Freedom calling: first call centre for differently abled looks to grow

Mumbai: Nothing seems out of the ordinary as one walks into a call centre located in the heart of the north eastern suburb of Chembur. Around 50 odd people dressed like regular office goers sit inside, with computers before them and headsets on. Personable, they speak in the same pitch over the telephones, barring the occasional voice which calls out how they're performing.

But, for the employees of EuroAble, the country's first call centre fully staffed and operated by differently-abled people, the office is more than just a place of work.

“With this job, I could go out of home. I was on my own. I realized what independence is,” Krishna Morajkar, an employee of EuroAble, said.

For the employees of EuroAble, the country's first call centre fully staffed and operated by differently-abled people, the office is more than just a place of work. Image courtesy: EuroAble

Krishna was 18-years-old when he met with an accident that resulted in an injury to his spinal cord, paralyzing him below the waist. Bedridden for several months, he had to give up on his fascination for share markets and plans to study commerce.

Krishna is now part of the 88-member team employed in the call-centre set up by consumer appliances firm Eureka Forbes in association with National Society for Equal Opportunities for the Handicapped (NASEOH).

Painted in bright shades of yellow and green, the cheerful call center has been designed keeping in mind the needs of its employees. With wide walking paths and every workstation being 4 feet long, unlike normal workstations, employees can easily move with their crutches or their wheelchairs.

“What started as a CSR project has become a livelihood for many now. From 500 calls a day a year back, this call centre now gets 6,000 calls a day,” says Vinath Hegde, who heads the Customer Relationship Management division at Eureka Forbes.

Having differently-abled employees hasn't affected the efficiency of the call centre in any way. The average call handling time has quickly dropped from 356 seconds to 169 seconds since the call centre became operational.

And if there were any doubt about the importance about the existence of the call centre, speaking to an employee dispels it instantly.

Mere paas koi job nahi tha, kabhi milta bhi nahi agar Vinath Ma’am nahi hoti (I did not have a job and I wouldn't have ever got one if it weren't for Vinath ma'am),” said Jhanvi, an employee at the call centre who works with one hand.

Nagesh and Nutan.

Presently, the call centre handles customers' calls from Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, Gujarat and Rajasthan. But buoyed by their success so far, EuroAble plans to hire more employees and increase the size of the team from 88 to 150.

“We are also thinking of employing blind people for our centre,” Vinath said. Similar call centres will be set up in West Bengal and Bangalore too.

Besides giving the employees some much cherished independence, the call centre has also helped some in other ways.

Nagesh remembers ‘those days’ when he first met Nutan. And even suffering from polio or having to use crutches wasn't obstacle enough for the couple.

“We would sit beside each other, and soon, became very good friends. Now, she is my wife,” he said with a slight blush.