Gurugram-based Project Nishant, an initiative of teenagers Tarini Malhotra and Avni Singh, aims to unlock the talent of neurodiverse people and assist them with employment opportunities in the corporate world, thus helping them build self-esteem and independence.
Neurodiverse people in India have often been overlooked as a talent pool. Many corporates have failed to go beyond traditional HR and hiring policies to effectively embrace this segment of candidates.
Two sixteen-year-olds are trying to change this with Project Nishant, as Tarini Malhotra and Avni Singh believe that neurodiverse people have an equal right to education and employment.
In July 2021, the two friends set up Project Nishant—an initiative to help mentally diverse people find corporate jobs, over an online platform, with the support of NGOs involved in livelihood skilling. The idea is to create a pool of candidates for corporates to choose from.
Project Nishant aims to ensure a streamlined process of recruitment and help neurodiverse people with skilling and development so that they are employable in future. It also seeks to promote entrepreneurship among the differently abled.
“From an early age, I have been encouraged to think of ways to improve the lives of the marginalised and contribute towards a sustainable change in society. When COVID-19 disrupted our world, people from all over the globe came together to support each other, which proved that we, as humans, are sensitive and capable of more than what we believe and together we can create an inclusive and conscious society. This inspired me to work on the different challenges that society is facing,” says Tarini.
How it began
In October 2020, during the pandemic, Tarini volunteered in a fundraiser programme for Parivartan Special School and raised Rs 1.35 lakh.
While working with the children of the special school, Tarini realised that the world of neurodiversity is rich with untapped skills that can be put to good use. This realisation made her delve deep into the world of neurodiversity and start Project Nishant.
“The world of neurodiversity is rich, creative and profound, and neurodiverse people have a plethora of untapped skills that can be harnessed and put to good use. We hope that, through our initiative, we can provide them progressive employment opportunities, utilising their unique skillsets and capabilities, and contribute to enhancing their income-generation capability, self-esteem, and independence,” says the young social entrepreneur.
Tarini and her friend spent eight to nine months conceptualising and researching the idea. Then, in July 2021, with the help of their school, The Shri Ram School (Moulsari Campus), Gurugram, the duo set up Project Nishant. In September, a website was launched.
The duo partnered with Phoenix Tech Consulting for technological infrastructure for the website. The next step was to get on board NGOs such as Tamana, Udaan, and Assisted Living for Autistic Persons, which work with persons with disability.
Tarini admits that getting corporates to work with them was one of the challenges they faced initially, especially since she and Avni were children. But soon corporates became receptive to their idea and gave the duo a positive response. Currently, Project Nishant is funded by crowdfunding and fundraisers.
Unlocking neurodiverse talent
Project Nishant is a young startup that aims to unlock the talent and diversity of neurodiverse people and assist them with gainful employment opportunities, thus giving them self-sufficiency and respect.
The platform creates a talent pool for business decision-makers to choose from and ensures an efficient hiring procedure. To accomplish this, the project team uses a web-based application to link businesses and skilling platforms with neurodiverse people.
NGO partners help Tarini and her team identify neurodiverse people who are employable. Together they connect these people with corporate partners by matching their skills and job locations.
Job seekers, whether they are associated with any NGO or not, can apply for a job on the project website with details such as educational qualification, disability certificate, and the number of hours they can work per day.
Following this, the project’s tech team puts up the applications on the listing page where companies look at different profiles and hire people who meet their job requirements.
At present, most candidates are in the age group of 19 to mid-20s, located in the Delhi NCR region.
Project Nishant has placed neurodiverse people in companies such as Nippon Paint India, Phoenix Tech Consultancy, and Chemilac Paints in jobs ranging from administrative roles to computer operations.
Currently, the project team consists of student volunteers, an operations head, and an advisory board. A foundation for marginalised people With a larger goal of giving employment opportunities to different kinds of marginalised people in India, Tarini established the Nai Subah Foundation this year; Project Nishant falls under this ambit.
The aim is to foster diversity and inclusion in organisations. Through the foundation, Tarini envisions providing financial assistance to people from marginalised communities, who want to expand their skillsets and start their entrepreneurship journey, in the form of scholarships and Seed funding. (The story has been updated based on the company’s inputs.)