The wonder women of the CV industry continue to make their presence felt with exemplary commitment and will to deliver against the odds. Our own, Deepti Thore looks at their growing stature across the board.

Breaking all stereotypes, women today no longer just occupy desk jobs. They are capable of managing jobs equivalent to their male counterparts, be it a desk or a backoffice job, manager level job or a heavy-duty labor job. According to Neeru Ahuja, Chairperson, CII Core Group on BEPS Partner, Deloitte, “A senior once told me : a good person is like vine – nobody can stop it from growing! In my 30 odd years of experience, I have learnt that the key to success is doing what you enjoy the most. Be ambitious for yourself- the sky is the limit – and never be afraid of hard work. Talk about the work you are doing, take ownership and initiative to out forward your ideas. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to communicate!”

While congratulating women in the industry, Neeraj Kanwar, Vice Chairman & Managing Director of Apollo Tyres on Twitter said, “In the celebration of this years Womens day, we want to put a spolight on the extraordinary women who have broken down barriers within our communities.” He shared the stories of such strong women in the organisation. While working in the automotive industry was earlier considered to be ‘no women land’ in India and globally, the statistics is slowly estimated to change. According to a McKinsey Global Institute report, currently only 25 per cent of India’s labour force is female.” The same situation exists in the automobile industry as well. Gender diversity has certainly improved over the years, right from the blue collars to white collars, but the gap remains quite substantial and needs to be filled. Many OEMs, logistics companies, fleet owners, tyre service providers among others from the commercial vehicle segment are looking at changing this picture as it provides much more opportunities to the organisations. These include the likes of Tata Motors, Ashok Leyland, OLA, V-Trans and Schwing Stetter.

Women clearly bring a lot of value on several parameters including a great eye for quality and detail orientation, skilled to work on shop floors, bring discipline to the workplace and take key decisions. Speaking about women empowerment, Charlene Ede, Head of Corporate Communications, Daimler India Commercial Vehicles (DICV) stated, “Having a diverse workforce brings in new perspectives that can spark creativity and innovation.” “It also encourages and fosters a culture of confidence that improves discipline, quality, and output among the existing workforce, ” she added further. “Women are naturally better managers, people-oriented and good at multitasking, which puts them at a preferred place for some of the corporate functions,” opined Jitesh Gautam, Head Marketing, V-Trans.

Adopting Diversity

Addressing the need for a diverse workforce, Amanpreet Singh, President – HR, Ashok Leyland commented, “Manufacturing has traditionally been a male-dominated industry—less than one-third of the employees at manufacturing units are women. However, the industry needs to change and the future depends on a diverse workforce.” He opined that to compete in a dynamic environment like what it is today, we need a much broader and larger pool of thought, for which gender diversity is very important. The industry needs to acknowledge the change and create an atmosphere to nurture diversity. It will not only help create opportunities but will also bring forth the key skill sets and perspectives that women bring to the workplace. Company like Omega Seiki Mobility are working towards gender equality with a sustainable future. The company aims to have a 25 per cent women workforce by FY2024.

Acknowledging the efforts put in by women taking the tough roles and driving them successfully at V-Trans, Jitesh said, “Operations, traffic department, or managing branch operation, are the roles that are perceived to be tough and to be handled by men in the transport industry. We have skilled and talented women successfully handling these roles.” “We at Daimler India Commercial Vehicles (DICV) firmly believe in the power of Diversity and its importance to the long-term success of an organisation,” stated Charlene while highlighting the importance of adopting diversity. “At DICV, we’re promoting inclusivity by welcoming women to our factory with a supportive, professional working environment, ” added Satyakam Arya, Managing Director and CEO, DICV.

Embracing diversity and inclusion at all levels as a strategy to succeed, Tata Motors has  employed women across the organisational hierarchy, from the company board to the grassroots level. “Tata Motors is honoured to have the best women workforce who have been excelling themselves daily at every stage, right from design, engineering, quality checks to paint-shops and more,” mentioned a spokesperson from Tata Motors. With the world transitioning towards digitisation, electric, connected and autonomous future, the commercial vehicle industry is looking at recruiting and encouraging talented women which have a lot to offer in the field. While the change is slowly seeping in the industry, it was quite challenging to penetrate the male dominance in the field of core production, primary functions and the ability of nurturing, building and leading strong teams. Companies have launched many initiatives to support this change. 

Initiatives to promote women 

Addressing the issue of women representation in the manufacturing sector, DICV launched the ‘DiveIN’ (Diversity & Inclusive) initiative in 2021. One of the most important goals of the DiveIN initiative is to create a gender-balanced staff base by increasing the ratio of female factory employees (blue collars) to 20 percent by 2022. The DiveIN initiative aims to ‘Inspire complete diversity both in terms of roles and engagement, thereby enhancing organisational culture’. It has already hired 46 women for core shop floor operations in the first stage of ‘DiveIn’ initiative. It involves key function areas on the shop floor including Engine & Transmission, Cab Trim, Quality Management, Cabin-in-White and Paint Shop. Suitable infrastructure and services like POSH (Prevention Of Sexual Harassment) committee have been put in place to support the women work force at DICV. 

