Social enterprise opens doors for adults with developmental disabilities
Suchiram Foods made a humble start, engaging people with disabilities in its unit
A cold has forced Sridhar R, an intellectually disabled person, off work for a week, but he can’t wait to get back. From his home in Keelkattalai to Kumaraswamy Avenue in Sholinganallur, Sridhar takes pride in running the autorickshaw or driving his mother to the small unit where he is a ‘trainee’. Here he spends a few hours weighing and packing things – an activity he seems to enjoy so far. Recently, with the as a courtesy he won, Sridhar wanted to buy a digital watch.
“We are happy to see him hired because it was after a long search that we found a company ready to welcome him,” says Vijaya Rangabhashyam, Sridhar’s mother.
By bringing in two neuro-diverse individuals, Suchiram Foods, a Chennai-based start-up that launched operations in October last year, made a humble start in opening up opportunities for people with special needs.
Started by Padma Kalyani R, who quit her job at the company to care for her son who is on the spectrum, the company plans to create an ecosystem where people with intellectual disabilities have income-earning opportunities by leveraging their strengths.
“We plan to take on two more interns in the coming months,” says Padma, who worked with a few special schools during her bachelor’s degree program in special education.
How does the business work? Padma dons the chef’s hat, pounding various spices at her home in Sholinganallur to make tasty sambar powder, kanji mix, millet dosa mix and lazily dosai milagai podi.
While weekends are for preparation, weekdays are when they are taken to a small unit where the spices are packaged by the trainees.
“Caregivers/parents of interns are encouraged to stay with them while they are engaged in the work of packing and sealing these spices in different pouches,” Padma explains.
She says the interns work four hours a day and the schedules are flexible. “There is no obligation on the part of the interns, whatever is possible of them, they do,” she says. In its gated community, orders are delivered by Padma. “Sometimes I take an intern because it’s a way to train them in social skills,” she says.
Suchiram Foods collaborates with individuals and entities that empower people with intellectual disabilities. One such association was with Mirra Charitable Trust, which trains people with ID in multimedia skills. The team designed the company logo.
“We want to grow organically and where possible our goal is to engage and train them to provide them with a sustainable income,” says Padma.
The company is happy with how the model is working so far and with the orders it has prepared for people in other cities as well.
“I don’t run with a goal. Our goal is to engage and give neurodiversity productive hours. In my interactions with them over these months, what I have seen is that everyone is different. They don’t need elaborate instructions, just allow them to work at their own pace and they’ll do their best,” says Padma.
Padma says what the company does is an aspiration. “We were able to implement our plans thanks to the sponsorship offered by our community, The Central Park South, and the support of family and friends.”
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