Costa Coffee: An example worthy of emulation

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Nandini Swaminathan

The Indian economy is booming, and there is no dearth of jobs for whatever your background and interest, academic or otherwise. From BPOs to hospitality, there’s a place for everyone.
Everyone? Well, not quite.

The 2001 census shows nearly 70 million disabled persons in India, out of which only 2% are literate, and a mere 1% employed. A dismal picture indeed.
Also, there is still considerable stigma associated with employing the disabled on the grounds that they might be a burden more than a help.
For those who are deaf as well as dumb, things are even worse. Due to their inability to communicate, they are not suitable for most jobs today.
However, a little innovation can go a long way in finding jobs even for them – jobs that do not require too much effort and can be carried out easily by people with multiple disabilities like this.
And this is where Costa Coffee comes in.

Tucked away on the first floor on the right side as one enters GK-1 M Block market, it is a favourite hangout for youngsters, corporate employees, foreigners, or just those who want to try coffee at a different place.

Its polished wooden furniture and minimal lighting gives it a sophisticated look, and it offers everything from their special Italian coffees to muffins, cookies and other delicious confectionary.
But go to the counter and you will see what sets this coffee shop apart – all of its baristas are deaf-and-dumb. They communicate furiously with their fingers, taking orders and doing their work as efficiently as their so-called ‘normal’ counterparts. The owner of the shop is not disabled, so he handles any other problems or questions customers may have.

Being a fairly frequent visitor, I was struck by how sincere these young men were.
They offer customers a notepad to write their order down, read it, smile and go on to prepare it, reappearing to serve it with a warm smile.
There is very little occasion for complaint, and one can always approach the owner for queries the barista may not be able to handle.
Most of all, they look happy and proud of being able to work in a place like Costa and do well.

Jobs such as this do not require a high education or special skills that can’t be imparted through proper training, and hence are ideal for people who are disabled.
Employing the disabled is an excellent example of CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) where their only criteria for employment is dedication, willingness to work and sincerity, irrespective of any physical shortcomings a prospective employee may have, unless it hampers productivity in any way.

This is an example that’s truly worthy of emulation. If more and more companies think as openly, we could ensure many more jobs for the disabled so that they feel as much as part of the mainstream, as opposed to feeling alienated and less deserving.

Journalism has been called the “first rough draft of history”. D.U.B may be termed as the first rough draft of DU history. Freedom to Express.

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