Being part of the Manufacturing and Engineering sector signifies Bhavana Bindra’s intent of treading the path that is less taken. For a non-engineer and that too a woman, she entered the sector almost two decades ago. Brought up in small town India, in a nuclear family with her father being the sole bread earner and her mother a home maker who was always by her side, Bhavana espoused the values from her childhood to make a mark in the corporate world. Imbibing discipline and hard work from her father, the ability to care for all whose lives she touched, from her mother and a belief in potential from her elder sister, Bhavana left her home to pursue higher studies in Singapore where she was awarded a fully-paid scholarship to pursue her A levels in one of the most prestigious Junior Colleges in Singapore.
Despite having an opportunity to pursue her undergraduate studies in Singapore, Bhavana chose to return to India where she did her Economics Honours from the reputed Shri Ram College of Commerce, Delhi University, before doing her post-graduation from the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore. With a campus placement at The Boston Consulting Group, Bhavana Bindra made the choice of pursuing her career in India even though she was offered to take a plush posting at one of their USA offices.
She subsequently went on to make her mark in the highly competitive and male-dominated manufacturing and engineering sector by joining the Indian subsidiary of US MNC Cummins India Limited. Having started with Cummins in Strategy, Bhavana worked in the group for 13 years, wherein she established and later went on to run their automotive business in India. She moved from the automotive industry to the industrial space with her role as the leader for Cummins’ distribution business, serving mining, powergen, construction, oil & gas, railways, among others.
The trailblazer, who took over as MD of REHAU last year, a leading producer of polymer solutions in furniture, industrial and building applications, is now focused on driving REHAU's growth and expansion across the sub-region. She currently also serves on the boards of many public listed firms as an independent director.
Being a well-recognised personality in the industry, she has received the prestigious Economic Times’ “40 under 40” award as well as was among Corporate Dossier’s “India Inc's Rising Women Leaders”.
Bhavana has the wealth of life lessons that she actively passes to those with whom she has come across in the corporate as well as the education space. A firm believer in diversity and its criticality for success in today’s times for any organisation's success, her thoughts and ideas are sure to inspire young minds who are locked in their comfort zones and inspire them to explore the unknown.
Here’s an excerpt from our conversation with Bhavana Bindra, Managing Director – REHAU, South Asia
How And Why Did You Enter The Field Of Manufacturing Engineering?
Treading the path less taken has been a habit or let me put it differently, a passion that I pursue. Being part of the Engineering and Manufacturing space is part of pursuing the same. Two decades ago, it was not common (it still is not in many corners) for a non-engineer and that too a woman to be in this sector. To have the courage to enter and to prove oneself in the same had been the aim. The more the naysayers questioned, the further my resolve to make a mark became. Having started my career in consulting, entering this space with formulating the Strategy for the group in India was a logical place to begin. It also allowed me a good understanding of all aspects of the business as I worked with all functions and divisions of the group and learned from several seasoned colleagues in the process. Entering the Automotive space was part of the Strategy that was formulated, and I became the second employee of that business which 5 years later I went on to lead for the group in India. Building the team and helping an organization unearth the potential that resides in its people while bringing the right talent to drive further value were part of my learning experiences in this journey. Not one to pursue life in a comfort zone, I then moved into the unchartered territory of the Distribution business with Cummins which catered to Mining, Construction, Powergen, Oil & Gas and Railways, among other segments, continuing my process of learning while driving value for the organization as well as helping teams to realize the potential that resides within them. With more than a decade in the engines and related technologies’ space, my journey moved into its next phase in the polymer solutions with REHAU. Looking forward to much more in value addition to me as well as my organization!
Looking Back At Your Accomplishments, How Satisfied Are You In Your Career?
My satisfaction is beyond the measurable limits. It has been an amazing journey of learning and experience, bringing value to myself every day and, in the process, obtaining huge satisfaction from the impact one made in the lives of those you touched, whether they were peers, team members, seniors, organisations at large, or stakeholders. To me, every person with whom I have encountered has taught me something. Every day is worth living for what we add to ourselves with our experiences. Would I alter anything about my experience? The answer is no, except that if I could clone myself, I would have more of me, giving me the ability to do much more and give much more to others in the life that I have lived so far. I believe it is important for each of us to consider what we learn and what we help others learn. For me it is always about the people whether in terms of making a choice of career or in terms of where I derive my energy from.
What Is On The Favourite Part Of Your Job?
I would say that each day is filled with many of my favourite things, which is what keeps me going. People are most important to me since they are the ones from whom I derive my energy. Obviously, there are failures and obstacles, but that's the fun part of it. I believe we should always be pushing the boundary. Yes, it requires endurance, perseverance, and conviction. Consequently, these are some of my favourite aspects of my profession. The other part is the learning I get on the job. Every day must end with at least one learning, if not more, that contribute to my growth as an individual. I believe the opportunities to improve yourself, to increase your value as an individual, a person, and a professional are so vast, and as a result, the value that you bring to the organisation can be so substantial. Being able to question status quo and pushing the limits towards a better and brighter set of opportunities are some of the other aspects that I enjoy as part of my role.
There Are Fewer Women Working In Engineering & Manufacturing Sector Then Men. What Could Be The Reason? What Are The Challenges Women Face In Manufacturing And Engineering Sector Of Work?
In our society where patriarchy is so deep-entrenched, it is not straight forward for a woman to walk into jobs and roles which have traditionally been designated as being more appropriate for men to undertake. This could have been due to the physical demands of the job, or even the perception of the mental or emotional strength one may need for the same. Rightly or wrongly, unfortunately, there are roles one designates for men versus women simply because that is how the mindset has been. Firstly, to walk into this kind of a mindset is a challenge that one may face from family or even society at large and requires significant courage. Secondly, being part of an environment which is built on this mindset means one has to constantly prove oneself of being capable of it, which again leads a woman to question on whether it is worth the effort!
Furthermore from a precedence perspective, just the lack of enough women on such roles would mean that basics like facilities or amenities may not be as tuned to serving women versus men. For a young engineer, to be working in an environment where even getting to the restroom is not a simple task and rather becomes stressful.
Also, when women start their careers, given their stage of life, it is assumed they will need to take a break for marital or childbirth reasons or even later. These issues are real and several industries are working around them in order to be able to tap into a much diverse and significantly qualified workforce. The question is how amenable are manufacturing and engineering organisations to drive this change to take advantage of what promises to be a force to reckon with that is currently missing amidst them in large numbers.
It isn’t that men do not have similar challenges as women. Care-giving for elder parents, for example, is a role several men undertake equally. However, the expectation in-built is that a woman will be willing to sacrifice her career to provide the support while men are expected to work around or deal with it. Or perhaps they too require the flexibility that such a situation would demand and it is for us to make it amenable for an entire population (not just women) to be able to prioritize what requires their energy and time when it does!
What Would You Say To Girls In School, College Who May Be Considering Manufacturing And Engineering As A Career Path?
In my opinion, you have an opportunity to make a mark ahead of you. There is so much that awaits the difference you can make to love both personally as well as professionally in hitherto unchartered territories. It may not seem easy from the outside and it will require significant courage and conviction from you as you make the decision and work to convince all the naysayers, that you are here to stay and you are here to make a difference. Because you are you and what you can and will make happen, no one else can. It’s time to fly and fly high. The strength lies unearthed in your wings! All the best and let’s make it happen, again and again!