In 2020, when lockdowns were implemented due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Government of India announced that every transgender person would receive Rs 1500 as a direct bank transfer. But as per a report in Business Standard suggests only 5711 individuals benefitted from it out of the estimated 4.8 million as many didn’t have bank accounts. If we go a few years back, a National Human Rights Commission survey in 2017 revealed that nearly 15% of transgender persons had no jobs and 69% were working in the informal sector. The survey was conducted among 900 transgender persons in the four districts of Uttar Pradesh and the NCR.
When the data is so worrisome, it definitely comes as a refreshing change to see two young people in their 20s making Trans people employable and inclusive to discerning companies. The Chennai-based impact enterprise PeriFerry, with a presence in Bengaluru, upskills and offers placement services to Trans persons. Their clients include Sodexo, Accenture, HP, Bosch, Goldman Sachs, Wipro and many more.
Founder and CEO, Neelam Jain spent a considerable amount of time with the community to understand their employment needs which gave birth to PeriFerry in 2017. In fact, about 70% of the core team comprises trans persons. Recently, the company appointed Nishant Agarwal, Head –Transgender Hiring and Accounts. ATT got in touch with Nishant to understand how the organisation helps corporates in creating an inclusive workplace.
Nishant has been associated with PeriFerry since 2017 and is one of the key members of the core group. His role requires him to create inclusive job opportunities for every transgender person who reaches out to PeriFerry. He manages a team of six, who handle the end to end of a placement cycle: from engaging with community members who reach out for jobs, aligning them with training/job opportunities to working with companies in helping them onboard trans talent and ensuring post-placement support to both the employer and the new joinee.
He shares, “My role helps me create immense impact as I get to work with corporate India and the transgender community very closely. In the role I’ve led for the past 4 years, we’ve been able to help 60+ companies onboard and nurture 260+ trans talent.”
PeriFerry has its own training facilities running in Bangalore which is anchor funded by Australian multinational banking firm ANZ and is called ‘Trans Inn’ with financial assistance from other organisations. It runs a two-month full-time foundational course that covers aspects of English, communication, soft skills, digital and computer literacy, banking and finance. The firm has run many batches with sponsor partners like ANZ, Walmart, Goldman Sachs, ThoughtWorks, National Backward Classes Finance & Development Corporation, JP Morgan and one with HP that was kicked off recently. Apart from this, depending on the hiring needs, they train people on specific tech skills etc as well. The organisation ran a tech cohort recently with ThoughtWorks.
Clients share the job description with the firm who in turn share a database of interested candidates. Sometimes clients who are aware that the firm also has a training batch running can inform about their requirements. For instance, one of the clients was clear that while good communication skill is not a necessity, the candidates need to be excellent in technical skills. “So out of 20 in the batch, 10 candidates got placed because we trained them for the right skills. The conversion is thus higher,” Nishant adds.
Since 2017, the firm has seen 100% year-on-year growth. In the last two years, they saw 50% growth because the numbers had exceeded the training capacity. This year they are expanding the training capacity and hope to achieve 100% again. But it wasn’t without a few hiccups and some important learnings.
“In 2017, we had done 30 placements in 8 months. In 2018-19, it was 40-50 placements, 19-20, 75 placements. In the first year, we saw a lot of attrition because we weren’t able to create sustainability. We didn’t do enough sensitisation which we realised only after our first few placements,” informs Nishant. This year, PeriFerry intends to place 100-150 candidates.
“At a job fair, when you are interviewing an LGBTQ candidate, you might not be aware of the person’s identity. But in the case of a trans person, there’s a greater chance you will know. Then there’s a lot of skilling gap. So instead of hosting events and targeting the community, we can probably do skilling workshops and address those needs”
Nishant asserts that there is awareness for sure. But trans is a minority within a minority and that’s the catch. While many organisations are including more and more policies to make their workplaces inclusive, there’s still a lot that needs to be done. In his experience, society is becoming more aware of lip service and hence people/organisations have to take action. However, what one needs to do is watch out and restrain fancy corporate events that only create superficial buzz and don’t help the companies or the community at large.
