Face value

At Mumbai’s first hearing and speech-impaired staffed salon, the team stops at nothing to give us the best facial. And no, they didn’t know we were press

Face value

Speaking staff undertakes tasks such as haircuts where the client gives constant input that can be difficult for a hearing-impaired staffer. Pics/Sameer Markande

After setting up Mirchi and Mime outlets, a restaurant chain manned by hearing and speech impaired staff, entrepreneurs Raja Sekhar Reddy and Shishir Gorle set up the Eklavya Foundation in 2019. The non-profit offers vocational training in logistics, beauty, skin, and hair care to the deaf and mute. After three months of training, the ‘graduates’ were assessed by Lakmé and Enrich chain of salons and found to be at par with professionals in the game.

“But they could hire only one or two,” says Reddy, when we meet him after having conducted an anonymous test drive at the Andheri East-located parlour the previous day. “Some even got placements in Amazon and Nature’s Basket in the logistics wing, but we had realised that although these companies have the right intent, they don’t have the right environment. A single specially-abled person is isolated in the work place. And it would have been wrong to expect the companies to hire more than they needed to.”

Each staffer wears a shirt indicating their proficiency with <a href=sign language. Some say ‘I am learning sign language’” width=”1280″ height=”720″ layout=”responsive”/
Each staffer wears a shirt indicating their proficiency with sign language. Some say ‘I am learning sign language’

So, by 2020, they launched Mirror and Mime with nine specially-abled staff and six speaking staffers that liaison between the customers and them. After having run Mirchi and Mime and Madeira and Mime, in Powai, for seven years, Reddy knew what works and doesn’t. “They don’t learn by

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