Article: India's first blind IT Pro Krishnakant sheds light on employment challenges for visually impaired jobseekers


India's first blind IT Pro Krishnakant sheds light on employment challenges for visually impaired jobseekers

KK Mane shares how an HR declined jobs to visually disabled individuals, despite their qualifications and capability, citing the percentage quota as a pretext. This highlights the challenges faced by visually impaired people in the world of work.
India's first blind IT Pro Krishnakant sheds light on employment challenges for visually impaired jobseekers

Visually impaired job seekers face unique challenges when it comes to finding employment. In many cases, they are unable to access the same job opportunities as their sighted peers, due to a lack of accessibility in the recruitment process or the workplace itself. Krishnakant Mane, who is India's first visually-challenged IT professional and a technology entrepreneur, spoke out about these challenges and the need for greater inclusivity in the workforce.

Popularly known as KK Mane, he is a pioneering figure in India's IT industry, who despite facing numerous challenges made a name for himself as a technology entrepreneur, fintech expert, and mentor. KK is the founder and CTO of Bookmatic Pvt ltd, a fintech startup with OnlineKhata as its flagship product.

During an exclusive interview with People Matters, the tech entrepreneur highlighted the challenges faced by employees with disabilities due to employers' lack of preparation to provide necessary accommodations such as accessible technology or modified workspace. Furthermore, the limited awareness about visually impaired individuals' capabilities often results in false beliefs and stereotypes about their ability to perform tasks.

"I encounter people treating me like the eighth wonder of the world instead of a human being. This can be hurtful because disabled individuals are as capable of any job as non-disabled individuals. I always say that disabled people can be scientists, smugglers, doctors, or even murderers. They can be security guards or terrorists, journalists or businessmen. They are as good or as bad as any other person. Unfortunately, people often have a hard time believing that visually disabled individuals can be technocrats or skilled professionals due to the way they are portrayed in movies and media,” said Krishnakant. 

Stating the mindset is gradually changing, he added, “The challenge lies in educating people and making them understand that blind individuals should be given jobs based on their talent and merit, not just as an act of charity. I recently came across a case where an HR department refused to employ visually disabled individuals despite their qualifications and ability to do the job, citing the percentage quota as an excuse. There is a mental barrier that needs to be overcome, and we need to take active steps to break it. Let's have good examples and change the mindset."

Financial, environmental, and management challenges

Krishnakant Mane's journey as an entrepreneur was not without its challenges. From financial struggles to managing a team with diverse inputs and creating a suitable working environment, he faced several obstacles on his way to success. However, KK overcame all challenges by staying persistent and making smart business decisions. Here are the three biggest hurdles he faced: 

1. Financial drain

Cash burn is a common problem for many startups, and it often occurs during the seed stage. When policies don't work out, it can be difficult to keep paying salaries until the next round of investment comes in. Some employees stay because they see the potential for personal growth and advancement within the company, but others find it hard to handle the uncertainty.

2. Conducive work setting

Startups often work out of co-working spaces, which can be small and lacking in luxury. Some new hires may be disappointed by this, but with the rise of remote work, the office environment is becoming less important to many employees.

3. Team facilitation 

Managing a team with diverse inputs and enthusiasms can be tricky. Everyone wants to contribute their ideas and shape the company, but this can lead to delays and disagreements. It's up to the leader to step in and make decisions when necessary.

OnlineKhata: Disrupting financial management for small firms

KK's journey as an entrepreneur began when he realised the need for accessible and affordable financial solutions for small businesses and individuals in India. This inspired him to start OnlineKhata, a fintech startup that automates accounting entries against payments, receipts, and invoices for small businesses to manage their financial transactions. The app is designed to be user-friendly and accessible for people with disabilities, making it a unique and inclusive solution in the market.

“I noticed that there is a huge community of digitally underserved people in India and elsewhere, due to both technical and non-technical factors. Some may struggle with technology due to a mental barrier, fear of going online, or poor user experience. As a blind person in software engineering, I also faced this challenge. I wanted to create something that would impact the lives of digitally uninformed people and make the business ecosystem inclusive for even the smallest and poorest businesses, particularly in rural areas. That's why my wife and I founded BookMatic Pvt Ltd and launched OnlineKhata in 2020,” Krishnakant told People Matters. 

The significance of satisfaction and belonging

The founder of Bookmatic understands the importance of empathy and understanding in effective leadership, especially when leading a team of individuals with diverse backgrounds and abilities. Krishnakant believes that effective leaders need to be able to put themselves in their team members' shoes and understand their unique challenges, strengths, and weaknesses. This can help leaders tailor their management style to meet the individual needs of each team member, and create an environment where everyone feels supported and valued.

“You see, people come from diverse backgrounds and possess unique abilities, but there are a few common desires: growth, a positive and collaborative work environment, and feeling valued during their time with your company. While it's unrealistic to expect permanent loyalty without financial compensation, it's crucial to ensure that employees feel a sense of belonging and satisfaction while working with you. This is especially important in the current work-from-home era. When employees see the impact of their work and how it benefits others, it can boost their morale and sense of purpose. Although money plays a significant role, it's not everything, and fostering a supportive work culture can go a long way,” suggested the fintech expert.

Hard work, communication, good influences: KK's success mantra

Krishnakant is a firm believer that having a disability should not be a hindrance to pursuing a career in technology or entrepreneurship. But, one must also note success is not an overnight process, and there are no shortcuts to achieving it. It takes hard work, dedication, and perseverance to accomplish the goals, especially if you are differently-abled or challenged. 

Additionally, Krishnakant suggested honing communication skills is critical to success. Effective communication is essential in any workplace, but it becomes even more crucial for individuals with disabilities. It is not enough to put in the effort to do your job; you must also be able to convey your abilities to your employer. In today's fast-paced world, excellent communication skills can be the difference between landing a job or not.

“There are no shortcuts to success. It requires hard work and dedication. Another crucial aspect is honing your communication skills, especially if you are a differently-abled or challenged person. It's not just about putting in the effort; it's also about convincing your employer that you can do the job without any problems. Additionally, for students in college or budding professionals, it's important to surround yourself with good company. A lack of positive influence or support from family or peers can be detrimental to your growth and success. I've witnessed examples of people who came from adverse conditions, but they were able to succeed because they had the right company and mindset,” concluded the pioneering figure in India's IT industry - Krishnakant Mane. 

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Topics: Leadership, Diversity, Startups, #HRCommunity

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