BY Surbhi Gogia
A recent article in The Economist mentioned that a lot more Indian technology talent is flocking to Canada after US has tightened its rules for visa. The article makes special reference that Canada is giving a red carpet welcome to these talented people. “Canada is gambling that by the time America wakes up to the cost of discouraging immigrants its tech sector will have secured some of the best talent.”
Well the prediction made by this article is not far from becoming truth. Canada has already started reaping the benefits from the presence of these talented people. Naitik Mehta, a student from India, and his unique start-upfor people with disabilities, is one such success story of the kind of future Canada is building for itself by attracting young talent — unwelcomed by US.
Naitik is the co-founder and CEO of NextBillion.org — a recruiting company that connects and finds inclusive employers for people with disabilities in the technology industry. Started in 2016, this unique and noble effort has so far supported over 200 people with disabilities who have landed jobs in companies like Microsoft, Amazon, Apple and Spotify. The company provide 100% free mentorship for candidates with disabilities and generates its revenue from recruitment fees paid by employers.
Naitik and his company were recently featured in BC Business’s Top 30 Under 30 list. In an interview with Desi Today magazine this 23-year old entrepreneur shares his story and how he came up with the idea.
Please tell us something about yourself and why you decided to come to Vancouver?
I was born in Mumbai and brought up in Pune, India. After completing my grade 12 in India, my first choice was to go to California for university, but my U.S. student visa was rejected. I then applied to study interactive design at Emily Carr University of Art and Design in Vancouver.
How is Vancouver treating you so far?
I love Vancouver! I even had the opportunity to work in the U.S. during my internship. But I am glad that I am in Vancouver because of all the amazing opportunities it has offered me.
Please tell us something about your company and how you came up with the idea?
I started Next Billion when I was in the second year of my university. I had gone for an internship with Microsoft in Redmond, Washington. There, I got a chance to meet and work with a blind engineer from India — Kartik Sawhney. Kartik was denied admission in an Indian university due to his disability. There we talked about how he was not the only one who was denied an opportunity due to physical disability. We started looking for the kind of options available for people with disabilities and there were not many. We then decided to launch this initiative. We co-founded it together but now I am working on it on my own since Kartik is working in the U.S
How did you come up with company’s name NextBillion.Org?
NextBillion refers to the 1.3 billion people with disabilities (physical, mental, neurological, or chronic) worldwide. We want to enable equal access to opportunity for this underserved and overlooked minority.
Do companies actually employ people with disabilities as an asset or the employers just want to look good for fulfilling their corporate social responsibility?
People with disabilities are an absolute asset to companies. There was a recent report published by Accenture that showed companies who hire people with disabilities generate 28% more revenue. People with disabilities have problem-solving skills in their personal lives and they bring those skills to businesses.
Do you work with a certain type of disabilities or people with any disabilities can contact you?
We include people with mental health, physical, chronic, neurological and other health challenges, so basically we work with anyone with any type of disability whois in, or has completed, a university degree.
What are some of the companies that you are working with and at what level do you find them job placements?
Right now we connect people with companies looking to hire talent in technological sector. We have received applications from 32 different countries but our focus is Canada and US. We are open to all people with disabilities who are interested in roles such as software engineering, data science, design, product management etc.
Any plans of extending this into other sectors apart from technology?
For now, we will continue to focus on the technology industry because it is one of the one of the fastest growing fields but also one of the most difficult industries to find right eligible candidates. We focus on technical roles but we work with all types of companies — providing them with technical talent whether that’s in banking, finance, or another industry.
What is your message out there to the employers?
Employers are missing out on 15% of the workforce if they’re not actively looking for, and hiring people with disabilities.