Social Inclusion and Financial Independence: The Transgender Community in India

PeriFerry

1. No Poverty 5. Gender Equality 8. Decent Work and Economic Growth 10. Reduced Inequalities 16. Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions Flourish Prize Finalist - For Business as an Agent of World Benefit - Weatherhead School of Management

Overview

PeriFerry aims to empower the members of the transgender community, many of which are generally forced to engage in begging and/or sex work to survive because of social stigma and exclusion in India, by elevating their socio-economic conditions.

Authors

Vinamr Mahajan

Vinamr Mahajan

Meghna Bhattacharya

Meghna Bhattacharya

Bhaskar Deka

Bhaskar Deka

Rushabh Jain

Rushabh Jain

Shubham Ranjan

Shubham Ranjan

Rupal Maloo

Rupal Maloo

School

Goa Institute of Management

Goa Institute of Management

Professor

Divya Singhal

Divya Singhal

Innovation

Most members of the transgender community either remain unemployed or are forced to engage in activities with abysmally low income and have a deplorable standard of living. Members who are lucky enough to be a part of the mainstream job market are terrified to lose their financial stability in the wake of ‘coming out’ and living their actual identities as transgender people. Aiming to improve the social and economic condition of the transgender community in India, Chennai-based startup PeriFerry is driving the necessary change and working hard to provide equal employment opportunities for the transgender community.

PeriFerry works as a consultancy firm for the transgender community. All the services provided to the community like placements, skilling, communication, profile building, etiquette, grooming, etc., are provided with no charge to the transgender community. PeriFerry only charges its partner clients for the services like placements, sensitivity training, and CSR partnerships for training the members of the transgender community through corporate skilling. Such sensitization workshops help employers facilitate a safer and more inclusive workforce.

The founder of PeriFerry, Neelam Jain, a former Goldman Sachs employee who has always been passionate about helping the LGBT community, came up with the idea of a social startup when she saw the lack of policies, infrastructure, and sensitivity in corporate organizations regarding the hiring of transgender people. She decided to establish PeriFerry. She understood the need to address the social issues and uplift the economic conditions of the transgender community in India.

The innovative services that PeriFerry offers are:

  1. REVIVE - A one-of-a-kind Residential Corporate Training Program designed for Transgender individuals to venture into the world of work with confidence and acceptance. The program is a huge success with social well-being centered focus on the community.
  2. TransINN, India's first all under one roof solution for the transgender community to tackle social issues and drives them towards sustainability. It is a short stay home for homeless trans people which provides them with training and job opportunities. Shelter, upskill and uplift are its primary goals. PeriFerry identifies community members in need of their services through various mediums like visits, referrals, direct contacts, etc., and shelters them for 30-60 days (max 90 days) with 3 times per day food provision at no charge, and also provides employment training to them. With an ultimate aim to ferry the participants into the mainstream job market, PeriFerry helps the residents complete their training and successfully pursue mainstream jobs and/or other livelihoods.
  3. Sensitization workshops - Apart from the traditional delivery method, PeriFerry also introduced the concept of Experience zones. These serve as ice-breakers that encourage participation in sensitive conversations around sex and gender through games and experiential learning.

Social Inclusion and Financial Independence: The Transgender Community in India

Inspiration

During the interview, Nishant (COO. PeriFerry) said, “Neelam thought of this innovation during her stint at Goldman Sachs when she got a social project where she engaged in understanding the lives of transgender people. During that time, she met Uma – a transgender person who had an engineering degree but was still unemployed. Looking at her qualifications, Neelam believed she was perfect for her company and applied for her. She decided that she will help Uma get a job. And at this point, she identified the need for such a social start-up and came up with the idea of PeriFerry.”

This incident affected Neelam a lot. She wanted to help these people and didn’t want to wait any further. She left her job, started spending time with the transgender community, and understood that their utmost need was financial independence. All these factors motivated her to start PeriFerry and help the transgender community.

Nishant said, “Transgenders are often looked [at] as beggars or sex workers and are not able to sustain on their own as whatever they earn goes to the head of the house. They are not able to flourish and grow under such circumstances. PeriFerry aspired to make the transgender community financially independent and provide them with sustainable jobs. Corporate India was targeted as apart from the monetary benefits, another much-required assistance like medical benefits, surgery benefits, relocation benefits, and other assistance was also provided.

The motivation was to build a better world for the transgender community and help them achieve what they deserve and not letting the physical appearance become an obstacle.”

“It’s the physical difference we are trying to normalize,” says Nishant.

Overall impact

Within 3 years, PeriFerry has transformed the lives of over 300 transgender individuals by providing them with job opportunities at various organizations in vivid job roles like - software engineer, HR, graphic designers, make-up artists, tech support, food delivery, hospitality, bank, and other industry roles. Some of their eminent partner corporate clients are ANZ Bank, Bank of America, ThoughtWorks, Koskii, RmKV Silks, Valeo, The Lemon Tree Hotels, Adobe, Walmart Labs, Naturals Salon, The Lalit Hotel.

Through its free of cost training program ’REVIVE,’ PeriFerry ensures placements to all individuals. The training includes computer literacy, interview preparations, improving communication in the English language, and developing soft skills to build their personality. It also guides trainees on financial literacy, like managing money, investing, and savings. Through individual and peer counseling services, personal attention is given to each individual to boost their confidence.

