Engineering industry need not be a man's forte: R. Rajalakshmi | SupportBiz

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Engineering industry need not be a man's forte: R. Rajalakshmi

What would you think of when you consider India’s grand old manufacturing sector? Nothing but an old-school, male-dominated Industry? Well, you wouldn’t be alone in that line of thought. The gender disparity in the workforce is beyond a critical limit and it’s quite visible in the deplorable national average of 9.8 per cent of women involvement in the manufacturing sector.

Outdated and often wrong perceptions about this industry seem to be the factor that actually stops women from venturing into it. Looking beyond the orthodoxy and finding that endless path of opportunities, a group of women from Bangalore came up with an imitative to help women find employment in engineering industries and today, it has turned out to be a successful organization called e-MERG - Engineering Manufacturer Entrepreneurs Resource Group. In an exclusive interaction with SupportBiz, R.Rajalakshmi, President – eMERG, throws some valuable light on the industry and what it offers to the women folks of the country.

As the numbers suggest, there is a huge gender difference in workforce. What is that stops more women from getting into manufacturing industry?

Lack of continuous and quality power supply, trained manpower and skilled operators are common problems faced by all engineering industries, whether women owned or otherwise. What probably prevents women from getting into this particular field is because they would like to be employed for a few years, gain knowledge and experience and then start off on their own. Also, many women migrate to IT & ITES enterprises after being employed in the MNC's and there is an existing eco system in the various IT Tech parks for such enterprises. Outsourcing to such enterprises by the bigger companies is also much more possible than in engineering industries.

How welcoming are the women, especially in the rural space to eMERG's initiatives and how do you reach out to more?

Women are happy that there is an association like eMERG to guide them, expose them to various government schemes, help them with re-skilling and more. Primarily, eMERG is an association of women in engineering, technology, business & services. We work with women who are already entrepreneurs and are on the growth path. Though we do mentor new entrepreneurs, we are not in the space of entrepreneurship development per se. We find that in the rural space most women entrepreneurs are in the self-help group space, some of them do run enterprises and provide employment, training etc. However, these are in the food, textile and handicraft sectors. They also need similar exposure and information as other entrepreneurs. We are working with like-minded entrepreneurs in places like Hubli-Dharwad and with associations like WETiE Hubli to conduct awareness workshops on various topics for the benefit of entrepreneurs there.

How far eMERG's programs have helped women so far?

eMERG regularly conducts workshops and awareness programs for women owned and run businesses. We also take trade delegations abroad under Government schemes to give them an idea of how the developed countries do business, what are the opportunities for women entrepreneurs in India and outside, how to go global, how to scale up, improve  quality and become suppliers to the MNC's. At least 50 women have participated in our Trade delegations.

What are your suggestions, as an organization, to solve these issues?

We need to train employable youth in manufacturing skills and create an opportunity for them to be placed in engineering industries. We also need to create awareness among women that engineering industry need not be a man's forte. Women are great managers, and highly capable of quick learning and solving issues.

How do you see the opportunities for women entrepreneurs in the engineering manufacturing sector?

This is solely at the discretion and choice of potential entrepreneurs. Associations like ours must establish a good industry-academia link, talk to students in engineering colleges about their prospects for setting up engineering industries. Internship, further training after their engineering degrees, etc would certainly help. Also seminars and workshops where women in engineering industries share their experiences would be encouraging for the potential entrepreneurs.

What are eMERG's future plans, programs or targets?

We are working with Weconnect International India which is an organization that identifies women owned business and certifies them. These certified women attend several workshops and B2B events that help them build capacity and gain entry into new markets.

eMERG is in the process of setting up a skill training centre in Bangalore where we will train school dropouts and 10th standard pass candidates in basic engineering skills like soldering, wiring, crimping ,mechanical assembly etc. We will also impart basic knowledge about communication skills, ISO requirements, office behavior, safety at workplace, personal hygiene etc to these candidates. We have been sanctioned financial support for this by Government of Karnataka IT BT S&T department for this, under their public private partnership scheme.

We would like to increase our membership base and ensure that more women benefit from our activities. We hope to get more support from the Government, both State and Centre to help women business owners grow and flourish.