‘Every second recruit at Mercedes-Benz India must be a woman’: Vyankatesh Kulkarni | Autocar Professional

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‘Every second recruit at Mercedes-Benz India must be a woman’: Vyankatesh Kulkarni | Autocar Professional


March 8 is celebrated as International Women’s Day. Vyankatesh Kulkarni, who took charge as the Executive Director and Head of Operations for Mercedes-Benz India in May 2022, says the luxury carmaker is focused on achieving the 20% diversity target across its entire workforce, which is increasingly seeing enhanced women participation with the right policies, training, and infrastructure interventions taken by the carmaker being the key enablers. Excerpts from the interview.

Where does Mercedes-Benz India stand in terms of shopfloor diversity, and what is the target?
When it comes to gender diversity, we started on this journey from CY2022 onwards, and this was one of the key agendas on our list. Towards this cultural transformation, so far, we have inducted 75 women among the 500 blue-collared shopfloor workers at the Mercedes-Benz India assembly line.

We maintain our goal of achieving 20% diversity in our workforce, right from the people on the shopfloor, all the way up to the management. To achieve this, we are taking various initiatives, for instance, from the recruitment phase itself, wherein we have several positions dedicatedly marked for women. We are internally keeping a target that every second recruit must be a woman. Therefore, we are driving these efforts from the top.

We started out with structured training programmes for both women and men operators. Programmes such as POSH (Prevention Of Sexual Harassment) training programme were carried out. We also set up a handholding team, wherein a few women from the management roles are part of the mentoring programmes, offering strength to women on the shopfloor to speak up at any time.

What initiatives is Mercedes-Benz taking to facilitate women participation at its plant in Pune?
The visibility of our efforts is very important on ground and, therefore, we have redefined the entire workplace and looked at it from a different perspective to make it an inclusive environment.

We have changed the facilities available on the shopfloor, for instance, right from increasing the number and size of washrooms, to ensuring they are hygienic and equipped with woman-care necessities, all the way up to bringing the whole shopfloor premises under video surveillance.

Moreover, we have made height adjustments to certain working platforms on the assembly line to make it convenient for women to work, as well as modified some trolleys to enable women to drag them easily. In a nutshell, our aim was to eliminate any barrier that discourages women to operate anywhere in the plant. We envision them to operate freely, shoulder-to-shoulder, with men in the entire workplace. 

We have also invested in our creche facility, and reinforced it. We have preponed our creche timings to suit assembly line associates, to start at 7 o’clock in the morning. Our internal medical centre facility has also been enhanced to support this new change in the organisation. Therefore, the intent was to support the cultural transformation, starting with physical transformation of our facility.

What changes have you observed in the work environment owing to more women being part of the workforce?
In the past year, we have already started seeing a significant shift in the work environment and overall, there is an increase in professionalism, focus, eye to detail, and levels of quality. Typically, men are more confident in any job they undertake, but while we do not try to be biased, we have clearly observed that women have a higher sense of responsibility attached to a task, and they ensure they complete it with more caution and care. This is the biggest advantage of having a highly-diverse workplace. At Mercedes-Benz India, women empower our brand, the products, and quality.

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