With full dedication, Pavithra YS of e-Vindhya InfoMedia, made her mark by creating job opportunities for people with disabilities for its operations in data management, data entry, processing and conversion
Seven years ago, Pavithra YS started Vindhya e-InfoMedia in Bengaluru as a unique social-economic BPO (business process outsourcing) unit with a unique workforce of differently abled people. It is probably the only for-profit organisation, which, as a matter of policy, employees mainly people with disabilities (PwD) as its production staff. Today, two-thirds of Vindya’s employees are people with disabilities, so much so that sign language is the official language at Vindhya. Last year, the company had a turnover of Rs4 crore and Pavithra aims to double it to Rs9crore this year with its unique workforce. Though the turnover is low compared to the number of employees, she declined to disclose the company’s profit figures.
Vindhya’s clients include Airtel, IBM, Titan and Wipro among others. Her unique initiative won Pavithra, the managing partner of Vindya, many awards and recognitions.
Read an excerpt of her interview to Hitisha Jain of Moneylife (ML):
ML: Tell us about your business and how it was started?
Pavithra YS (PYS): To achieve the goal of enabling employment for people with disabilities (PwD) and ensuring that they can become the bread winners for their family Vindhya was founded on 4 July 2006 with two employees on board. They say small drops of water make an ocean, so what started as a company with two employees has now grown to be a 500+ strong organization today and is emerging as one of the key providers of outstanding customer services to channel partners. Vindhya e-Infomedia provides IT and ITES services by connecting the world with people with disabilities. We deliver high quality, reliable, scalable back office and contact centre solutions. Our team works collaboratively to craft solutions that address the requirement of business and ensure superior customer satisfaction.
ML: What inspired you to set up this organization?
PYS: Vindhya wanted to bring together business and philanthropy. Persons with disabilities are mostly ignored by mainstream society and they have very limited opportunity to join the mainstream. Providing employment opportunities to them, and helping them emerge as confident and competent individuals in this world, was a burning problem and we decided to address this need through Vindhya.
ML: How do you deal with the glitches that are often a part of starting a new business?
PYS: Glitches are part of any venture, as a team we are very strong and never looked back. We created a better environment today mostly because we learnt how to deal with the glitches that we faced initially. In the process we have learnt a lot more about disability. Sign language was one of the essential means of communication with the hearing impaired, which we made the official language at Vindhya. We also realised that people travel to work from far off places, so we also created accommodation for them.
ML: What drives you to work every day?
PYS: My employees, their dedication and commitment are a true inspiration of many and that’s the main driving force for me to work every day.
ML: What plans do you have for your business?
PYS: We are in a growth phase at present. From being a small company we are now a mid-sized organisation. On the business front, we would like to venture into more complex business segments and take up challenging assignments and also mark our presence across the globe. Vindhya at present employs around 600 employees. The goal is to increase it to 5,000 Vindhyans by the end of 2020.
ML: Who are the main supporters?
PYS: We are funded by Michael Dell and Susan Dell Foundation and Accion Investors. And most importantly, my customers and my employees (Vindhyans) are my supporters.
ML: Why is it important to encourage entrepreneurship in India, especially among women?
PYS: Entrepreneurship is primarily an opportunity whereby you can make a difference through your ideas and vision. The difference can impact may a small number of individuals to a big population. One of the best things entrepreneurs do is to stay motivated and embrace challenges that surround themselves with encouraging people who support their pursuits.
Historically women have always been underplayed in this male dominated society. For centuries, women have been confined only to four walls of the home. Currently we are in world where we have made significant technological advancements and are taking big leaps forward. We always talk about gender equality, so what better forum to make it happen than providing an opportunity for a women entrepreneur to come forward in this world and make a difference. Also women are known for their multi-tasking, patience, ability to motivate and create a better environment, which is all required for an entrepreneur to grow an organization.
ML: What are your main sources of finance?
PYS: The Company started with self funding. Later, we took a loan from a public sector bank. After that, the company is supported by Michael and Susan Dell Foundation.
ML: What were the biggest challenges you faced as a woman entrepreneur?
PYS: To be very honest, there was no challenge as a women entrepreneur but I faced challenges as an entrepreneur, like anyone else. I have a highly supportive husband, who is always with me without giving me a reason to think about gender in performing my duties at work.
ML: What are the best ways to connect in your industry – which national and local networking organizations, conferences have you found most valuable?
PYS: I have been part of a lot of events and felt that most of them focus on networking. Among them Sankalp is one such event which is been very educative and powerful and also others like the NASSCOM forum are also good.
ML: What plans do you have for the future for your company?
PYS: Vindhya is focusing towards becoming a largest social enterprise by being the best BPO’s, providing quality support to our customers and we would definitely focus on expansion and the same is already on plan.
ML: What are your tips for women entrepreneurs trying to make it in a competitive world?