To ensure fair representation of gender at all levels and not just to fill the quota, Ashok Leyland has been recruiting a talented women workforce. “Our women employees take up various roles including the shop floor and we train them accordingly, further to these initiatives such as the Women Leadership Program which helps in developing them to take on leadership roles in the future,” explained Singh. He added, “We try to provide multiple opportunities for women to pursue their passion while building a career of choice. It encourages us to see that we have been able to get around 30-40 per cent of women for our Graduate Engineer Trainee (GET) Program.” With the ongoing technological evolution driving Industry 4.0, it is expected that women representation in manufacturing companies will continue to grow. “For us, it is about ensuring that our organisation is a place that is women-friendly and caring to all who wish to pursue their career here,” Singh remarked.

As a part of the women empowerment initiative, Schwing Stetter India has employed women on its shopfloor at its recently established global manufacturing factory at Cheyyar in Tamil Nadu. Women currently occupy almost 25 per cent of its shopfloor staff. Commenting on the employment of women as workforce on the shop floor, Sakthikumar said, “Sometimes I feel the women are better than their counterparts and there are some who got qualified within a few months to do complex welding as well, which otherwise takes a lot of time for a normal person to get qualified.” “Overall shopfloor morale is also very high because of them,” he added. The company has also been engaged in training students coming from a background where they cannot afford an engineering degree for themselves. Schwing Stetter is helping them pursue their higher education. 

Bringing gender diversity to the forefront, Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd.(M&M) launched the Women Leaders Programme to hire women at leadership levels. Be it a shopfloor for Auto & Farm segment or fork-lift operation at Mahindra Logistics, women are at the top of their game. As a part of its ‘pink collar’ initiative, M&M promoted the employment of women in core productive roles across segments and automotive shop floors. It inaugurated an all women run automobile service workshop in Jaipur. The ride-hailing service provider, OLA, on the other hand, is looking at employing around 10,000 women at full capacity for its future factory in Tamilnadu to manufacture e-scooters.

To support women empowerment, Tata Motors created a brigade of ‘Women in Blue’ by enrolling, educating and skilling girls from economically deprived areas. The initiative enabled them to play their part in building world-class vehicles. The initiative began with the induction of five girls in the assembly line on the shop floor at the Pune plant and further expanded to more than four percent of women occupying the total shop floor workforce. These women now work on different lines and functions on various products, ranging from small passenger cars to large commercial vehicles. ETO motors has also launched ‘Own your ETO’ scheme to support women drivers in Hyderabad. Under this scheme, women with a licence can drive the ETO Motors’ electric three-wheelers from metro stations to passengers’ destinations. ETO has also deployed around 50 pink e-rickshaws at Kevadia in Gujarat which are being operated by women drivers. Tractors and Farm Equipment Limited (TAFE) also has women in its R&D, supply chain, parts, service and marketing teams besides other departments. Through JRehab near Alampatti, Madurai, it is employing orthopedically challenged women to make wiring harnesses, fender harnesses, battery cables, trailer sockets and toolkit bags for TAFE’s tractors.


(Clockwise : Mahua Acharya, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Convergence Energy Services Limited of Government of India, Manjari Mungekar, Branch Operations, V-Trans Corporate office, Rashmi Urdhwareshe, a former director of the Automotive Research Association India (ARAI), Suman Mishra, CEO of Mahindra Electric, Manisha Bavkar, the Regional Operations Manager at V-Trans, Charlene Ede, Head of Corporate Communications, DICV, Bharati Khot Operations, V-Trans, Arpita Sawant, Cluster Manager at V-Trans (Centre: Inland World Logistics Director, Anu Praveen Somani)

At V-Trans, women have been heading the operations seamlessly. Manisha Bavkar, the Regional Operations Manager at V-Trans, manages the operations for the region and coordinates with fleet owners, fleet brokers for vehicle placements, and even supports tasks such as route and load optimisation. Similarly, Arpita Sawant, Cluster Manager at V-Trans deals with all clients, handling their objections, complaints, and criticalities at all levels. While also handling the pressure situation when the manufacturing is on hold due to delayed cargo, she also handles the team of labourers and vehicle placement staff. Likewise for supporting the vast operations of the V-Trans at the Pan India level, Bharati Khot coordinates for all operations work, and Manjari Mungekar, who is in charge of Branch Operations work at our corporate office. 

Mahua Acharya, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Convergence Energy Services Limited of Government of India, is fiercely driving green transportation in India. Rashmi Urdhwareshe, a former director of the Automotive Research Association India (ARAI) has also proved her mettle and has been working with several government bodies in EV-related policies. Suman Mishra, the new CEO of Mahindra Electric has already been acknowledged for playing a key role for Mahindra Group in shaping and implementing strategies across the automotive, agricultural, hospitality, real estate, and electric vehicles businesses. Last year, Inland World Logistics Director, Anu Praveen Somani bagged the award of Best Business Woman of the Year – Logistics 2021. Inclusion of women workforce has not only contributed significantly to improving the culture at the shop floor and top management but it has also helped the companies to add sustained value to their operations. Additionally, India is soon to expect waves of female-led startups including the likes of Rivigo, Cellerite Systems and Nexus Power. While a lot needs to be done yet, adopting gender diversity and empowering women across segments would offer competitive advantage and revolutionise the automotive sphere as we know it in years to come.


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