The REVIVE program in association with ANZ Bank and ThoughtWorks trained over 80 Trans individuals and provided a whole month of safe shelter training in October 2019 and February 2020. The trans-inclusive job fairs gave an opportunity to all individuals for different job roles in MNCs like Walmart, Accenture, Vodafone, Societe Generale, Deutsche Bank, ANZ Bank, Landmark Group, Amazon, JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, The Lemon Tree Hotels, Taj Hotels, Vodafone, Vindhya Infotech and ensured 100% placement to everyone. With many such initiatives, PeriFerry has transformed the lives of the members of the transgender community, providing them with employment opportunities and making them financially independent by linking them with the mainstream job market.

Business benefit

After its inception, PeriFerry faced many challenges and hurdles in its operation. Due to the strong social stigma, most members of the transgender community remain under the impression that the only work they can engage in is begging and/or sex work. It becomes very difficult to convince them, who have been abandoned by their own families, to pursue reputable and sustainable jobs. PeriFerry believes that as society becomes more inclusive and their fellow community members' life transformation stories are conveyed to them, they will be less hesitant to take this bold and necessary step. PeriFerry also had zero revenue in the first year of its operation. Still, the success of Periferry can be attributed to the pro-activeness and unending enthusiasm of the team for pursuing the smallest opportunities. PeriFerry's team is determined to help every person from the transgender community by making even one company open to hiring them.

The corporate circle in India is very closely knit. Even if one person gets placement, many others get to know about it, thereby spreading awareness. India has a population of around 500,000 of the transgender community, and the actual figures are estimated to be 6 to 7 times larger than this. Globally the entire LGBT market is estimated to be about 2 billion dollars.

This sector remains completely detached even in the 21st century due to social stigma attached to the community, lack of acceptance and awareness, and lack of policies at both corporate and government levels. PeriFerry has provided diversity to all its clients and an opportunity to tap into such a huge market and workforce.

Social and environmental benefit

PeriFerry aims to bring a social change by working towards the inclusion of the transgender community into the corporate world and changing the perception and mindset of the population for the transgender community. With its Corporate LGBT Sensitization programs for engagement with the Trans community and participating in panel discussions, summits and talks, PeriFerry is a go-to partner for Diversity and Inclusion.

It is India’s first social start-up working on LGBT inclusion in the workplace. With its two major programs, REVIVE and TransINN, it focuses on social well-being and inclusion for the community. PeriFerry has also started a lot of other initiatives to support LBGT inclusion in society.

Prajna is a volunteer backed mentorship platform by PeriFerry to build next-gen Transgender Professionals. It partners with organizations and individuals to seek mentors to support, nurture, and guide transgender people. They could be from Tech, IT, Business, Communication, and other professional backgrounds. This mentorship contributes to helping Trans individuals pursue livelihoods in various domains.

Transgender Shelter Visit - PeriFerry also organizes trips to the state shelters for transgender people. Insightful interaction and understanding allow people to be more aware and empathetic towards the transgender community. Field visits like these draw a ground-level picture of why empathy and inclusion are so important for the transgender community.

ThiruVizha - The cultural festival of PeriFerry offers the world a brief glimpse of the talents of the transgender community in various forms of performing arts such as dance, theater, singing, painting, etc. PeriFerry has decided to establish a dedicated launchpad platform that will ultimately present the community with a sustainable opportunity to realize their passion on a much larger scale.

PeriFerry also delivers sensitization through theater. Trans working professionals skilled by PeriFerry in performance arts share their life experiences and how they have achieved what they have achieved. The tales of self-acceptance, fighting the odds with friends & family, and coming out at various times to various people are showcased. Strong performances enable PeriFerry to leverage the power of arts to create awareness about the LGBT community.

Financial Literacy Workshop - This workshop focuses on the sustainable part of PeriFerry’s mission of creating sustainable and dignified livelihoods for the trans community. Topics covered in these workshops include personal budgeting, financial goal setting, and balance between want and need, among other related subjects.​

TEDxChennai 2019 - On March 10, 2019, the 8th edition of TEDx Chennai was successfully managed by 35 concierges from the transgender community. This became the first-ever mainstream event in all of Asia, which was hosted by an all-trans crew. More than 1500 attendees and 20 keynote speakers came to know that when it comes to hosting a large scale event, competence can be found beyond the binary as well. This event has inspired the trans community to follow their passion and believe that equality exists. This event spurred a lot of hope and belief among the attendees as well as the community.

The COVID-19 outbreak has led PeriFerry to use the opportunities brought along by the COVID-19 outbreak for businesses and use it to reach a larger audience online.

In terms of hiring, they are currently providing their diversity hiring services online only. Through digital meeting platforms like Google Meet, Zoom, Cisco, etc., they connect with both job seekers from the Transgender community and the HR personnel from their corporate partners. They have also established mechanisms for prioritized email support and are continuously working to deliver the same quality service as they have been over the years.​

PeriFerry has also brought in new ideas to design new online workforce LGBT sensitization workshops that will continue to drive inclusiveness and empathy.

Interview

Nishant Agarwal, Chief Operating Officer (COO)

Photo of interviewee

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PeriFerry

PeriFerry

Chennai, Tamil Nadu, IN

Business Website: https://www.periferry.com/

Year Founded: 2017

Number of Employees: 2 to 10

PeriFerry works as a consultancy firm for the transgender community. All the services provided to the community like placements, skilling, communication, profile building, etiquette, grooming, etc., are provided with no charge to the transgender community. PeriFerry only charges its partner clients for the services like placements, sensitivity training, and CSR partnerships for training the members of the transgender community through corporate skilling. Such sensitization workshops help employers facilitate a safer and more inclusive workforce.