INDIA ADDA – Perspectives On India

IBEF works with a network of stakeholders - domestic and international - to promote Brand India.



Dikshu C. Kukreja
Dikshu C. Kukreja
Mr. V. Raman Kumar
Mr. V. Raman Kumar
Ms. Chandra Ganjoo
Ms. Chandra Ganjoo
Sanjay Bhatia
Sanjay Bhatia
Aprameya Radhakrishna
Aprameya Radhakrishna
Colin Shah
Colin Shah
Shri P.R. Aqeel Ahmed
Shri P.R. Aqeel Ahmed
Dr. Vidya Yeravdekar
Dr. Vidya Yeravdekar
Alok Kirloskar
Alok Kirloskar
Pragati Khare
Pragati Khare
Devang Mody
Devang Mody
Vinay Kalantri
Vinay Kalantri

The Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I) Landscape in India

The Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I) Landscape in India

In a rapidly changing work environment, Indian firms are increasingly understanding that employee well-being is a crucial component of corporate success. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) activities are the most important social well-being initiatives offered by Indian organisations. The WTW’s Wellbeing Programmes India Survey, (run between October-November (2022-23)), covers responses from 210 employers from India. According to it, the number of organizations offering DEI initiatives is 71% for inclusion and diversity training, 71% for accessible office spaces, 71% for gender-neutral workplace communication, and 62% for inclusive benefits options. In the next three years, organisations are planning numerous initiatives to improve the well-being of employees across the four pillars - physical, emotional, financial, and social. The company implementing strategies include providing health risk assessments (89%), creating an organization-wide mental health strategy (86%), and providing financial well-being education (69%). Companies are already spreading coverage beyond the employee. Moreover, a rising number of businesses are now offering programmes under lifestyle risk management that target specific conditions. According to the survey, an increasing number of companies are now moving towards offering programmes under lifestyle risk management and target-specific conditions. They include programs to promote weight management programmes (32%), healthy sleep programmes (29%), cardiovascular disease management (26%), diabetes management (26%), and cancer management (25%).

The pandemic was a watershed event when firms began to shift away from simply benchmarking their employee perks and towards an inward-out approach. This begins with delving deeper into the relationship between employee behaviours and preferences. Progressive firms should prioritise listening to their employees, determining their needs and desires, understanding employee cohorts, and moving towards purposeful and relevant benefits. According to Aon India's 2022 National Wellbeing Survey, spending on wellbeing initiatives is increasing, with 81% of Indian enterprises indicating an increase in investment over 2021. Furthermore, 78% of Indian organisations stated that they intend to raise their spending for workplace wellness initiatives in 2023. In recent years, Indian anti-discrimination statutes such as the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 (RPD Act), Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019 ("TPPR Act"), and Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (Prevention and Control) Act, 2017 ("HIV Act") have been enacted in response to the global movement towards inclusion and diversity.

Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion


  • Diversity is the broad spectrum of differences among various people. Gender, age, disability, socioeconomic and cultural origins, sexual orientation, personal and professional experience, communication styles, and even personality are all characteristics of diversity. Leveraging different personnel's extensive repertoires of knowledge and experiences to generate better ideas and more sustainable solutions.
  • Fair treatment for everybody is referred to as equity. Acknowledging that not everyone starts from the same place. Eliminating disparities and barriers creates a level playing field for everybody. Equality indicates that each individual or group of individuals has access to the same resources or opportunities. However, equity recognises that everyone has distinct circumstances and provides the exact resources and opportunities required to achieve an equal outcome.
  • Inclusion is the degree to which individuals believe they, together with their various features, are welcomed. Make deliberate attempts to increase these feelings in every aspect of work.
  • The sense of belonging relates to the sensation of being cherished, respected, and a part of something larger. Encourage activities that foster belonging for diverse individuals to bring their real selves to work.

Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion in India

To achieve comprehensive well-being, businesses must first understand their employees' spheres of influence and then spread specialised benefit programmes to these influencers. According to WTW, 50% of firms include coverage for spouses, while 39% cover parents, under emotional well-being programmes. For example, it is reasonable to expect a spouse or partner to contribute to financial decisions, and it is critical to involve them in such education initiatives.

Covering families through financial well-being projects can also help close the gender wealth gap, which is still a major issue in India. According to WTW, programmes aimed at specific conditions are becoming more inclusive, with 35% of companies providing maternity management and 19% providing fertility support.

