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Stallion-Bajaj: Empowering women through skills development, entrepreneurship

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Women make up over half of Nigeria’s population and are integral to the growth of the nation’s economy. Driven by the main goal of building a more inclusive work environment, Stallion-Bajaj Alliance is putting gender equality at the forefront of its SDGs. Reiterating that every International Women’s Day is a reminder that there is still a lot of work to be done to ensure more spaces are created for women to thrive; examine and re-examine our processes and structures to ensure wage gaps are closed, equal opportunities are offered to women at all levels. Here, women can truly choose to challenge as they wish. The Managing Director of Stallion-Bajaj Alliance, Manish Rohtagi, and some women assemblers speak on how they are exemplifying this in the organisation.

This year’s International Women’s Day (IWD) theme is achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world, tell us how you are exemplifying this practically?
(Manish Rohtagi, M.D)

BEING a woman is hard everywhere in the world; you have deprived of life tools that help you find yourself. So, when I see women who have made it out of the fold, I am not only inspired by their journey, I play my part to speak for and be a part of spaces that provide a community for women to grow.

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When the pandemic hit, many people didn’t know what to do, the fear of job loss was prevalent but I was confident in the vision of Stallion-Bajaj and I made sure to remind the staff that they are valuable and were going nowhere.

Did COVID-19 affect your career in any way?
(Female Mechanic, Ayomide Sanyaolu)

Before the lockdown in March last year, I was about to begin my training at the facility at VON, which was unfortunately postponed. After having to deal with a full year with almost no training, I am happy to begin the training with the new batch of female mechanics this March and I can’t wait to begin the program.

How are you providing equal opportunity for women in your organization?
(Manish Rohtagi)

This year, the theme “Choose to Challenge” is a call to action for all companies to wake up and challenge the stereotypes. It is a reminder to ask ourselves, how can we do better? At Stallion-Bajaj, we understand how skills acquisition programs have opened a whole new opportunity for women, formally educated or not and this is the reason why we began our training school. The brand is driven significantly by the goal to grow its female representation to 35 per cent by the end of 2022. In line with this vision, 40 women have been trained and integrated into the assembly plant in Lagos and we are only just getting started.

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How do you feel working in an all-female factory?
(Female Assembler, Sheu Matinat Ayomikun)

I am proud to be part of this exciting project that is set on creating the first all-female assembling plant in Nigeria. Being a member of the first cohort employed at the plant, I have fallen in love with my work routine. I particularly enjoy assembling the dashboard, that is the connector with the engine and seeing the end product which my colleagues and I did, on the road gives me joy and utmost job satisfaction.

You pride yourselves on your women assemblers, how did you source these women and train them? (Manish Rohtagi)
In consonance with the firm belief in equal opportunity for women across all fields, Stallion Bajaj introduced its first batch of assemblers at VON assembly plant in Lagos. This happened in less than six months after the formation of the Stallion-Bajaj Alliance. Numerous technicians from all over Nigeria enrolled to show their skills and get an opportunity to win professional training, workshop, flooring, tools, and spare parts, while mechanics competed to show their best skills and training and even though it was tough as there were many talented women, we picked the best 40 for the first cohort. We are looking at increasing this number for the next one to give more women the opportunity to excel.

Women make up half of our population yet remain underemployed and underpaid, how best can we improve this?
(Manish Rohtagi)

According to UN Women, when more women work, economies grow. Women’s economic empowerment boosts productivity, increases economic diversification and income equality in addition to other positive development outcomes. This is the reason why Stallion-Bajaj made the foregoing happen in a world suffering from an economic meltdown occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic. The alignment in goals and objectives of the Stallion Group and Bajaj Auto resorted to the establishment of the women assembling plant. Currently, we will be starting a training session for women mechanics in a few weeks and that’s the first of many for this year’s calendar.

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How best can the government support businesses like yours to enable you to make a greater impact?
(Manish Rohtagi)

Government policies advertently influence businesses all over the world and so far, the Nigerian government has been supportive of our vision and goals. We believe that this alliance between Stallion and Bajaj will go a long way to empowering Nigerian women, encouraging them to be self-reliant, and inspire a new generation of working women.

What are your future plans on raising the next generation of women assemblers and technicians?
(Manish Rohtagi)

At Stallion-Bajaj, we have put gender equality at the forefront of our SDGs and are driven to build a more inclusive workspace. Our plan is to establish Africa’s first women-only assembly plant in Nigeria and significantly grow our female representation to 35 per cent by the end of 2022. This is in line with our goal to train and absorb 500 female technicians by 2022. To achieve this, we will be holding several more training sessions for female riders, female assemblers, and female mechanics before the year runs out and we want as many women as possible to get on board.

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Tell us more about the new cohorts joining the programme?
(Manish Rohtagi)

Last year, even in the midst of the pandemic disruptions and subsequent lockdown, we were able to train and integrate the first set of women into the VON assembly plant in Lagos. This year, we will be welcoming a new set of female mechanics to the training program as I said earlier where we hope to train and integrate 500 female technicians by 2022. In line with this vision, we have launched various initiatives to train female assemblers, mechanics as well as tricycle riders to foster entrepreneurship and open the job opportunities available to women through skills acquisition. This is open to all women from all walks of life who are ready to change their lives and I hope more women take advantage of this opportunity.

How best can we attract more women into this field?
(Manish Rohtagi)

By amplifying the option of vocational schools, we are able to introduce younger women to this field. This can be achieved by collaborating with governmental and educational bodies to orient young adults on the numerous job opportunities available to them. We need to change the perception of what a ‘man’s job’ is; we need to be able to tell women, ‘you too can be a mechanic or any other job you aspire to, nothing is solely a man’s job.’

Nigerians complain of lack of good technicians, are there plans to train skilled technicians to mitigate this problem?
(Manish Rohtagi)

One of our goals at Stallion Bajaj is to create a pool of skilled technicians who can also empower other people with their skills. This is why we ensure trainees go through a paid training period so their focus is really on learning. In 2020, Stallion Bajaj embarked on an expansive youth empowerment programme for three-wheeler mechanics across the country. The initiative was driven in five towns with more than 1000 enrolled mechanics and their families.

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Technicians enrolled to show their skills and get an opportunity to win professional training, workshop shed, workshop flooring, tools and spare parts, while mechanics competed to show their best skills and training, their families got engaged in a fun day of games, prizes, and entertainment to carry the family along with the process. We hope to expand on this year and include even more people to mitigate this problem.

What advice would you give women that want to get into this industry and don’t know where to start?
(Manish Rohtagi)

Don’t be shy to ask questions. In order to learn, be prepared to make mistakes. Find what makes you thick and don’t be afraid to put forward your opinion, no matter how small you may think it is. Also, get a mentor in the industry to guide and show you things you might never know or miss. Finally but not the least important, be open to learning new things, you never know where this might take you.

Final words for women reading this?
(Manish Rohtagi)

Do not be afraid to do more, do not be afraid to learn. When starting a business, it is important to understand the intricacies. Be willing to learn on the job, read, research, and ask questions. It is also important to learn to delegate and understand when your business is ripe for scaling and the ability to delegate will set you up for success.

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