Call to business leaders to rise above inertia

Ankit Garg works as an Analyst at Standard Chartered Bank catering to the financial needs of large multinational companies operating in India. Ankit never allowed his visual impairment to dictate terms for him and leverages his experience and knowledge of disability, along with his management skills, to improve the lives of people with disabilities in India.  

Born to a middle class family in rural India, I have grown up with a severe disability. I lost my vision due to a rare degenerative retinal disorder called ‘Retinitis Pigmentosa’. However, I have never let my disability tell me ‘You can’t do this’ or ‘Your dreams are impossible’ but rather used it as a pillar of strength to learn and grow. This has helped me to pursue paths historically unexplored by visually impaired people, especially in a rural setting of a developing country.

I finished my school education in mathematics and science, went on to be the first visually impaired person ever to pursue engineering and later became the first visually impaired person to acquire a degree in business administration with expertise in finance from top tier academic institutions in India. The academic journey was, of course, not a cake walk. Being the first person with a visual impairment to be admitted in my respective institutions, it took me a huge amount of effort to push the administration – for which disability was an alien – to set up infrastructure for people with disabilities. The biggest achievement was that not only I could finish my academic journey with excellent grades but was able to lead a change in mind-sets.

Recognising and focussing on my abilities, I was immediately picked up by Standard Chartered Bank where I am happily working for the past four years catering to the financing needs of large multi-national companies operating in India. I can proudly say that I am considered an asset to the bank and a force of good for our clients and communities.

Having interacted and worked widely with people with disabilities, I can confidently say that it is the disability of these individuals that make them far more able. It is impossible to tap this ability if businesses, which are the largest employment and revenue generator, do not come on board and realise the immense potential of this huge 1 billion population – both as talent and consumers.

Take my own example, somebody realised my potential – I am contributing to the business and because of diversity, I am able to bring new perspective at work which is the single most important trait expected from an employee in this disruptive age. I am earning well today, am not dependent on state subsidies but am, in fact, paying taxes. Moreover, since I am earning well, I am a consumer contributing to the growth of economy. Add a billion people like me into the mainstream and you can imagine the impact.

In a nutshell, my key message is that diversity is still, unfortunately, by and large seen in terms of only gender diversity. It is high time that we rise quickly above this and approach diversity in a holistic sense.

I understand the initial inertia may be huge, for whatever reasons, but I want to call on the business leaders to rise above this inertia and realise the potential of this next growth engine.

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