Society

Fuelled by passion

Managing godowns, trucks, delivery boys and the everyday goings on of a gas agency is a breeze for these women.

On tough terrain

A quarter of a century ago, armed with a fresh college degree, R Sudhamanjari made a decision: she would start a business, not attend business school. She ended up running a gas-distribution agency. “This is my brainchild,” she says. In 1992, she took up distribution for IOC in Washermanpet, Royapuram, Thondiarpet and Thiruvottiyur.

Fuelled by passion

By 2005, Sudhamanjari was sending gas cylinders to several homes, but IOC found her too good to be doing just that. She went up the line, stepped into commercial space to dispatch cylinders to tea-shops, hotels, industries and a crematorium. After 27 years in the business, she has 1,500 customers, 10 delivery trucks and has over 13,000 cylinders leaving her godowns every month. “My commercial ops are more successful than domestic ones,” she says.

She has dealt with a challenging customerbase — from men demanding cylinders to women quarrelling over backlogs. Business, overall, is tough; one has to manage customer relations, monitoring, and complaints on a large scale. And distribution is open through the year. “IOC shows no gender discrimination. Whoever is capable, wins,” she says.

Gas is safe

H Rekha, a dentist, is here because of her mother. She went from dental surgery to gas distribution in areas around Tambaram and Raja Kilpakkam. “I’m competition for my mom,” she laughs. “She’s been in the business for 40 years.” In the one year she has been a distributor, Rekha’s customer strength has doubled, becoming 10,000 a month. She owns trucks and has commercial customers.

Fuelled by passion

A major part of the time goes into providing free connections for less-privileged women, she says. Once they get the connection, she has to convince them that it is safe to use. She runs outlets that talk about how to use gas safely, distributes dos-and-don’ts posters on cylinder maintenance, and organises demos on safe installation for technicians.

The patient boss

“I was forced into the business after my father left us in 2008,” says Murugeswari Vedamurthy. With a background in IT, she was working in Malaysia, but returned to take up her father’s distributor business in Velachery. Murugeswari didn’t know what went into the cylinder, had no clue as to how the business was run. On her first day at the gas office, she recalls how she felt like a trainee. “But I managed with support from both the staff and customers. The field officer at IOC gave me time to find my way.”

Fuelled by passion

Murugeswari found ways to function smoothly. She allotted her personal quota to customers, bought food for delivery boys and found substitutes if they needed a day off. “I’m patient, but I need to be tough at times.”

Software engineer-turned-entrepreneur

With a Masters in Software Engineering, Deepa Vadivelu plunged into the business a year ago. Supplying gas in Porur is far removed from the IT world of San Francisco where she worked for 12 years. But her father’s business had to be taken over; with the entrepreneurial strain running in the family, she roped in her sisters as partners. “It’s an excellent field,” she says. She has plans to contribute to the business through systems development. Her delivery trucks are GPS-installed to streamline delivery time.

Fuelled by passion

Deepa begins her day with instructions to delivery boys. Through the day, she visits the godown and assess the response of her delivery personnel. Twice a week, she checks with customers about the service and if they got the delivery on time. She even shares her personal number with her customers and talks to her team from 3 pm and 10 pm. This includes sorting out everyday hiccups and giving lessons on polite speech. There are just two things she won’t do: lifting cylinders and counting cash.

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Printable version | Jan 17, 2021 12:26:54 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/fuelled-by-passion/article25597559.ece

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