Flight attendant Rathi Rana turns entrepreneur to empower domestic help with HouseMaidForYou
What prompted a chic, jet-setting flight attendant with Kingfisher and Indigo to set up an social enterprise to help women find employment as domestic help and care givers? Given the human psyche, we often associate such a monumental change in perspective with a life altering experience. Not in the case of Rathi though. “There is no such specific moment. While I was living a life of luxury with someone opening the door of the car for me, to living in a nice hotel or having the chance to eat any kind of food I wanted, there were others who did not even have food to eat,” says Rathi.
Rathi’s desire to do something for others who are deprived of basic necessities drew her to orphanages during Christmas and other occasions, giving food and clothes and money to the poor, or just spending time with the deprived. This was not what she wanted to do though. One day, when she met a woman looking for work as a house help, the idea hit her that she could startup by providing employment to women and help them earn a livelihood. When she bounced the idea off her husband Prateek, he supported her wholeheartedly. Thus, the idea was put into motion and HouseMaidForYou kickstarted.
How does this enterprise work? Rathi says, “We have a database of candidates and depending upon the need of the clients who call us and register with us, we provide them the ideal candidate. Rathi and her crew then track down the ideal candidates from their data base. After a few rounds of interview with the crew, Rathi does the final interview and then a decision is reached. The candidate undergoes a proper verification where old and new residence proofs are verified by the team. “Once the candidate joins, they are on our payroll and we ensure that their salary is credited timely into the bank account which we have opened for all our candidates. The candidates are provided medical insurance and PF too. As per policy they can avail 12 days of leave in a year and Sunday is off,” says Rathi.
Every day is a challenge, says Rathi. To convince the women to work is only half the battle won, the other half includes training them to work like a professional. Most of them are not educated so it is hard to impress upon them the importance of professionalism. There are times when these women just want the money and no benefits. The biggest challenge is convincing these women to do the work and do it professionally. “For example, they see no difference in reporting to work at 9 or 9.30 am. I painstakingly select them and train them with great care. I spend days together training them to make sure they are great at what they do. Say if we need someone for elderly care, it will be a candidate who has had some experience in elderly care whom we recommend.”
Rathi is constantly on the run. She conducts workshops at NGOs, interviews candidates, trains them, deals with multiple clients calling and also does workshops with them. “Rathi approaches just about all rag pickers, homeless women on the streets to offer them employment,” says her husband Prateek.
On July 31st, 2014, HouseMaidForYou will officially be completing a year. Through many ups and downs we have managed to convince many women to choose this path of professionalism. Though some leave and go but at the end of the day I am happy that I have provided employment to these people. There are cases when we have candidates who get paid Rs 10, 000 or so and when their salary gets credited I think of the old days when my take-home was around that! It gives me a great kick.
Rathi says she is very satisfied with what she is doing but this is just the beginning. She has more to do. The next major plan is to come up with a complete online portal and see how this enterprise can be monetized.
Rathi says when she was getting started a lot of friends questioned her judgement and were not supportive. I used to be very soft spoken then, she says, today when people who judged me earlier come back and ask how they can help I feel very proud of what I have achieved.
My family has been my primary source of strength. They have always stood by me through it all. Prateek is always there for me. I have a crazy schedule on the weekends. We do not see each other on certain days but he understands. We do catch late night movies when we get the chance. There are days when I am frustrated by setbacks too. It takes a lot of sacrifices from our end but I would not have it any other way. Prateek, a proud husband, says, “All of this is her idea and her hard work. She manages everything. And most importantly, she is happy. Ten years ago we did not have the concept of domestic help or care givers and nannies. However, there is still a lack of professionalism and social responsibility is needed to usher in that change.”
According to him, “We are just a catalyst of change and nothing more. Change will come only when people show social responsibility and show respect towards the services rendered by care givers. We still have people who want services from morning to evening but are not ready to pay for it.”
There are some instances which are close to her heart. “A lady working for a big corporate put in her resignation papers as she could not find someone to take care of her baby. The manager had heard of us from his neighbours who are our client. The manager put her in touch with us and that was the end of any talk of resignation. The nanny we provided is still with the family taking care of the child,” Rathi narrates the anecdote with pride.
Recounting a case of a domestic help, Rathi says, “Most of these women take up employment in multiple houses in an apartment to earn more money. This model really does not work. This woman approached us and we got her to work at two places with a salary of eleven grand. These are our victories.”
The most memorable moment, according to both Rathi and Prateek, is when a woman working in one of the big retail stores approached them for work and was assigned to a client. “This woman always wanted to buy a Scooty. We made sure the bank gave her a loan; we booked the Scooty and went with her to get it. The smile she had on seeing her two-wheeler was incredible. Even the clients were surprised when they saw her drive to work on a Scooty. It is not something you see everyday and that is what makes it so special,” they say.
What do you think of Rathi’s efforts? Do you have more stories like these to share? Let us know.