  • Women

    NASSCOM and Aon

In the World Economic Forum's (WEF) Global Gender Gap Index 2022, India ranks 135th out of 146 nations, after Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Nepal. While the push for DE&I is expanding, and both the commercial and public sectors have made concerted efforts in recent years to foster workplace diversity, women's labour force participation in India remains at 22.3%, compared to the global average of 47% in 2022.  With the Companies Act and SEBI mandating women's representation on Indian boards, NIFTY 500 companies have experienced a tripling of women's representation on Indian boards in the previous ten years (2012 onwards). In 2022, at least one female board member is present in 95% of NIFTY500 organisations. However, female chairpersons are found in less than 5% of corporations, and only 7% of executive directors are women (2022-23).

Source: Avtar and News Articles

  • People with Disabilities (PwD) Inclusion: Marginal Development


In 2022, organisations in India were attempting to increase employability rates among the PwD community; nevertheless, only roughly 11.3% (3.4 million out of 30 million) work in the organised sector, the unorganised sector, government-led programmes, or are self-employed.  In comparison to FY13, PwD onboarding by Nifty 50 businesses increased by 10.6% in FY22. However, people with disabilities account for less than 0.5% of total staff strength in organisations. While areas like service and technology are pioneering the intentional employment of PwDs, India still has a long way to go in terms of expanding representation and fostering an equitable and inclusive culture for PwDs.

  • LGBTQIA+ Inclusion

In 2019, India's first transgender judge was appointed, and the Indian government announced plans to include transgender individuals in the country's affirmative action programmes in 2020.   Along with the government, India is working to become more inclusive, with major corporations enacting policies that promote equality in treatment for all employees, regardless of sexual orientation or gender.  However, since homosexuality was decriminalised in India very recently (in 2018), LGBTQIA+ representation in India is still minimal, with much ground to be covered. It is estimated that homophobia caused a loss of US$ 30.8 billion (in 2012), or 1.7% of India's GDP and economy.

Changing Trends

  • Digitalization

Remote employment has made it simpler for people of all backgrounds to find jobs, but it also prevented certain communities from gaining access to the tools they need to succeed in the digital economy.

  • Globalization

With growing competition, organisations are looking for the greatest talent, regardless of location. This has opened opportunities for different individuals to work on a global scale.

  • External Social Factors

The shift in societal architecture, as well as an increase in the voices of diverse minority groups through movements all over the world (such as Me Too and the decriminalisation of LGBTQIA+), has underlined the necessity to drive DE&I activities in the workplace.

  • Reporting & Regulations

The rising emphasis on DE&I has resulted in governmental efforts that have resulted in legal laws governing the implementation and reporting of certain DE&I policies.

  • Post Covid Recovery

As diverse employees (including women, disabled employees, people of colour, etc) were the most impacted by the pandemic, flaws in organisations' DE&I policies were identified.

Understanding Cultural Sensitivities

  • Language Diversity

India has an incredible linguistic diversity, with a wide range of languages spoken throughout the country. Employers must recognise and embrace this language tapestry in order to promote an inclusive atmosphere. A genuine sense of inclusivity and belonging can be fostered by adopting small but significant actions like providing multilingual communication tools, translating key company documents, and encouraging employees to communicate in their preferred language.

  • Gender Sensitivities

Gender roles and expectations range across India's diverse cultural environment, thus employers must be aware of these variances and develop policies and practises that are inclusive of all genders. Implementing rules that promote diversity in leadership roles, providing comprehensive maternity and paternity benefits, and organising gender equality awareness initiatives can all contribute to a more inclusive workplace.

  • Religious Tolerance

India has a long history of religion. Employers can promote a religiously diverse atmosphere by providing flexible work hours during religious observances and avoiding scheduling key meetings or events on religious holidays. Promoting interfaith conversations and celebrations helps employees understand and respect one another more.

  • Caste Sensitivities

Caste is a sensitive topic firmly ingrained in Indian society and necessitates ongoing monitoring to ensure a workplace free of prejudice. Employers are responsible for guaranteeing equal treatment for all employees, regardless of caste. Promoting equality, fairness, and meritocracy in employment, promotions, and awards can help fight caste-based biases. It is crucial to provide a secure workplace where workers can openly express any concerns about caste discrimination, and prompt action must be taken to address such problems.

  • Regional Sensitivities

India's diversity extends beyond religion and language to include a plethora of regional cultures and traditions. Every location has its own distinct social practices, food, and customs. Employers must be sensitive to these regional differences and build an inclusive workplace environment that values and respects varied regional identities. Celebrating local festivals and encouraging staff to talk about their local heritage can promote inclusivity and a sense of pride.

