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EuroAble: A call centre with a human face

Last updated on: April 13, 2011 11:13 IST

EuroAble: A call centre with a human face

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Manu A B in Mumbai

For the last six years, Rajeev Mehta, a juice stall owner, has been struggling to meet the needs of his family. A polio victim, Mehta had to give up studies after his father fell ill when Rajeev was writing his eleventh standard final examinations.

Today, he is part of a unique business model that aims to provide jobs for handicapped people in the corporate sector.

Mehta -- along with his 70 handicapped colleagues, some of whom are graduates -- manages the Eureka Forbes call centre in Chembur, a Mumbai suburb.

Called EuroAble, the 5,000 square feet call centre facility at National Society for Equal Opportunities for the Handicapped (NASEOH) centre in Chembur has been specially designed for people with physical disabilities.

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Image: Rajeev Mehta.

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Three months ago when Rajeev Mehta saw an advertisement calling handicapped people to run a call centre, he was pleasantly surprised.

He went for the interview and got selected. The call centre has helped him tide over the family's financial instabilities and secure a corporate job.

"Joining the call centre has been a great experience for me. The company has taken good care of us, trained us very well. We are very confident and happy to work here. It actually feels like home," says Rajeev excitedly.

A majority of the handicapped people working here are suffering from orthopedic disabilities due to polio.  They say handicapped people do no have good job opportunities in India in spite of being educated.

"I had applied for several jobs in the past but I was rejected. It was very disappointing. But now I am hopeful of a bright future," says Rajeev.

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Image: Call centre employees.

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"EuroAble as an idea was conceptualised by our chairman Shapoor Mistry. We have received immense support from everyone for this unique centre which reinforces our belief and trust on the people with special needs," says Vinath Hegde, head, Customer Response Management, Eureka Forbes.

The company could not fix any specific recruitment criterion as most of them were shy to even speak up initially.

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Image: Shapoor Mistry, Chairman, Eureka Forbes, his daughter Tania with the employees.

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"We had to instill a lot of confidence in them through counselling. It took about two months to improve their language skills. Today, they tactfully handle some irate customers as well," says Vinath Hegde.

Other employees like Rajeev also faced financial problems and tragedies. Seema Dive lost her father 12 years ago. Despite her handicap, she had to work hard and support her family.

"I have an identity now. This is a great encouragement for all handicapped people in the country. Today, I have a strong footing, am financially independent and I hope to complete my graduation soon," says Seema Dive, who has an orthopedic problem with her right leg.

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Image: Seema Dive.

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While 20 per cent of the employees are graduates, others have barely finished matriculation. The employees were encouraged to read magazines and newspapers every day.

Their confidence levels are high and they even speak to each other in English in addition to addressing phone calls at their workstations.

Currently, the employees will handle 110 calls per day per workstation initially. They have also handled up to 125 calls per day per workstation.

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Image: Employees at work.

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The facility has been designed to make the workplace comfortable. A large hall has over 90 work stations, including 10 exclusively for people in wheelchairs.

Care has been taken to ensure easy mobility, the workstations are roomy, a foot longer than the standard.

There is enough space all around to allow easy access, by both wheelchair and crutches.

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Image: EuroAble call centre.

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The desktop computers have also been specially designed with all the controls on top, so employees don't have to reach down.

"After a three-round selection process, the employees have been rigorously trained in communication, in English language and presentation skills. We also had many motivational counselling sessions, which made them believe in their capabilities. Today, we feel proud when we see them talking so confidently," says Vinath.

The company plans to provide transportation facilities for employees.

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Image: Employees at work.

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The employees working at EuroAble have been trained to attend customer calls catering to North India, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.

All the employees feel proud to have got a social status with this job.

"Earlier, my parents were very disappointed that I had to run a juice stall. Now they are very proud of me. I feel I am finally on the right track. I am very thankful to the company for giving us such a good opportunity," says Rajeev.

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Image: Ashok Gupta at work.

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At present, employees will work in 3 different shifts throughout the day for greater mobility between each one of them.

Once the call centre is fully functional with 140 people, it will cater to about 10,000 customer calls in a day.

"We handle sales and complaints calls as well. Some customers get very angry but we are trained to keep them cool and solve their problem," says Seema, who was earlier working as a data entry operator.

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Image: Employees at work.

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The training process was spread over a period of three months keeping the new employees' needs in mind, instead of opting for a regular, 10-day course.

"So after the intense vice modulation, product information and computer classes, there was still some time to get the employees emotionally ready. We believe in the potential of our fellow colleagues and have full faith and confidence about their performance," says Vinath.

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Image: Ashok Gupta sings Hum Honge Kamyaab during the inauguration of the call centre.

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"We would urge other corporates to also create opportunities for such people since their capabilities are nothing different than us. At Eureka Forbes, we plan to take this call centre across North, South, East, and West regions in India catering to requirements of our multilingual customers," says Vinath Hegde.

Job security and financial independence are the best gifts a handicapped person can ever get.

"I hope more corporates come forward and recruit people like us who are looking for a helping hand," says Seema.

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Image: Seema Dive.

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