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Retail industry unites to celebrate and promote diversity, equity and inclusion at the EKAM Summit

Posted On: 2023-12-07 12:34:27 (Time Zone: IST)

Retailers Association of India (RAI) and TRRAIN (Trust for Retailers and Retail Associates of India) jointly organised retail industry's first inclusion summit to drive diversity, equity, and inclusion within the retail sector. The first edition of EKAM - All Inclusion Summit 2023, was held on December 5, 2023 at the Hotel Taj Santacruz in Mumbai.

The Theme for the first edition of the EKAM Summit is 'Fostering Inclusion: Celebrating Differences, Driving Social Change', emphasising the importance of recognising and embracing human differences, including backgrounds, perspectives, and abilities.

Speaking at the Summit, Ameesha Prabhu, Co-Founder and CEO, Trust for Retailers and Retail Associates of Indiasaid, "The EKAM summit kickstart dialogues on vital but often unexplored topics, encouraging discussions that aim to bring about tangible changes in inclusivity. This summit acts as a catalyst, igniting thoughts and conversations that will resonate in future one-on-one engagements with retailers, recruiters, and potential employers, focusing on sensitizing, rewarding, and institutionalizing inclusion for young women, individuals with disabilities, and LGBTQI members. Moreover, the EKAM Summit, represents the beginning of a series of similar impactful gatherings, emphasizing the importance of continual conversations spread across regional quarters, intending to demonstrate and celebrate the integration of inclusivity as an essential aspect of everyday life."

Kumar Rajagopalan, CEO, Retailers Association of India (RAI) said, "We gather here today to embrace the power of inclusion, understanding that true success stems from diversity and collaboration. Just like the inspirational tale of 'Lagaan,' it exemplifies how unity among individuals with varied abilities and backgrounds can create a winning team. Let's recognize and celebrate the unique strengths within each of us, understanding that embracing diversity not only enriches us personally but also ensures success in our professional endeavors. Let's embark on this journey of discovery and learning, aiming to harness our strengths to truly practice inclusion in our daily lives."

Delivering the keynote address, Rekha Sharma, the Chairperson for the National Commission for Women, expressed, "I'm deeply moved by the profound discussions on gender equality, inclusion, and diversity. Each speaker eloquently emphasized these pivotal facets close to my heart. India's celebration of diversity, encapsulated in 'anekta mein ekta' and 'Vasudev Kutumbakam,' resonates deeply, echoing the essence of inclusivity." Rekha Sharma further added, "'Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas' encapsulates our collective journey towards inclusive growth. The retail industry mirrors these ideologies, empowering women especially during the pandemic when they embraced online retail, showcasing their resilience. We must integrate women into every sphere of life, ensuring economic empowerment to foster independent decision-making. The industry, government, and families must unite to alter mindsets, paving the way for a more inclusive future. I applaud the retail sector's efforts and extend my support to further this noble cause."

With the goal to collectively strive for a more inclusive society, the Summit endeavours to enhance awareness, facilitate learning, promote collaboration, and drive change by fostering open dialogues among thought leaders, policymakers, and stakeholders from the retail industry.

Delivering an address at the EKAM Summit, BS Nagesh, Founder TRRAIN, shared the genesis of TREAD and the pivotal role of inclusivity within the vast retail sector. He said, "From humble beginnings aiding 22 orthopedic retailers to impacting over 27,000 individuals today, our journey underscores the transformative might of inclusion. It's not just about doubling family incomes; it's about creating significant economic opportunities. Retail, uniquely positioned to uplift diverse communities, necessitates industry-wide participation in fostering inclusivity. It's a catalyst for enhanced productivity and reshaping societal norms. With immense gratitude to our supporters, I urge collective action to scale our efforts, aiming to positively impact a million lives. Together, we can achieve remarkable change through inclusion.""

Eminent speakers at the summit included leaders and experts such as Arman Ali, Executive Director, National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People; Leenika Khattar, Director - Diversity, Inclusion, & Belonging - Charter, NASSCOM; Damodar Mall, CEO - Grocery Retail, Reliance Retail Ltd.; N K Sharan, Senior VP, Tata Business Excellence Group, Tata Sons; Adhir Mane, CHRO - Corporate, Raymond Ltd; Alex Mathew, Senior VP, Talent & Culture, Landmark Group; Bidisha Banerjee, Group Senior VP Talent, Culture & Employer Branding, Welspun Group, Lisa Basumatari, Head - Talent Management, Hardcastle Restaurants (McDonalds India - South & West); Taruna Suhasini Lohmror, Coworker Experience Manager, IKEA India; Venkatesh Raja, CHRO, Shoppers Stop Ltd.; among other.

The Summit touched upon various aspects of diversity, equity, and inclusion, with discussion and insights around topics such as

- Culture Building Strategies for a Diverse and an Inclusive Workplace

- Paradigm Shift: Building Inclusivity from the Ground Up

- Unleashing the Potential of PwD in the Industry

- Women in Retail: Attracting, Retaining, and Inspiring Leadership

- Building Inclusive Culture: Challenges and Opportunities

- Accessible Retail: Designing Inclusive Spaces

Aradhana Lal, Senior VP - Sustainability & ESG, Lemon Tree Hotels Ltd. said, "At EKAM 2023, we discussed inclusive practices for individuals with disabilities, highlighting the importance of organizational readiness. Integrating persons with disabilities into your company is simple; the key is preparing the organization first through sensitization, tailored training, and ensuring roles suit their abilities. Our journey, spanning 16 years, has seen 14 to 15% inclusion from marginalized backgrounds, aiming for 30% by FY26. To those contemplating disability inclusion, I echo Nike's slogan: 'Just do it.'

Tejaswini Nigam, GM - Visual Merchandising & Styling Head, Pepe Jeans India Ltd. said, "This session and this entire summit has been an eye opener because we need to really consciously think about inclusion of customers that are differently abled and make sure what best we can do for them. Now we will start at least having them in mind while we design the stores. I Let's start from somewhere."

Alex Mathew, Senior VP - Talent & Culture, Landmark Group said, "The EKAM summit has been an excellent eye-opener and also a good platform to exchange ideas, initiatives. It was also good to see representatives from the NASSCOM and the IT industry coming, different backgrounds, there are NGOs, so it was definitely a lot of learning for me. And also it gave us a platform to share what we do in our respective communities and organizations."

According to the ministry of social justice and empowerment, the last Census in 2011 noted 2.21% of the Indian population with disabilities. The Indian retail sector that ranks second in terms of employment after agriculture, continues to employ less than 1% of its workforce from the pool of people with disabilities, despite a doubling of this number in the past year.

RAI and TRRAIN jointly organized the 'EKAM Summit,' which was supported by Titan Company as Presenting Partners, among others.

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