Elaborating on it further, Nishant says, “At a job fair, when you are interviewing an LGBTQ candidate, you might not be aware of the person’s identity. But in the case of a trans person, there’s a greater chance you will know. Then there’s a lot of skilling gap. So instead of hosting events and targeting the community, we can probably do skilling workshops and address those needs.”
The job description
To show the inclusive hiring practices, many organisations mention in their job descriptions about being open to all. While Nishant is glad that’s happening, the company’s culture needs to be equally accepting. “LGBTQIA+ community members know when a company only says they’re inclusive v/s when they actually are. It’s also important that companies understand ‘why’ are they hiring from this community, as opposed to simply going with the buzz,” he adds.
Nishant believes the job description definitely needs to be gender-neutral. When one is applying for a job, the forms ask for gender, nationality and sometimes even pictures. That’s unnecessary.
“Although it depends from job to job, I feel mentioning that a profile is only for women or a certain gender is not required either. Gender shouldn’t even be part of the form. One can find out about it during the background verification about the candidate. A lot of these issues got solved because of the pandemic as operations went remote. It gave them enough time to understand the candidates and sensitise their workplace before the candidates joined them,” he shares.
Out of the several asks of the candidates, a lot of them inquire about whether or not the organisations will fund their surgeries or will they be covered under insurance policies. But the most asked question is ‘Will they give us a job?’ Fortunately, organisations have been willing and welcoming. “Corporates have mostly been welcoming. Many have turned it around within days. We generally focus on those who are willing because our focus is to provide the employment opportunity to the candidate and make them financially stable.” Depending on the level of seniority, they command a salary from Rs 2 lakh per annum to Rs 36-46 lakh p.a.
PeriFerry also does a lot of lateral hiring. “We have people from tech organisations reaching out to us who are closeted and are yet handling teams of more than 200 people. We moved them to other organisations as well,” Nishant says. The firm aims to train 450 candidates online and offline next year which will help them place at least 300-370 people.
“Corporates have mostly been welcoming. Many have turned it around within days. We generally focus on those who are willing because our focus is to provide the employment opportunity to the candidate and make them financially stable.”
In an interview with All Things Talent for the September edition, Gracy Tavamani, Head HR, Kinara Capital had indicated that the organisation engages with PeriFerry to make its workplace inclusive. “We are working with multiple organizations that help find suitable job placements, including FlexiBees and JobsForHer. We have also teamed up with PeriFerry to offer members of the trans-community opportunities to join our team, further increasing the inclusion and diversity at Kinara.”
All Things Talent also spoke to an executive from a leading IT company in India who was placed through PeriFerry. It helped in successfully onboarding the executive and support throughout the placement and post-placement journey. The executive tells us how things need to change in the hiring processes.
The Trans person is responsible for handling the D&I side at the organisation and shares, “Educating and sensitizing Hiring Managers, Recruiters, Leaders and Colleagues are a must. The diversity hiring should be gender-balanced and must have a sensitive interview panel. Creating Gender-inclusive infrastructure and extending policy benefits to all eligible employees irrespective of their gender identity, expression or sexual orientation is the need of the hour.” Equal pay is also one of the key aspects that the person is passionate about.
The person also added here that there are a few bottlenecks that the community still faces. “Restricting talent from a certain level only: junior or entry-level or restricting it a certain type of roles due to stereotypes eg. Front office/admin roles only is one of the key issues. When organisations don’t have the market positioning of an inclusive employer, and they’re trying to attract trans talent, it doesn’t work. They need to work with a hiring partner that can make that possible and sustainable as well. When co-workers may not only be wholly welcoming of the new hire, it can create high drop-outs,” the executive points out.
Market Presence: PAN India
Employee Count: 11 handling placement services, L&D services, community training & support services
Hiring Pipeline: We are expected to hire across all divisions and double our capacity by July 2022
Business Operation: PeriFerry is India’s first social-impact enterprise solely dedicated to improving the socio-economic situation of a transgender person through sustainable employability and social dignity. We are trusted with LGBTQIA+ consulting and learning services by our corporate partners.
HR Metric: The ratio of cis-gender in the organisation is only 20%