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India has an estimated 70 million people with disabilities (PwDs) in the employable age group with a majority having limited access to education, job skills and employment. Access to employment is a particular challenge, and less than 1% of PwDs are employed. Unemployment denies them their right to livelihood, leads to greater economic disadvantages, and limits their opportunity to play an equal part in the community.
Titan Company (Titan) has taken several steps to level the playing field for PwDs.
Aligning vision with action
Jamsetji N Tata, Founder of the Tata group, famously said, “In a free enterprise, the community is not just another stakeholder in business, but is in fact, the very purpose of its existence.”
Recognising the important role that private sector can play in empowering vulnerable population groups, Titan’s Community Development Policy aims to improve opportunities for people with disabilities.
Realizing the importance of addressing the special needs of its employees with disabilities, Titan is setting in place non-discrimination policies and ergonomic working areas that help create a conducive work environment. Slope surfaces and ramps have been added at ‘World of Titan’ showrooms to benefit employees and customers with disabilities to offer easy accessibility.
Titan uses the outreach programme to identify people with disabilities from lower socio-economic strata in communities close to its operations in Tamil Nadu, and goes on to provide them with employment opportunities. Typically, jobs involve tasks with low levels of body risk, minimum physical movement or verbal communication. Physically impaired persons are trained to polish watchcases and assemble components, the hearing-impaired help strap watch heads, and the visually challenged find a place in the company’s packaging and dispatch division.
Titan is also committed to providing employment opportunities for people at the retail front end. Several business divisions such as Watches, Jewellery and Eyewear, have begun recruiting PwDs in customer-facing roles and as cashiers in retail outlets. Business associates and franchisees spread over 200 towns across the country are also coming forward to provide PwDs with employment opportunities in their retail stores.
To support skilling, education and employability, Titan has tied up with several NGOs, including Enable India, V-Shesh and SERP (Wadhwani foundation). Training for technical competencies and computer literacy is one of the programmes under this initiative.
Currently, Titan employs 124 employees (representing 2% of the total employee population) with auditory, physical and visual impairments. The company has hugely benefitted from these inclusion efforts and policies. Employees with disabilities have been found to be more job-focused and high on productivity and quality.
Titan’s inclusivity policy has been a part of the company’s culture for several years now. The awards it has won for creating a more inclusive environment is proof of this ongoing journey. In fact, the company is now further strengthening its efforts for inclusion through increased hiring and training of PwDs, accessible infrastructure and accommodation policies.
Titan also offers support for the individual development of employees with disabilities and their children in a few areas:
Education: Employees’ children are offered merit-based financial assistance to pursue higher education in India.
Culture and sports: Employees are encouraged to participate in national and state level sports and athletic activities; kits, leave, travel, other expenses, etc., are taken care of by the company. Employees also have opportunities to showcase their cultural talent in organisational programmes.
Grievance handling and counselling: Counselling sessions help employees tackle any workplace and/or personal issues.
Titan’s initiatives and efforts to include PwDs acknowledge that they are an integral part of our society; they have the right to equal opportunities. More importantly, such initiatives go a long way in changing social mindsets in India.