who was literally pushed in to the air cargo industry, Padma Handa has
no regrets. In fact, she comes across as one who joined the industry
yesterday. Ever eager to learn how the industry functions, she took
on the mantle of director, Sunrise Freight Forwarders, and decided that
the only way she could progress would be to become proactive. Today,
after more than half-a-dozen years—“I joined in 2006”—she
is not only well aware of the challenges forwarders face in India, but
also knows how best to tackle them.
Handa acknowledges that the cargo industry
is indeed “male-dominated” in India and for a woman “it
is difficult.” When we questioned why she joined the industry,
she said, “Due to certain health issues of my husband (the owner
of Sunrise), there was a vacuum in the organization. I had to leave
my job and step into this industry.” She was quick to add that,
“after some initial hiccups, it has been a smooth ride so far.”
The hiccups that she spoke about came
from some seniors in her husband’s organization who resented the
intrusion from a novice—and from a woman, at that. Handa faced
the onslaught head on. She remembered
those early days: “Initially, some senior colleagues found it
extremely difficult to cope and many of them left the organization.
Since then, many have come in and there have been no issues with them.”
Today, she handles the company’s Human Resources division and
does a bit of marketing.
Keeping track with what is going on in
the industry, Handa pointed out that, “the journey has been good…
it has been a learning experience. In fact, I am still learning and
getting to know more about the industry: how those in it think and how
they work… Cargo and logistics is always interesting and challenging.
“Challenges excite me. Every day
is a challenge and one keeps learning.”
As a woman, Handa knows the problems her
sisters face in the industry. While she tackled her teething problems
“being one of the part owners,” she assures that she learnt
about the business since “there has been no lack of opportunity
based on gender for me in the organization.” As for the other
ladies, as head of HR, Handa has changed a lot of things: “The
organization is extremely sensitive to gender issues. Women can take
up any challenge to come their way. Women are supported throughout maternity
issues far beyond the provisions of law. For women in particular, as
well as other personnel, we encourage flexible working hours as well
as working from home or offsite,” she said.
Her only advice to those who want to join
the industry—especially women—is to “have an open
mind. The cargo industry is an exciting one; there are plenty of new
things to learn, it isn’t mundane, and most important, the work
is not totally repetitive and there are plenty of challenges.
“One need not know rocket science
to succeed in our industry,” she said.
Handa’s leadership qualities have
been recognized, and she was elected as a member of the Managing Committee
of the Air Cargo Club of Delhi.
She left us with a quote we will remember
for a long time: “My takeaway is that one will remain young and
active while in this industry.”