Vidya Nambirajan, CEO, Paramount Auto Bay Services, and Founder, Nambirajan Foundation Automobile Academy, Hyderabad is one among the few women in India who run a garage. In a tête-à-tête with Mahesh Kallayil of KARREP, she talks about her experience as a women entrepreneur in the automotive repair industry.
What led you to the automotive industry?
All I can say is I got into the automobile industry by default! Today, I really don’t know when and how I fell in love with Paramount Auto Bay Services (PABS). My father started Paramount after he retired from ECIL electronics engineer basically his passion for automobiles gave birth to paramount. He fell ill so I had to take over the business in 2001.
What has your experience as a woman in the automotive repair industry been like?
It has been a rollercoaster ride; it was certainly very enriching and not only technically also humbled me in many ways. A sick woman and lame horse ought to be shot dead is a famous saying of a British this had a solid impact on me as a child. This taught me not to complain or give excuses for a task unfinished whichever industry I am in initially, it was very difficult, sometimes very humiliating, and often commented on my looks on my necklines and whatnot. They assumed because I am a woman I have Zero knowledge and often was ridiculed be it customer-mechanic or the retailer-distributor (of spare parts).
As a female entrepreneur in the male-dominant industry, what were some of the biggest challenges and lessons learned thus far?
Typically, a male who never trust women that they could do technical work, I was always under the microscope. I was questioned from all angles before I take up work had it been my male technician he would immediately give approval for work, not me I was questioned 100 times to that extent they would ask about the metal and tensile strength, etc I will thank all those who said no to me as I am what I am today because of them.
Why is female representation in the automotive repair sector so sparse? And what can automotive companies like Paramount Auto Bay do about it?
This profession never had dignity and always considered low status even men as a mechanic never were respected so obviously women never ever got the respect that she was due, and family never encouraged them definitely security of women folk was a big concern so I convinced my boys to get their wife, sister or mother to join this business. There is a change in behavior pattern the body language and usage of abusive words is less while a girl works in a garage.
What are the common problems and reasons why women aren’t interested to enter the automotive industry?
- Family permission
- No dignity
- No exclusive washroom in a garage
- Lastly physical strength
- Employer’s point of view he is wary of appointing women for the following reasons
- Her priority is her family husband and children
- Maternity leave
- Cannot work late at night
- Lack of family support lot of compulsions from family
- Companies would have invested in her by training and etc by the time she is ready to give 100% to the company she announces her wedding and quit after marriage
How important is the HSE in the automotive sector? In your opinion, what general health and safety measures are to be observed in a mechanical shop and body shop?
HSE is an integral part of the automotive industry and we follow safety standards as per international standards like wearing a helmet while working under a 2-post lift using gloves for clutch work as protection from glass wool and wearing safety glasses while welding etc.
We follow the 5S methodology to maintain safety and avoid common accidents in our workplace. 5S stands for five steps:-
- Sort: Eliminate clutter and clear up space by removing things that don’t belong in the area.
- Set in Order: Organize the work area. Each item should be easy to find, use and return.
- Shine: Clean and inspect each area regularly.
- Standardize: Ensure that the first three steps are followed in other areas.
- Sustain: Assign responsibility, track progress, and continue the cycle.
Please tell us about Nambirajan Foundation?
Nambirajan Foundation is a daughter’s tribute to a father by making his vision into reality. Nambirajan Foundation strives to achieve the motto “where Skill meets Service” in the automobile profession. The Foundation focuses on serving the community by training underprivileged youth and women in the areas of autombile repair and service by creating a unique training program that bridges the gap between classroom training with real-time workshop experience. The Foundation not only trains the students but also assists them in placement opportunities around the globe.
My father always believed that ‘Educate one woman the entire family is educated’. And towards that endeavor, this is a small contribution from us to support our nation to overcome unemployment especially the youth and women who are underprivileged.
What would you say to the girls who are looking to get into the industry?
Men and women are made different so all we can compete with men are on an intellectual platform. Let’s respect this fact and create our own identity. And it is imperative we have our identity because we are always shadowed by father or a husband surname.
I think surname is the platform we get to showcase our skills, be it daily chores etc. Don’t ever think our identity is lost by a surname. We can always add value to it.
Women are born multitasker and I think they make better bosses as they are very empathetic. So, they excel as a team leader as she knows how to maintain the fabric of the family and their team at the office.
Many a time women don’t realise their strength they can handle any task with ease. They are very productive as they are process-oriented be it cooking or housekeeping or mothering a child.
Since they are very sensitive to one mistake, they know what not to do next. Most women are very critical, so they are good at quality check.
I would like to end it by saying women are born multitaskers very process-oriented end up being productive.
“Duniya se alag nahi hai hum but hamere duniya alag hai “
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