India has one of the highest populations of deaf people in the world: Approximately 6 percent of the population suffers some kind of hearing loss. Deaf children are less likely to attend school and deaf adults are less likely to find jobs. In general, corporate firms and organizations, and even small-scale companies and shops, do not hire people with disabilities.
But a venture based in Mumbai has broken the ice: Mirakle Couriers offers standard courier services and employs only deaf adults. Its entire staff—including the couriers themselves—suffer from extreme hearing loss. Twenty workers manage data entry, package tracking and scanning, and other branch operations. The other 44 staff members navigate the complex landscape of Mumbai to deliver packages.
The company offers a sign language program to all new employees, and everything from pick-up to delivery is carefully planned at the firm’s branches in sign language. Unlike other courier services in India, couriers communicate with customers via text message rather than by phone, and since they aren’t allowed to drive, they must use public transportation for delivery. The couriers must also receive training on how to deal with the social stigma of deafness.
The most unique thing about Mirakle is that it believes in a model of development through enterprise and not charity giving. These employees gain confidence and financial independence that would be otherwise unavailable to them—they are able to support their families rather than having to be helplessly dependent on them.
Founder Dhruv Lakra was motivated to start Mirakle after meeting a deaf person on the bus. “I thought, why should people with this disability be confined to doing odd jobs?” he says, “Mirakle Couriers was born out of my desire to help the deaf find a path to a dignified life. And being a courier is a job that requires minimal interaction, so this was the best idea I could think of.”
Mirakle Couriers has won various awards, including the Hellen Keller Award in 2009 and the National Award for the Empowerment of People With Disabilities in 2010, handed over by the President of India.