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








Majority of frontline operators in a garment factory are women. Majority of their supervisors are men. This 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

Our industry partner, Shahi, considering the need for a voice tool in their factories but also factoring in the high subscription costs of external tools, asked us to to develop a worker voice tool 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. This was our exercise 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 using qualitative research methods into the micro environment. This included analyzing a day in a worker’s life - their highs and lows - in depth interviews, understanding how they feel through empathy maps, and how they respond to stressful situations.

Scale up

Thus, combining our learnings from previous projects and design thinking phase, we developed ‘Inache.’ Inache is a low technology solution responding to a lack of an effective, transparent, and trusted medium of communication for workers. It is a two-way communication platform for workers to speak up and managers to listen and help.Workers can send a text or call about their grievances, suggestions, or questions, which go to a central dashboard, onwards to designated factory staff. The calling facility is a key differentiator owing to comfort and low literacy among workers. Further, unlike other tools, the links for the dashboard were thought of as a result of our information flow diagram that outlined and leveraged existing responsibilities of factory staff. For example, someone who already deals with canteen related complaints becomes the case troubleshooter for that category. The factory personnel who know the key staff members and roles take up the job of assigning cases to other such case 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 trainings to instill trust and recognition based incentives for factory managers is now being tested via randomized controlled trial spanning 40 garment factories. Our goal is to see what works, what doesn’t - fine tune the tool and eventually scale the most optimized version.

Ann Arbor
701 Tappan Ave,
Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109, United States
Bengaluru Corporate Office
Bellandur Gate, Sarjapur Main Road
Bengaluru, Karnataka 560102,
Delhi NCR Corporate Office
F-88, Okhla Industrial Area Phase-1
New Delhi, Delhi 110023,
University EAFIT
Medellin, Colombia