Leveraging Technology To Enable Worker Voice


Improving Work Environment


Bengaluru, India


40 factories, over 50,000 garment workers


University of Michigan, Shahi Exports, Humanity United








The majority of frontline operators in a garment factory are women. The majority of their supervisors are men. This disparity, coupled with conservative social norms and intense production pressure, manifests in the form of shouting, abuse, and harassment on the factory floor, which often goes unreported.


How can workers report their grievances and suggestions in a safe and trusted way? Does a particular medium of communication work better than another? How can we get buy-in from all stakeholders on the factory floor?

Scoping / Background Research

Considering the need for a worker voice tool in their factories and factoring in the high subscription costs of external tools, our industry partner, Shahi Exports asked us to develop one from the ground up. Based on our learnings from the Minimum Wages and WOVO evaluation, our approach was to understand the context and design a product or service accordingly to generate buy-in from factory managers and reduce costs. The idea has been to create a homegrown tool with inputs from stakeholders on the ground. So, what were the contexts that we looked at?

The macro environment - Shahi’s organizational structure.

We mapped all the stakeholders a worker interacts with. Our exercise was to capture “her universe” which includes supervisors, doctors, security guards, hostel wardens, and management staff, and her relationship (positive, negative, or neutral) with each. We also looked at the existing mechanisms a worker has access to, to report grievances or suggestions or even ask questions at work.

Further, for the first time for a project at GBL, we dug deeper into the micro environment using qualitative research methods. This included analyzing a day in a worker’s life - their highs and lows - through in-depth interviews, understanding how they feel through empathy maps, and observing how they respond to stressful situations.

Scale up

Combining our learnings from previous projects and from the design thinking phase of this one, we developed ‘Inache.’ Inache is a low technology solution created in response to the lack of an effective, transparent, and trusted medium of communication for workers. It is a two-way anonymous communication platform for workers to speak up and managers to listen and help. Workers can send a text or voice message about their grievances, suggestions, or questions. The mobile numbers of workers are masked and the messages go to a central dashboard, and there onwards to a designated factory staff. The calling facility is a key differentiator, owing to comfort and low literacy among workers. Further, unlike other tools, Inache dashboard takes into consideration the existing information flows and responsibilities of factory staff. For example, someone who already deals with canteen related complaints becomes the case troubleshooter for similar grievances. The factory personnel who know the key staff members and roles take up the job of assigning cases to troubleshooters depending upon the nature of the complaint. The journey of this complaint is logged onto a system which increases accountability, speed, and transparency. This, coupled with worker training to instill trust and recognition-based incentives for factory managers, was tested via a randomized controlled trial spanning 40 garment factories covering 80000 workers. We found that there was a 12.65% drop in absenteeism and 4% increase in productivity. Our goal is to see what works and what doesn’t in order to fine tune the tool and eventually scale the most optimized version.

Visit the GBL Ventures Website to know more about Inache.