TNN | Oct 14, 2016,
NEW DELHI: Around Diwali last year, corporate trainer Akash Bhardwaj
was out shopping when he saw a nearly blind woman, with scars on her
face, selling balloons. She had a small baby . Her husband had
abandoned her after a neighbour disfigured her face with acid. She had
also lost her job as a security guard.
"She asked me, 'Jis aurat ko muh dekh ke nikaal diya, usko kaun
naukri dega (Who will employ a woman sacked because of a disfigured
face)?'" says Bhardwaj, 31.
The encounter became a trigger for Bhardwaj's entrepreneurial
journey. He launched a travel firm, Khaas, and then a gift-courier
firm, Khaas Uphaar, both run entirely by visually impaired women. He
plans to employ four acid-attack survivors in two months. Bhardwaj, a
consulting corporate trainer and a freelance travel agent, sold his
bike and wife's jewellery to set up the enterprises six months ago.
Today, the companies employ five women -Kamlesh, Archana, Dipti, Prema
and Nirmal -all of them visually impaired.
All work is done by these women -from making appointments and helping
with presentations, to closing deals and even accompanying the groups
on trips, if required.They are also starting to prepare and courier
The women operate their PCs with the help of JAWS (job access with
speech), a software that helps visually impaired people read. They
have also begun using smartphones and, in the past month, have
confirmed 20-25 appointments and finalised two tours. One of the
employees, Archana, 34, has a masters in home science. She lost her
vision due to medical negligence during a brain tumour operation when
she was 23. Kamlesh, another staffer, is a post-graduate in political
science from Jamia University. Among the other employees, Prema is
studying in BA third year from DU's School of Open Learning. Dipti is
a postgraduate in political science while Nirmal, 33, is a widow and a
mother of an eight-yearold girl. All the women say they enjoy coming
to the office, working together, meet ing new people and chatting
about various issues. Some of them stay in hostels because their
families live elsewhere.
"We have a very small office on the fourth floor of a building in
Laxmi Nagar, east Delhi. Since it's difficult for the visually
impaired girls to go up and down the stairs, we are looking for a
larger space on the ground floor," says Bhardwaj, adding that he was
also looking for funds to purchase equipment for his staff
Doctoral student at Centre for Law and Governance JNU
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