Breaking the gender stereotypes and taking forward her father’s vision with with unwavering passion, Vidya Nambirajan successfully completed two decades in heading and running Paramount Auto Bay Services (PABS), Hyderabad. In this Skill Story, we explore issues and challenges, skill training and placements and collaboration with the automotive industry, during our conversation with the woman of mettle – Vidya Nambirajan, CEO, PABS. Let’s read on…
Q: Your story could inspire many women to take the lead in managing automotive services, please tell us about how it feels to be the first woman in Hyderabad to own an Auto Service Center and Training Academy.
A: I faced lot of challenges during the initial years of my career in the automotive sector. Coming from management and marketing background, I had no knowledge about the industry I was getting into. When I took over the business, technology was changing rapidly; new and advanced machinery came up, making it all the more challenging to me. Every little thing I learned in this was through my own research and talking to people who sold me the spare parts and machinery and by learning it the hard way. The staff who worked with my dad quit as soon as I took over the business, because they didn’t want to report to a woman. But I had to fight and learn to prove myself in this male-driven set-up.
Even on the customers front, I faced challenges. When my male colleague said some part needed replacement or the engine need to changed, the customer would readily agree without a question. But when I used to say the same thing, a series of questions were posed at me. Looking back, I thank them because I have learned everything in detail to be able to explain. But I believe it’s not how many times you fall down but how many times you got up to turn the challenges into opportunities.
Q: How do you mobilise the students; are you connected with technical training institutions like ITIs?
A: Initially, we provided free training. Mechanics who lived close by joined the training programme because we had advanced technology and machinery with us. We observed that even showroom mechanics did not know how to use the existing technology. Though we planned to train the undergraduates in the program, slowly it was mechanical engineering students who came here and it spread the word to others. We are connected with some of the engineering colleges but not ITIs, as students from ITI are absorbed into companies that adopt them. However, we do have some students from ITIs too.
Q: Tell us about the courses offered at PABS and about your collaboration with other organizations.
A: In collaboration with ASDC, we offer 10 courses. Out of which 6 are technical courses and 4 are administrative. Most of our students get placed as service advisors, because they come from B.Tech (Mechanical) background. All the courses are NSQF- compliant. We have courses in accordance with German curriculum. We teach them the theory and then give a demo of how each part works practically so that students get a hand-on experience. We have also collaborated with Dual Pro, which offers a range of Vocational Education andTraining services, based on the German Dual System that combines theory and industrial experience.
Our trainers are well-trained and acquainted with latest technology. We recently got an invite for a training program on BMW engine in which trainers from PABS will be participating. Trainers at PABS constantly undergo training programs to get well-versed with tools and technologies to be able teach the students. This helps students to be job-ready once they complete the course.
Q: What about placements after training; do the candidates work at PABS or get placed in other service centres?
A: I believe success comes to training only when students are placed. Today, any showroom you go to, you’ll find at least one person who has been trained at PABS. We not only help our students get placed at various showrooms and companies, but also take them as interns at PABS itself. Once they complete their internships here, we send them abroad to places like Dubai, France and some cities in the U.S.A.
Related article: ASDC Conclave 2019 – Case studies and best practices in automotive skill development Read more: https://www.nationalskillsnetwork.in/asdc-conclave-2019-case-studies-and-best-practices-in-automotive-skill-development/
Q: What is your advice to women in mechanical services?
A: I encourage women to take up this job. I have personally trained many girls and women in car mechanics. Usually, women do not take this up or do not show keen interest because either they feel they lack the physical strength or the way the work is done is not suitable to the girls, like going under the car and doing the work. That’s why I have designed my garage with tools and technologies, that help women in doing the work. I have used car lifts so that women don’t have to go under the car, they can stand and do the work.
With latest technologies at the garage, even physical strength is not an obstruction to them. In fact, women fit well in this sector as they are process-oriented, unlike most men who are end-oriented. Women have an eye for detail and are very careful with the things they do, which is much-needed in this field.
Q: How do you ensure overall development in skill training?
A: Most of the students at PABS are engineers. But they lack soft skills like communication and life skills. Therefore, it becomes a duty of our trainers to train them not only technically but also the life skills that they can carry forward with them in any of their workplaces. We teach them English, how to communicate with the customer, team work and team management.