Rogue drivers, long tiring road journeys, rude conversations and tough men — isn’t this our imagination of a truck business? But what if a woman is somewhere marking her zone in this male-dominated territory? Venturing into such a heterodox field is a braveheart, Jai Deshpande, who for the last 11 years, has been running a truck-fleet business with utmost sincerity. This woman has now earned the respect of her clients, colleagues, and the androcentric industry too.
Owner of Quick Parcels Services, 37-year-old Deshpande has endured her share of hardships in an unconventional profession.
Born in Mumbai and brought up in Satara, Deshpande shifted to Pune after her marriage. “I was and still am a culturally-inclined person. Literature and language speak to me. So I followed my interest and did my MA in Marathi. In fact, I was a university topper. Post that, I worked as a proofreader for a Marathi journal,” she said.
Then how did the truck business happen? “It runs in the family. My father was the owner and I have grown up observing him running it efficiently. But in 2007, my father got paralysed and life took a turn. He wanted me to take care of his heritage. My mother, my sister, and my in-laws thoroughly trusted his decision and have stood by me always. I am a self-taught businesswoman, with no knowledge or experience and was forced to learn everything from scratch,” she answers.
Deshpande says that she also owes it to the male members of her family, including her husband Shirish, whose knowledge in the bus transportation business has helped her. “Behind a successful man is a woman but behind a successful woman is her entire family,” an emotional Deshpande says.
How does she manage the workforce? Doesn’t being a woman make it challenging? “Luckily, all our drivers and managers have accepted me as their own and never doubt my judgements and competence. These men are the backbone of my company and I believe in maintaining an employee-friendly atmosphere here.
Indian roads and weather conditions as compared to other countries aren’t that great, so I prioritise my staff’s security and health. They mostly drive during the day and never more than seven hours a day,” she proudly tells us, as she gives the entire credit for a successful business to her staff.
Some glitches did crop up though. “Initially, I had to learn everything from scratch — instalments, settling bills, order handling to octroi etc. But once I learnt it all, I became adept at handling it all by myself. Right from purchases, to micro-management, to assembling trucks as per the requirements of clients and even the truck routes —I take care of all of it. I have been lucky to have never faced gender-based discrimination; our society is definitely progressing,” she asserts.
So, “be the change, be strong, don’t give up and follow your dreams!” is what she tells her female counterparts. “A business can be done with civility and without being authoritative. Be a good service provider and colleague. Take care of your workers, and they’ll take care of your business,” she says.