I am quite a frequent customer at Costa’s Coffee, esp of the store in the Great India place, Noida. Some time back, I noticed that they have hired some employees who cannot speak (as in speech impaired). I personally appreciated the initiative and gesture of people at Costa’s India after seeing that. I thought at that moment, that I should write about it so that more and more people know about this.
There must be many such organizations in India who promote and facilitate employment for physically challenged people, but this was the first case I ever witnessed in India. This means a lot to the people who took pains to override the physical limitations and trained themselves to try to be at par with everyone else. We must have read or heard about such facilitation, watched movies and then appreciated and/or where touched by specific instances, but little gets done in the real world to promote employment for speech and hearing impaired people in the regular sector.
Last Saturday, I was with Sharad at Costa’s again and decided to talk to one of the store managers. We were sipping our iced coffee and keeping a watchful eye at the proceedings in the store. I noticed the two employees leaving the store, who had served me before and who were speech impaired. After some time, when the store was a lil easy on customer inflow, I raised my hand for the manager. When he came, he was for sure waiting for me to complain about something. It was evident from his watchful face and his denial to my offer of pulling a chair and sitting down. I told him that we are regular customers and we noted that they have employed some speech impaired (and probably hearing impaired) people. He came at ease and answered in affirmative.
Ankur: So, tell me about this initiative, is it specific to this particular location or is it all-stores wide?
Naresh: This has been launched by our franchise, which operates all Costa’s locations.
Ankur: That is Devyani International, right?
Ankur: So, how did this start?
Naresh: Not sure, maybe someone pressed the franchise to employ them
Ankur: No, it cannot be like that. I think may be someone in the management, felt a need for getting involved in such an initiative by promoting and facilitating employment for speech and hearing impaired people.
Naresh: Yes, may be something like that happened.
Ankur: So, is there any number specified for every store?
Naresh: Yes, every store has to have at least 2 employees
Ankur: I just saw them leaving the store. Was it the end for their shift?
Naresh: No, they have went to another location of ours, which is in Spice Mall, Sec 25
Ankur: Oh ok!
Naresh: We have been trained in basics of sign language so we can communicate easily with them
Ankur: Has it been any difficult for you or others?
Naresh: No, we have had no issues. And they are very good workers. One of them, Mohit, is very good at his work. It’s good that they got a chance to work here. These jobs do not demand someone who can speak. We can get our work done without speaking. Maybe in sales, they cannot be of value, but here they sure can do what is needed out of their job
Ankur: Yes, I agree with you.
Ankur: So, is there any other location around here where you have other such workers?
Naresh: Yes, we have a store in Green Park, Delhi. That store has all employees who are speech impaired. The store manager there is Devashish, who knows sign language, and he is the one who trained us in that.
Ankur: That’s good.
After this conversation, I thanked him and he left. Sharad wanted to leave for Green Park to check out that store. I was being lazy and decided against that.
I really hope that more and more companies/store owners come forward and open avenues for employment, where ever possible, for physically challenged people.