PwD Inclusion: The Business Case With Few Questions For India Inc

The case for PwD inclusion at Indian workplaces is a work in progress.


Back in 2017, Nike won hearts with a winning campaign called ‘Unlimited Courage. The sports brand showed stories of human courage, hope and achievement to beat all odds and shine. While Nike has always pushed the envelope when it comes to its creative ad campaigns, this one with a humane touch made the right noise and won accolades the world over.

The unique differentiator in these Nike ads telling human stories is that they advance the cause of LGBTQA and PwD inclusion in sports. More than that the campaign established Nike as a company conscious of its commitment to PwD inclusion.

PwD Inclusion no longer a social imperative only

And as they say, when people can do it in sports, they can do it anywhere. In recent years, there is a growing number of companies becoming conscious of how PwD inclusion has not only remained a social imperative but it has become a means to take the brand story forward. And if a company has its heart in the right place, the inclusive community consciousness may not only reflect in enhanced brand reputation but will also trickle down to the bottom line.

As Priyanka Mohanty, Vice President – HR, Startek, rightly says, "encouraging diversity and inclusivity in the workforce is important for companies to fulfil their social responsibilities." 

"By creating a workplace that values diversity and inclusivity, companies can help break down societal barriers and biases. This creates opportunities for underrepresented groups, benefiting individuals and society as a whole", she adds.

PwD Inclusion builds more authentic brands

If one looks at the leading companies across the world in terms of popularity, he or she will find some common themes on why these brands are loved around the world. 

While there are plenty of options to choose from while making the buying decision, people generally would. like to buy from companies that they can trust, find authenticity in their messaging and stand for product quality of the highest standard. In essence, companies that are perceived as closer to a set of core human values are likely to score high when it comes to gaining a loyal consumer base which later transforms into a cult fan following for a brand.

This is where the D&I story especially the case of PwD inclusion fits into the grand scheme of things. "PwD inclusion gives a competitive advantage to a company", says  Mohanty.

And for companies like IBM and Accenture who follow the practice to the tee, the competitive advantage often translates into better sales, higher productivity and more importantly, a larger pool of human capital. If numbers tell a story, companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians, a report from McKinsey & Company found out.

 "A robust D&I policy can enhance a company's reputation, making it attractive to a broader pool of potential employees. It shows that the company values every individual, regardless of their background, and this can play a significant role in attracting and retaining talent", says Anupama Singh, Regional HR Leader, Concentrix. 

Not a tick box assignment for India Inc

Although leading companies globally are opening up to the potential PwD inclusive workforce brings to the decision table on every count, there has been marginal development on this front in India. While organisations in India want to take up the cause, the common consensus is that they don't want to make a policy document or a SOP, just for tokenism. 

Leading organisations in India understand the reputational risk involved when it comes to PwD inclusion. It is a sensitive cause that demands a roadmap with meticulous clarity and implementation under committed leadership.

Whether the organisation is willing to allocate time and resources for employee sensitisation?

Whether the organisation is willing to make the necessary infrastructure for PwD employees?

Whether organisations have the capacity to provide for reskilling and upskilling of PwD employees?

Would the hiring process accommodate PwD candidates? 

These are some of the surface-level questions that need well-thought answers. 

Evolution to come with the right understanding

More than the pertinent questions, the maturity around the case of PwD inclusion will come with the right understanding of the lived experience of people with disabilities. This not only demands organisations to evolve but evolution on the part of Indian society as well.

With companies like Microsoft, Accenture and Adobe finding solutions through a combination of innovative policies and new-age technology designed to improve accessibility for PwD candidates, there is a ray of hope for taking further strides in advancing the cause of PwD inclusion, for this to happen, a mindset shift through constant internal and external dialogues need to happen with a deep sense of commitment to the cause.

At the end of the day, the PwD community epitomises, courage, hope and achievement, not stigma, disempowerment and disablement. 

The sooner more and more organisations imbibe a transformed outlook, which is still a work in progress, the more evolved the Indian corporate ecosystem to equip itself to integrate PwDs in the workforce of the future.

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