There is a significant and visible shift in people’s mindsets in the automobile industry. Companies are breaking stereotypes and challenging the status quo. Bajaj auto is one such firm. Six years ago, Bajaj Auto had very few women in its workforce, especially at the plants and in the engineering department. In fact, the male-dominated automobile industry has always underutilised women. It was only around 2014 that the Company realised the urgency to address this issue. With the time being right to turn around the narrative, the Company decided to gain competitive edge in the talent marketplace.
The responsibility to achieve this was shouldered by the leadership team at Bajaj Auto. They are the reason that the core of diversity efforts at Bajaj Auto revolved around increasing gender diversity.
Back in 2014, the women employee strength at Bajaj Auto was just 148. Now, with constant efforts to improve the figure, the number of women has grown four times within half a decade! In the financial year 2021, the strength of women employees stands at a significant 654, out of which, 535 are working in the manufacturing plants and the engineering department! A truly commendable achievement.
“We visit around 1000 colleges all across India, including women-only colleges. These diploma trainees join our assembly lines at various plants. We plan to ramp up this number for next year’s hiring process in order to induct more women trainees”
Vamshi Mohan, VP-HR, Bajaj Auto
Of course, various drives have helped the Company achieve this milestone. The senior leaders demonstrated ongoing support and commitment to diversity and inclusion through various channels, but one of the key drivers was the all-women assembly lines, which were formed at the Chakan plant.
Women employees at Bajaj Auto make high-end motorcycles, such as Dominar and KTMs and the Chetak electric scooter. They are now doing jobs that were earlier considered as ‘men only’ activities, such as dynamic testing of bikes on dynamometers, without compromising on the quality and precision of work. As per the Company, women workers can be as efficient and productive as men at the shop floor.
“Bajaj Auto aims to foster a culture where individuals are recognised and celebrated for their capabilities, skills and dynamic ideas,” shares Vamshi Mohan, VP-HR, Bajaj Auto.
The Company looks for diploma trainees for the shop floor, and visits about 1000 campuses in India to acquire quality talent. “We visit around 1000 colleges all across India, including women-only colleges. These diploma trainees join our assembly lines at various plants. We plan to ramp up this number for next year’s hiring process in order to induct more women trainees,” shares Mohan.
Candidates can address their queries directly with the HR hiring team through a virtual networking platform. Moreover, affinity groups are created with existing Bajaj Auto employees so that the new entrants can get the necessary support in terms of housing, transportation and so on.
To prepare and familiarise the assembly line workers, the Company conducts a five-day induction process for all trainees joining the assembly line. In addition, other training modules are also provided, such as code of conduct, POSH training, campus to corporate, soft skills modules, TPM modules, as well as hands-on product training.
At the assembly lines, the Company hires women with qualifications, such as diploma in mechanical engineering, automobile engineering, production engineering, mechatronics, electrical & electronics – EEE, electrical & telecommunication, tool & die making, foundry technology, paint technology, civil engineering, and so on.
The traditional mindset does not consider women capable of carrying out heavy work, such as lifting of hefty parts and so on, at the shop floor. However, technology comes with its advantages. The Company has started using collaborative robots (co-bots) in assembly lines to provide a supportive environment for women employees. Such co-bots help to automate unergonomic tasks, such as moving heavy parts, or machine feeding in assembly operations. ‘Every day we aim towards building a better and technologically superior future. Today, we have more than 100 robots driving our position to the world’s third largest motorcycle manufacturer,” asserts Mohan.
“It has been seven years since I joined Bajaj Auto, and this journey has made a positive impact on me, both personally and professionally. A memorable moment at work was when I was recognised as the Kaizen Champion. What drives me at work is the passion for my profession and the satisfaction that I get out of it, day in and day out. I have a great team that believes in open communication and supports me thoroughly. Working on the launch of new models, participating in TPM activities, and getting to the root cause of any defect are activities that I look forward to. I have learned a lot from my parents and have seen the struggles they have gone through. Therefore, I have made myself capable of dealing with the ups and downs in life without the fear of failure,” says Sneha Shelar, line engineer at the Chakan plant’s Quality Assurance Division, sharing her experience with the company.
The ‘all-women assembly lines’ initiative has proved to be a great tool for the Company to increase the number of women at the shop floor. However, true inclusivity only comes when men and women work together in harmony. As per the Company, apart from all-women assembly lines, Bajaj always had both men and women working together at other plants and locations. “Proper safety, security, and health facilities are provided to our women employees. Mandatory POSH, code of conduct, and defence workshops are conducted. Moreover, sanitary pad dispensers are installed in all the women’s restrooms,” confirms Mohan.
Apart from Bajaj Auto, other big players in the automobile sector, such as Tata Motors, M&M, TVS Motors, Hero and MG Motors have also taken steps to increase the number of women employees at their shop floors. These companies have realised that gender has nothing to do with a person’s capabilities; potential and skills are all that matter.