2018-03-01

Leaving the village to start a career

Every time 21-year-old Snehal Bhingardeve returns home, there's a party for her. Her mother Sumitra decorates the small concrete yard outside their home in the village of Palus in the state of Maharashtra with a colorful Rangoli, a traditional floor decoration that is said to bring good luck. Neighbors come over to greet and hug the young woman, who has just travelled by bus for four hours on a winding mountain road. To avoid feeling too homesick, once a month Snehal begins her journey from Pune, a sprawling city of 3.1 million in the western part of the state, to her parents in Palus, nearly 200 km to the south.

But she has never regretted leaving home at 20 to begin a career at KION India, some 200 kilometers to the north in Pune. She now leads an assembly team of young women in her age group. In fact, she is rather proud of her decision. “I’m the first woman to have left the village to find work. My friends are proud of me and want to follow in my footsteps,” she explains.

Her parent’s house is a simple but robust brick house with a tin roof, surrounded by green tamarind and neem trees. Around the back there is a cow in a shed.

That Snehal was hired for the vacancy in warehouse equipment production was not just down to her uncle telling her that KION India were hiring. She also had earned a diploma in electrical engineering. But it was difficult for her parents to let their daughter leave. “I was sad when Snehal moved to another city,” says her mother Sumitra. Her father was worried for his daughter’s safety in a city as large as Pune. The family lives in a village where girls receive little education and are married off early. “But we told Snehal and our other daughters that we would provide for their education, no matter what,” says her mom.

"I’m the first woman to have left the village to find work. My friends are proud of me and want to follow in my footsteps."

Snehal Manik Bhingardeve

“Adding value to everything we do”

Thanks to a project to advance young women at KION India, around 40 of them now work at the Pune production site, and not just in warehouse technology production. “When we came up with the idea of a 'women-only' assembly line, we were particularly keen on creating entry-level jobs for women from poorer backgrounds,” explains Sunil Gupta, CEO and the managing director of KION India. He is full of praise for the productivity of his female employees. “They’re very disciplined and add value to everything they do.” It gave KION India’s management team the idea of employing young women in other areas of the business. “They now also work in quality assurance and administration.”

"When we came up with the idea of a women-only assembly line, we were particularly keen on creating entry-level jobs for women from poorer backgrounds."

Sunil Gupta

Training builds confidence

Pallavi Chavan is responsible for the cabling in the yellow OM Voltas warehouse trucks. “When I came for my job interview, I knew nothing about forklift trucks,” she admits. “And when I started my job, I was worried that I wasn’t up to the task. But once I finished my training, I knew I could do it.” Sanyunkta Ravindra Talmale comes from Nagpur, roughly 700 kilometres east of Pune, even further away than Snehal's hometown. “I was very nervous during my job interview,” recalls the petite Sanyunkta. “I was delighted when they hired me since I was the first woman in my family to do a vocational apprenticeship and get a job.”

Carrying the financial burden

Much has changed for Snehal and her family since she began working. “She supports us financially,” says her mother. With Snehal’s help, her older sister was able to train as a nurse in Pune, and she is helping to put her younger brother through school. “In the past, we had to think long and hard about spending money. But now it’s a lot easier.”

Her mother knew early on that her daughter had what it takes to make it in life. “When she was in fourth grade, her teacher called to tell us that she was a brilliant, intelligent and talented girl and that we should do all that we could to encourage her.”

Snehal has a clear career path in her head. “I want to complete my engineering degree in 2019 and I hope I can work in production planning at KION.” She would also like to give something back to society. “As the first female engineer from my village, I would like to offer career counselling and guidance to boys and girls.”

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