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Women in manufacturing are seen as oddities, out of place in what is considered a man’s job. Here is a look at 7 such Indian women who began their career on the shop floor.
As with several other industries, working in the manufacturing industry has been stereotyped to be (typically) a man’s job and not a woman’s. This trend is not only seen in India but around the world as well. Most women would not consider a career in manufacturing and would rather opt for careers in IT, Finance, HR and so on.
Most women feel that manufacturing is a labour intensive job and has drawbacks in terms of flexibility with concepts of flexi time/work from home not being possible. However, the list that follows below shows that these women started small but have now worked their way to the top. Some of these inspiring women in manufacturing are:-
After graduating with a B.Sc from Bangalore University, she decided to train to be a brewmaster and went to Australia to do this. She started work in Australia and when she returned to India and looked for a job as a ‘master brewer’. She was told that the chances of her being hired in India were slim as it wasn’t really a woman’s job.
As luck would have it, she met the founder of Biocon Biochemicals Limited, Ireland who was looking for an Indian entrepreneur to help him set up the Indian subsidiary of this company.
Kiran started Biocon India in 1978 in her garage. The rest is history. She faced several problems but rose above them all and is now considered to be one of the most powerful women in the world.
Meher Pudumjee is the Chairperson of Thermax. Although this is a family run business, Meher started at the bottom of the ladder joining as a trainee along with hundreds of other trainees. A year later she left to manage the UK subsidiary of the company. After her father passed away she was appointed Director and later in 2004 became the Chairperson.
She has been responsible for making the company what it is today and has herself been the recipient of awards like the Financial Express’ Women in Business Young Achiever Award ( in 2006).
Mallika Srinivasan is the CEO and Chairperson of Tractors and Farm Equipment Limited (TAFE). Armed with an MA in Econometrics, she went on to do an MBA before joining the family business.
She took on the responsibility of improving the turnover of the business. Under her able guidance, TAFE has today carved a niche for itself as a leading tractor manufacturer and also expanded into other fields like farm implements, engineering plastics, and hydraulic pumps and so on.
Vinita Bali is the former Managing Director of Britannia Industries Limited. Her story is different as she was keen to join the Foreign Services but got a job at Voltas before she could do so. She is responsible for launching the soft drink ‘Rasna’ and success stayed at her heels for many years after this. She went on to join other companies such as Cadbury and Coca-Cola before taking up the position of CEO at Britannia.
She has been awarded the ‘Business Woman of the Year’, won a Corporate Social Responsibility Award and in 2011 Forbes put her on the list of ‘Asia’s 50 Power Businesswomen’.
Nishi Vasudeva is the Chairman and Managing Director of Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL). She started her career in the Oil Industry with Engineers India Ltd. Nishi made history when she was selected to head HPCL as she was the first women to be chosen to head an Indian state owned Oil Company.
Lila Poonawalla was the first Indian woman to secure a degree in Mechanical Engineering and started work as an apprentice at Ruston and Hornsby. She later moved as a trainee engineer to Alfa Laval.
Within a period of two decades during which she held various positions in Alfa Laval she was appointed Chairperson and once again set a record in terms of becoming one of the first women CEO’s in India. She eventually retired as CEO of TetraPak’s operations in India.
Sudha Murthy is a well known writer and Indian Social Worker today. However, she started her career in the TATA Engineering and Locomotive Company (TELCO) and was the first female engineer to be hired by the company.
The story behind her getting this job is an interesting one. The advertisement for the job stated “lady candidates need not apply.” She was upset when she read this and sent a postcard to the Chairman of TELCO complaining of gender discrimination. She was called for an interview and subsequently hired.
These are just a few examples of women who started their careers in manufacturing and rose to great heights. Bear in mind that they chose to do so when this was not a popular career option. Over the last few years however, many Indian companies have realized the importance and significance of women in this field as well and are taking initiatives to motivate and encourage more women to take up a career in this line. For instance, some companies organize industrial visits for schools and colleges to provide more information about this so as to give them a wider view of the industry.
There is change being brought about at the shop floor level too. Companies strive to make this very basic level of entry more women oriented, friendly and less strenuous by automating the shop floors. It is encouraging to note that Kinetic Communications which make auto electronic parts has all women employees on this floor. Kinetic Taigene boasts of 40% of women employees who are on the shop floor. Other companies who also boast of women on the shop floor include Bajaj Auto, Maruti Suzuki as well as the Chennai factory of Renault Nissan.
Perhaps the most inspiring of these stories is the all women plant set up by Kirloskar in Tamil Nadu. This Kirloskar pump manufacturing facility is located in Coimbatore and all the manufacturing is done by women over here. It is commendable that a group of 65 women (in the age bracket of 19-30) who run the shop floor produce close to half a million pumps a year. This plant was set up in 2011 as an experiment to see how women would perform on the shop floor. The results speak for themselves.
We still have a long way to go before we find many more women jumping onto the manufacturing bandwagon. However, these women in manufacturing have proved to us that this is a field worth exploring and that once you start – the sky’s the limit.
What do you think about it? Would you opt for a career in manufacturing? Do write in and let us know.
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Kiran Mazumdar Shaw – wikicommons, Meher Pudumjee – business today, Mallika Srinivasan – wikicommons, Vinita Bali – alchetron, Nishi Vasudeva – business today, Lila Poonawalla – Lila Poonawalla Foundation, Sudha Murthy – alchetron.
Melanie Lobo is a freelance writer. She grew up in cities across India but now
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