Dhruv Lakra, a graduate from the Said Business School in Oxford could have easily become an investment banker and earned millions every year. However, he wanted to bring about a change in society, so instead he started a courier company named Mirakle Couriers using deaf people!
Having grown up in a business family in Jammu, Dhruv finished his studies from Mumbai and eventually joined Merrill Lynch in the investment banking division. Though he absolutely hated his job, it taught his professionalism and discipline. However, after two years he decided that he has had enough and joined an NGO where he had to work in the tsunami hit areas, with disabled people and with people suffering from HIV AIDS. It was after this time that he applied to the SAID School of Business and got full scholarship from the Skoll Foundation!
Inspiration for the courier service struck him when he was travelling in a bus and noticed a deaf boy, who was sitting next to him; write down and explain to the conductor where he wanted to go. He went back home and was shocked after checking out the number of deaf people in India (second only to China)! He made up his mind to do something about them but what, he still had no idea. It was at that time, one afternoon when he was at home, a courier arrived. As he signed for the shipment, Dhruv noticed that there was no verbal communication and it was then that he realized he could run a courier company employing the deaf people!
After completing his course in Oxford, he returned to India and started his Mirakle Couriers with only one deaf boy, named Ganesh! The first order which was received through a friend was for 10 shipments of which he delivered 5 and Ganesh 5. Business was difficult and small for the first few months until through a reference, Mirakle got its first large order of 5000 deliveries! Dhruv asked Ganesh to find out two more deaf boys looking for work and after their order was completed, the client was so pleased that he gave them another order of 5000 deliveries! With more order, Dhruv started employing more deaf people.
However, getting deaf people to work for them was a problem because having been discriminated for ages, they don’t usually trust hearing people. And the salary wasn’t much either. Some revenue was being generated but there was little cash available. Friends and family would sometimes chip in with money but it wasn’t enough. Dhruv then decided to apply for the prestigious Echoing Green fellowship in order to fund his company. This fellowship is awarded to 15 social entrepreneurs from across the world who are chosen through a very tough competitive process which takes almost six months!
However, Dhruv’s efforts paid off when he was chosen as the Echoing Green fellow for 2009 and won a fellowship of $60,000 that would be paid in installments over the next two years. This funding was just what Mirakle needed to thrive and by a year, it grew by leaps and bounds, making 60,000 deliveries in a month! Mirakle’s client list is increasing every year and it includes companies like Mahindra & Mahindra, Godrej, A V Birla group, to name a few. Soon, Dhruv realized that he needed someone to manage his business well and employed an operations manager – Sameer Bhosle and together they have taken the business to 1.5 lakh rupees a month by March 2010!
More than the revenue, what pleases Dhruv is the ability to give employment to disabled people. He tells us about Bhupesh, who has barely studied till the 10th standard and has an alcoholic father, without a job and a younger brother who is also deaf. Working with Mirakle has given him respect and confidence. “It’s the first time anyone has trusted Bhupesh, given him responsibility”, says Dhruv. Then there are the two deaf girls who have now risen to the level of supervisors and are in fact being groomed for the next level! All employees not only have salary accounts, but ATM cards and PAN numbers as well.
Dhruv slowly has plans to employ the blind and the deaf-blind too. “We’ll find a way to integrate them into out system”, he says. His dream, however, goes beyond employment for the disabled people. He wants to change the way the disabled are viewed and to prove to the other corporate that they do have it in them what it takes to be employed. And it is his hope that slowly more organizations will become inclusive and start opening their doors as well, to the disabled.
Though, Dhruv is still struggling with challenges of growth and employment issues and a few personal ones as well (he hardly pays himself anything), he isn’t bogged down. He will continue with his work till he can become the DHL or Fedex of the courier business, the difference being: in his case, employing only people with disabilities!
Dhruv’s efforts make us believe that there is injustice and sadness in this world, but we human beings, can definitely do something about it!