Assessing Equity in India

Giving every employee the resources, they need to have access to opportunities is what equity in the workplace is all about. Equity acknowledges that everyone has unique requirements, experiences, and circumstances, and it addresses the disparity in opportunities available to them. For Gen Z and millennials, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE & I) are all critical factors. According to the People at Work 2022 report by ADP Research Institute, 85% of young workers aged 18 to 24 believe that there is a lack of diversity and inclusion policies in India, while 82% believe a gender wage gap exists and is unfair. While 62% of employees in India accept and value their company's gender pay equity policy. There is still a long way to go in encouraging accountability and awareness of the current condition of fairness inside organisations, even though organisations frequently perform periodic pay analyses. This is because there is still a lack of communication and transparency. Although 88% of organisations do periodic wage studies to determine pay equity disparities, only a handful of organisations communicate the data with their employees and stakeholders in a transparent manner (People at Work 2022). Organisations demonstrate a concentrated attempt to limit the influence of unconscious bias in performance management through a variety of ways. Moreover, ensuring fairness in recruiting is an important step towards forming diverse teams.

Programmes offered under inclusion and diversity

Inclusion efforts across Identity Groups in India

 It is encouraging to see organisations combine efforts that are promotion-focused (Allyships, employee resource groups (ERGs)), prevention-focused (unconscious bias training), response-focused (grievance redressal), and ensure a mix of initiatives that specifically target individuals (career sponsorship) and the organisation as a whole (ERGs/Networking).

  • Infrastructural support for inclusion of all genders and PwDs

Encouragement of female support and inclusion of the third gender. The high expense of retrofitting infrastructures and past exclusionary design have stymied progress towards building completely accessible workplaces for people with disabilities. For instance, restrooms that are gender-neutral and accessible to people with disabilities, feeding and pumping areas, ramps and routes that are separate for people with disabilities, transportation facilities, etc. According to WTW 2022, almost 33% of the companies had gender-neutral restrooms and 20% gave diversity scholarships in some Indian workplaces.

Organisations are becoming more innovative in their technology implementation for DE&I enablement. At various stages of the DE&I journey, a variety of technologies, including AI and the Internet of Things, are being implemented to improve inclusion, remove accessibility barriers, optimise performance, and for many other objectives.

  • Technology
    • Digital Inclusion

      According to NASSCOM and Aon, 71% of organisations are using AR/VR technologies for virtual training that address the needs of digital accessibility and offer fair resources.

    • Enabling Accessibility

      According to NASSCOM and Aon, 52% of organisations have made their workplaces more accessible through technology means, such as text-to-speech on the web.

    • Assistive Technologies

      To level the playing field for varied talents, 48% of organisations offer assistive technologies like automatic wheelchairs and hearing aids in 2022.

    • Other Technologies

      For the special needs of their diverse workforce, 23% of organisations are implementing technology like IoT, automated devices, preprogrammed tools, and applications in 2023.

  • Inclusive leave policy offerings

 Leading organisations are introducing gender-neutral leave policies to make leave policies more inclusive, debunking the social notion that childcare is only for women. While primary carer leave remains at 26 weeks, secondary carer leave is gaining traction, with a few top organisations offering 12 weeks of leave to secondary carers, however the average remains at 2 weeks. To respect various family arrangements, a few notable organisations also offer equal leave for adoption, surrogacy, and childbirth.


  • Programs Fostering Intergenerational DE&I

Organisations must prioritise tangible practises that promote intergenerational collaboration, such as guaranteeing age diversity in project teams and implementing different communication methods and feedback channels for different age groups. While the involuntary retirement age for more than half of organisations is between 55 and 60 years old. However, if an employee wants to stay after retirement, many of them are pleased to offer contractually extended employment chances.

Road Ahead

Cultural sensitivity and DE&I are essential for a progressive Indian workplace. Employers must actively recognise and value the country's enormous cultural diversity to foster an inclusive and harmonious atmosphere. Employers may leverage the power of diversity by embracing cultural sensitivities and creating a vibrant workplace where employees feel appreciated, respected, and inspired. Promoting cultural sensitivity and DE&I necessitates constant work, education, and open communication.

To have a long-lasting impact, organisations must identify and lead DE&I actions that remove structural constraints. As a result, DE&I efforts are no longer a "nice to have," but a "must-have" component for attracting and retaining talent, strengthening relationships with customers and stakeholders, and achieving long-term success. Organisations are searching for a data-driven strategy to establish their DE&I goals, priorities, and roadmap to elevate their efforts towards a more diverse, inclusive, and fair workplace.