PYS: One important thing is to please focus on your organisation’s profitability, as you need to sustain, so make some money. As a women entrepreneur we miss on the networking aspect, please make use of this. Finally, do not give up!
(In the run up to International Women’s Day on 8th March, Moneylife will run a series of Women Entrepreneurs who have made a mark. If you know women who ought to be featured in this series, do write to us with details at [email protected]. And if you are a women entrepreneur wanting to expand your business and grow, do keep in touch with our not-for-profit entity at foundation.moneylife.in - we have some news in store)
How do you respond when you see a mentally retarded child? Feel sorry or get scared? Have you...
Handholding of a new borrower increases business possibility for future. Banks can be strict as a lender at right time but should be ready to act as friend and guide of the borrower, when required
I have always believed that banks need to do handholding, especially of those entrepreneurs who are new and need counselling about running their business. They need to closely monitor the account once they sanction a loan and make sure that the money is utilised ONLY for the purpose for which it is lent. Any mis-use must be spotted quickly. This will help them in managing difficult accounts that may turn into non-performing assets (NPAs) at later stage. Banks seem to think that the borrower needs them more than they need him. This is wrong thinking. They both need each other equally. Having a good borrower is in the interest of the bank and also having a friendly bank that tries to understand the business of the borrower and help him establish, is in the interest of both of them. And when I say friendly, I am not suggesting a bank that gives in to every wish of the borrower!
I have come across a case recently where the bank seems to be terrorising borrower for some reason. I must confess here that I only know the borrower’s story. The borrower imported some machinery. The machinery took two months of installation. Even after that some problems arose and the production commenced only after about nine months. The bank should have actually offered moratorium to the borrower, but strangely insisted on repayment right from the beginning. I suspect that the instalments were paid from the cash credit account, which was allowed be used for this by the bank. Working capital is for the operation of business and if no activity was taking place why was it disbursed at all?
As the production stabilised, the company realized that it lacked working capital. The company also made the mistake of supplying goods and ignored receivables. The receivables became bad after some time.
The bank then invoked the Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest Act, 2002, (SARFAESI Act) and sent a legal notice to the borrower asking him to clear his cash credit account. The borrower somehow managed to raise some money from distributors and offered to clear the account by 31st March. As per the agreement, he started paying up. However, the bank kept threatening him with seizure of assets. The company wrote to the bank giving details of repayment schedule. Curiously and completely illegally, the bank refused to accept the letter. Bank has no right to refuse for accepting a communication by its client. The client panicked. They should have sent the letter by registered AD and also should have mailed it to the bank. He should have taken up the matter with the branch as well as the Banking Ombudsman. But the power of the bank is so much he was plainly afraid to do this.
This bank has also appointed an agency to deal with clients who owe money to them. So the concerned officers probably have no say in the matter. The matter should be handled by the branch, which made the loan, but it was being handled by a third party and bank’s office in Pune/ Mumbai.
It is my understanding that the borrower has not done things in a way he should have. The bank did not monitor the account at all. They seem to have visited the factory only once. When there was the prospect of the account becoming bad, it became apparent that the bank panicked and started using strong arm tactics basically to save itself.
The point is the bank should have taken more interest in the account. This is small scale industries (SSI) unit as the total investment is under Rs3 crore. They should have made sure that a reasonable moratorium on term loan was given. The borrower had no idea about this. Bank should have made sure that working capital was not disbursed in one go and should have monitored the usage of the limit closely. Bank seemed to be happy that the borrower was paying instalments of the term loan without being bothered about the source of the money. Had they monitored the account things would not have come to this stage.
The company has now stabilised production and marketing activities. They will now need the working capital. It is at this juncture they find they will have no working capital! This will adversely impact their cash flows from which alone they can regularly pay the instalments of their term loan!
From my experience as a banker and in the field of non-banking financial companies (NBFCs), I have learnt that it pays to be in constant touch with a borrower. The borrower must be encouraged to tell you the truth. He would do that only if you are able to convince him that it is also in lender’s interest that the borrower does well. Handholding of a new borrower increases business possibility for future. Be strict with the borrower at the right time. Be his friend and guide when required.
I have always maintained that banks create their own NPAs. This is one example of it. Once bank has accepted a proposal as bankable, it must strive to see that it remains bankable.
In many private sector banks, the training required in this area appears to be pathetic. The loan marketing (I hate that word) and sanctioning is done by someone who has no role in monitoring the loan! This is a systematic system risk that the banks seem to be glad to accept!
I am sure there are numerous such stories in every bank. I get to hear some sordid things that are happening in the nationalized banks as well.
Banking has to cautious only. I am an orthodox banker who believes that we must start suspecting every borrower and see how he can cheat us and then plug all those possibilities. Sanction a loan only after this. And once it is sanctioned, closely monitor new accounts for first few years. This is the time when many new entrepreneurs fail. And many fail because their banks are unprofessional and fail them!
(Prof Anil Agashe teaches at Symbiosis and other management schools in Pune).