Interweave is a consulting organisation focussed exclusively on providing inclusion solutions for companies. Their services include workshops and training sessions on understanding the business need for Diversity & Inclusion, supporting organisations with policy articulation and implementation, and basic support in appreciating gender inclusion and sensitivity. “A large part of our work covers training to develop women leaders internally, as well as building awareness of the unique challenges of working women – this includes building and sustaining safe and harassment-free workplaces, education on gender intelligence and competence, working in mixed gender groups, etc.,” says Founder & CEO, Nirmala Menon. Interweave also helps organisations with inclusion audits and consulting services to make recommendations and support initiatives to address various pain points.
The idea for Interweave came directly from Nirmala’s experience with IBM where she was part of the global management development team that focussed specifically on Diversity and multi-cultural inclusion. Having worked with IBM for five years in several countries around the world on this initiative, she was the Diversity and Employee Relations Lead for IBM in India when she quit in 2005. In 2006, she had the idea of pioneering work in this space on a larger scale in India. Ironically, IBM was her first client and Interweave has gone on to work with several other Fortune 500 companies over the last few years.
Interweave began as a proprietorship – a one-woman army actively crusading for a culture change well before D&I was a subject of conversation at business meetings in India. “Challenging work and the thrill of creating niche offerings and the excitement of being pioneers in the space were what kept us going for a good part of the initial three years. We registered as a Private Ltd. company in late 2007 with two employees and have since grown to be a team of 10 across Bangalore, Gurgaon, and Mumbai,” says Nirmala. Later, Kalpana Tatavarti joined in as a Partner. Kalpana has been in the area of leadership training and coaching for the last several years and her experience has developed the heads the Women’s Development vertical at IW. Apart from this, IW’s leadership team receives advisory support from Prashant Shankaran.
IW’s USP is providing practical solutions which are local in context, but which also incorporate the best in class practices internationally. “We collaborate and participate in international forums and industry bodies like NASSCOM, CII, SHRM, and Community Business, including being a part of the informal international advisory group of UN Global Compact and UN Women, which came up with the Women’s Empowerment Principles in 2010. All of these help bring some of the most current thinking and ideas to our work in India,” says Nirmala.
D&I is a nascent and evolving market in India and Interweave has evolved with the market needs. “We have been fortunate to work with large MNCs across domains such as IT, ITES, banks, FMC, manufacturing, etc. These firms are committed to building an inclusive culture. However, as the business need for an inclusive culture is getting more and more established, SMEs are also beginning to watch the space. In our experience too, the number of queries and the nature of queries tell us the market is evolving fast. Moving from creating awareness around specific diversity gap groups, organisations are now looking at harnessing the collective intelligence and work with geographically dispersed offices and virtual teams and creating an organisational culture stronger than individual local culture,” says Nirmala.
IW works on different revenue models with different customers depending on the type of solution and the scope; it can vary from fixed-price total solution model to a specific per-day engagement model to annual licensing model or even outright sale of some of our e-learning modules. They also help to build internal capability and enable continued and sustained efforts internally after they have initiated the process.
Having started in a niche area which was new and seen as a “nice to do” thing for large organisations, establishing the
business imperative for initiatives in this area and building the market appreciation for our work was Interweave’s first task. "Most organisations are often very unclear on how to begin, measure, and sustain D&I initiatives. They want to see the ROI on the investment. D&I work is unique in that it is a culture change exercise and success is unlikely to show up in the short term. The challenge to keep organisations invested in continuing the work is sometimes a difficult task especially where the leadership has not bought into the subject. There is a need to invest in an organisation’s ability to learn, adapt, and harness the collective intelligence of its entire workforce. Convincing organisations of this, is a challenge sometimes. However, with more and more organisations making a start, the business case will establish itself for all to see," says Nirmala. The other challenge for any consulting organisation, is quality personnel. This is particularly so with the D&I space, as this is new area, few people have built domain knowledge and understanding in this space.
"We want to establish Interweave as the premier solution provider in the D&I space in India. We also plan to do much more focussed work around women’s leadership development/empowerment. We have initiated geographical expansion to other cities in India and are look at regional expansion in the next phase," concludes Nirmala, looking at the way ahead.
More on Interweave, here.