After achieving an M.Sc. in Mathematics in 1989 from Delhi University with a first class followed by 10 years’ work experience of marketing and training, I finally stumbled into an automobile dealership in Delhi in 2004. Since then, I have been slogging and now I am a Customer Relations Manager in a car workshop. This is generally the highest position a woman manages to reach in an automobile dealership.
My knowledge of Pure Maths is now completely erased from my mind and those 5 years of college that I single-mindedly devoted to studies, often sacrificing a lot of fun I could have had otherwise, have all gone waste. But I refuse to let myself have any regrets and I prefer to pat myself on the back for being what I am now; independent, financially and otherwise, bold, and confident. This was, after all, my aim of studying hard.
Today, as I look back, I feel extremely grateful to the automobile industry for providing me the kind of growth and job stability that I didn’t find elsewhere in other industries. It helped me in keeping my kitchen fire burning, financing my daughter’s education, and paying our bills while my husband followed his passion and tried to gain a foothold in theater as an actor. The most important thing is that it has helped me evolve as a human being too.
Indian automobile industry is, fortunately, still growing at a steady pace and the dealerships too continue to upgrade themselves as per the improving living standards and changing expectations of their customers.
The dealers, however, still have a long way to go in ensuring a safe and healthy environment for each one of us including women. Based on my last 13 years’ experience in various auto dealerships, here is an account of what I observed and continue to face as an employee.
Automobile dealerships are powered by the sweat and blood of its hard-working employees. In most auto dealerships, you will find people being compelled to work beyond normal working hours, which are already extended to 9-12 hours’shifts. They have a 6-day week and sometimes, the weekly offs are cancelled too. Holidays such as those of Christmas, Good Friday, Id, etc, which are taken for granted in PSUs, are never given. In the name of multi-tasking, one person sometimes does work of 2 or 3 people. Often, PF/ESI deductions are done without getting these funds accounted for. The employees don’t get the benefits of these deductions and the money is simply siphoned off to a hidden account.
The dealer principals, on the other hand, invest their wealth in real estate and other money-spinning ventures. Their children generally study abroad. So next time when you find a teenager arrogantly scoffing at what you just said in a foreign accent in a board meeting, don’t be shocked! Just keep smiling, as you would at a toddler with cerelac slathered all over itself till you move on to another dealer or till the toddler and its parent both grow up.
Dealer principals keep preaching about focusing on customer satisfaction, but most of them don’t realize that sad eyes silently reveal to customers what artificial smiles on brightly painted lips try to conceal.
Most dealerships in Delhi NCR are in fact extremely profit-oriented and don’t shy away from sounding like bloodthirsty capitalists, as far as employee welfare is concerned. They look at employees as costs, rather than assets. That’s why I would never, ever advise my daughter to consider a career in an automobile dealership, unless, of course, the government steps in and takes strict action against unscrupulous labour practices followed by erring dealerships. The government must also establish some awards for dealerships with high levels of employee satisfaction. Greedy as they always are, for the sake of earning these awards at least, the dealerships might try to make things better for their employees.
From a dealer’s point of view, I agree that surviving in a country like India with rampant corruption and an uncooperative, slow-moving bureaucracy is very difficult. You need to put in huge investment to put up a dealership in the first place and to maintain it, you must achieve a certain amount of profitability. But there has to be a limit somewhere. As fellow human beings, you’ve got to be just and take only what you deserve.
Perhaps you would ask if things are so bad, why isn’t anyone complaining and trying to do something about it? Well, lots of people have rebelled in the past and still do that, but the automotive organisations are rich, powerful, and influential and the labour courts and the judiciary are weak and toothless. They fail woefully in providing a solution to the ordinary, disgruntled, economically impoverished employee whose only priority in life is to be able to live with dignity without having to beg. So it’s more practical to just move on and find another job. This is the theme of my short story ‘A Tale of The Underdog’ that I wrote recently.
Now, let me come to the happy part. God has His own cute ways of dropping happy surprises in your lap, like this video by BookServicing Car Repairs on 8 Mar.17, International Women’s Day. They had me as one of their 2 speakers right at the beginning.
To be chosen among so many out there feels just too great! I still haven’t come out of the happy bubble this has put me in…Thanks once again, Bookservicing!
Here is the link to the video…