that occasionally mar his employees' confidence – such as not finding an address or run-ins with rude, insensitive watchmen or receptionists. Now the more experienced boys know how to handle these situations, he says.
Company also trains them to reach certain level so that they can be treated badly for any mistakes. Company also conducts reading writing workshops for them. In the begging Mirakle courier approached the school of hearing impaired to recruit staff. But for last couple of years person comes to Mirakle for jobs.
Final Note !!
As we know that Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India is doing remarkable job for upliftment of the disabled persons in India by establishing different types of autonomous organizations engaged in achieving various types of objectives regarding disability. It is not only government’s duty to help the disabled but also of the society to participate in this journey of upliftment. Some of the organizations have been excellent examples by showing their path breaking work as we show in the chapter on role of society in development of disabled individual.
We have to think about the inclusive growth of the disabled person not just by providing them basic facility like food, shelter etc. but we also have to work upon the overall growth of those people. We have to make them self-reliant and independent. I always remember one quote given by Confucius, a Chinese Philosopher “Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish, you feed him for a lifetime”. In our case it means that we have to create job opportunities for these people so that they can be self-made. Government is performing its duty at its own pace but as a citizen of India one should come forward to take care of this segment of the society which is often neglected by us.
  Anupama Katakam, “A courier company in Mumbai shows the way in providing employment for the hearing impaired.” Frontline, Volume 28, Issue 03, Jan 29-Feb 11,2011 available at http://www.frontline.in/fl2803/stories/20110211280308500.htmaccessed July 20, 2012