After completing her engineering degree in Electronics Instrumentation and Control from Bikaner Government Engineering College, several manufacturing companies refused Vasudha Singhal to even appear for the campus placement exams and interviews citing that most job opportunities were reserved for men. Vedanta, out of all the recruitment companies, was not only the one to encourage her to undergo the placement process but also hired her as a Maintenance Engineer at its copper smelter plant in Tuticorin. Singhal was later shifted to the safety department of the power plant. Hailing from Jaipur, she now heads the Coal Procurement and Contracts division at Vedanta Aluminium.
For women to break into a workforce that has traditionally been a male bastion isn’t breaking barriers enough. The real challenge begins in the day-to-day operations at work when these women work closely with men and. Singhal resonated with this challenge when she ventured into the metal industry around 13 years ago.
Excerpts from the interview:
Tell us about yourself.
Hailing from Jaipur, I completed my engineering degree in Electronics Instrumentation and Control from Bikaner Government Engineering College.
You are in a leadership role in a sector that's dominated by men. How did you navigate the corporate ladder?
Just opting for engineering was not enough. The real challenge was to be accepted as a woman who can be present at work sites. It’s extremely unfortunate that despite the qualification, sometimes women are not even considered for a few roles. Of all the recruitment companies that came to our campus, Vedanta was one of the very few companies that allowed us to take the examination and undergo the placement process.
I believe I have crossed terrains where men do not tread easily, which is at the shop floor at the manufacturing plant of Vedanta. For six years, I worked in a smelter and then four years in the safety department of the shop floor.
What do your work responsibilities include?
I am currently serving as Head of Coal Procurement and Contracts. Over the last year, I am involved in planning, sourcing, and procurement of commercial parts. I oversee strategic planning and procurement of coal for Vedanta’s Jharsuguda unit to the tune of approximately 20 million tonnes per annum. I play a key role in ensuring smooth coal procurement to power the Jharsuguda unit. My job also entails handling coal auctions, handing out service contracts, collaborating with a range of vendors, assessing their products to fulfil factory requirements, among others.
Any challenges you have faced as a woman in your role? How do you overcome them?
As a society, we need to continue to encourage people to go beyond stereotypes and recognise the contributions that each individual—male or female—can make to the workplace. My experience spans over 13 years serving multitude roles in the aluminium and copper manufacturing business of Vedanta. This journey has been a tremendous learning experience. I faced a lot of barriers in transforming my dream into reality in this male-dominated industry. However, I took my own time to learn the ropes and handle challenges that came along. Today, I can say that I have learned a lot and these challenges have shaped my growth.
I am a firm believer that women, if given an opportunity, can excel in any arena. I started out as a Maintenance Engineer at Vedanta’s Copper smelter plant in Tuticorin and then shifted to the safety department of the power plant as I wanted to experience and learn about a different part of the manufacturing process.
There are very few women in leadership roles in the metal industry. How did you carve a niche for yourself?
I am a firm believer that women, if given an opportunity, can excel in any arena. I started out as a Maintenance Engineer at Vedanta’s Copper smelter plant in Tuticorin and then shifted to the safety department of the power plant as I wanted to experience and learn about a different part of the manufacturing process. I am a go-getter at heart and believe stepping out of the comfort zone is key to accepting and mastering new challenges to fulfil your dreams.
What are the three qualities women must possess when taking charge of a role like yours?
Sense of purpose, clearly defined focus area and willingness to work hard.
What's preventing women from entering the metal industry? How do you think this can be changed?
Several companies only have job opportunities reserved for men.
What changes would you like to see if more women joined your industry?
I think women bring a positive attitude to any environment. They are natural problem solvers with critical thinking at their core. If we believe in ourselves, we can excel at any given opportunity.
(Edited by Amrita Ghosh)