Swati Bhalavi

A Determined Achiever

When Swati started her career in 2008, the presence of women on the shop floor was a rare sight. But she was determined to make her mark and ignored everyone who said she couldn't do it.

I started my career in 2008 on the shop floor in of a leading manufacturing company in Nagda, MP. I was just a trainee, working with machines that I had only studied about. It was an exciting time, of learning and applying what I had learnt in a classroom. But I slowly realized that I was also unintentionally different — because of my gender! In 2008, women were pretty rare on industry shop floors. I was also working in the small town of Nagda in MP. Most people were at a loss about women sharing the shop floor space. In fact, some office bearers even suggested that I would be better off in a more corporate environment and not working in manufacturing. I found this attitude very disappointing and as a beginner, very discouraging. Fortunately, I also realised that this was actually a minority view. This negative view was coming from very few people for whom it was perhaps difficult to make the switch.

Interestingly, I never felt such an opposition from the people who I was actually working with — the workers on the shop floor. In fact, I was always met with encouragement and genuine support from the workers. They not only patiently explained the process, they even told me how my presence had changed their own attitude about women working in manufacturing. Some of them even brought their kids to the factory to show them how I, a girl, was working alongside them!

One fine day, a normal discussion on the shop floor brought about an epiphany- I wanted to reach the top of Manufacturing & Operations.
There were again very few women in my next job in the world-class manufacturing cell for Indian Rayon in Veraval, Gujarat. Taking up the position also meant moving to Veraval, which was even more remote than Nagda. It was a trip to Somnath temple that gave me the conviction to take up the job. A fisherman, who was there to pay his respects, showed me the temple and nearby areas. “You are our guest,” he said. This kindness by a stranger convinced me that moving to Veraval would be a good decision. I really enjoyed my time in Indian Rayon, where I was part of its transformational journey. We changed from a small unit to a world-class organisation and I’m proud to have been a part of it.

The next turning point in my life came at the heels of a tragic incident. On 29th October 2015, I received the news that my father had passed away. Distressed, I tried to make my way to my hometown in Nagpur. Although all my colleagues came together to find a way to send me home, it took me almost 24 hours to reach home. I’d loved my time at Indian Rayon, but I now wanted to live somewhere a little central. I’d also completed four years and felt the need to make a move.

In May 2016, I moved to CBE in Mumbai as a CFTM to support Business Relationship Manager. One of the most encouraging trends I have seen over these years is the inclusion of women in manufacturing. It is no longer as hard as it was almost a decade ago. I am sure that the presence of women will only grow in the years to come and I hope that I will reach the top of the manufacturing division by then.

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