Even with a degree in engineering, a transperson can struggle to find a job in India’s growing IT sector. This was Tahirah Ayeez and Theertha Savika’s experience, as both of them were rejected from job after job on account of their gender.
“I feel really sad about this. When I mention my gender, they just hang up my call. When people get rejected due to their gender identity, I felt the need to start my own enterprise to provide an opportunity to our community”, says Tahirah, who holds a B.Tech in Android Programming from Universiti Teknologi in Malaysia.
The duo, who met on Facebook, decided that the only solution was to start a company themselves. The result, Transyco Solutions, was started in January of 2019 and claims to be India’s first IT start-up to be founded by transpersons, according to their profile on the Startup India website. In its first month, while still at an ideation phase, the company received over 200 applications from like-minded transpersons looking for work in the IT sector. Out of these, 20 were selected to be a part of the unique venture.
Initially reluctant to accept the offer, the applicants needed to be reassured that this was not a fishy enterprise. This disillusionment is something that the founders of Transsyco want to change, in particular the mindset that transpersons are associated with sex-workers.
“We needed to convince them, all 20 of them, and had to give counselling sessions on how to build skill, courage and expertise,” says Tahira.
Transysco promises to be a complete solution-based company, offering IT services like web designing, system back-up, Artificial Intelligence (AI) services and others along. They also offer career counselling for 10th and 12th standard students, completely free of cost. They have set up a research lab to help youngsters build the skills they need for the modern competitive job market.
Getting this far was an uphill climb with raising funds the biggest hurdle. Initially, they had approached Kerala’s Social Justice Department, which manages the Transgender Cell, for funds. Their proposal, for Rs. 20 lakh, was rejected on account of the risks of such a venture. Eventually, they gave up on getting government funding and managed to raise capital through their friends and through Arab investors from the Middle East.
The second hurdle was finding an office. The company currently operates out of Tahirah’s Apartment at Kochi, but they hope to be allocated an office space at Kochi’s InfoPark after a new building’s construction is completed. The company plans to start functioning within three months, with plans for a job expo for the LGBTQI community this month.
“We need to set in an example that our community can also do every job”, says Tahirah. Speaking on their recruitment policies, she adds that they place significance on skill over qualification. “We only need their skill, sincerity and dedication to the work. We are not concerned about their qualifications. If they can do any work we give to them, we can train them as much as we can.”
Recruitment was a three-stage process, at the end of which candidates met with Tahirah and Theertha to discuss the company and its future projects. The employees are currently undergoing training with the first session already completed in Chennai.
These youngsters believe in change and hope to trigger it. So far, their efforts have been met with mixed reactions. “Some are amazed, but some still exhibit negligence and rejection. But it is slowly changing. We need to prove that our venture is very successful and make people understand that we can also do,” Tahira says. She urges the need not to discriminate against anyone. “Take in personnel to your organizations, based on their skill, not gender. Even we have the right to live in this society with dignity.”