Women who assemble one pump every 20 seconds @ Kirloskar Plant:6 Apr, 2013 By Sangeetha Kandavel & Mitul Thakkar, ET Bureau RV Raj Kuumar, head of the award- winning Kirloskar pump factory in Coimbatore where all manufacturing is done by women, has many irons in the fire. But these days, he devotes most of his energy replacing the few men at the plant with those from the opposite sex. Including himself. "I am trying to find a replacement formyself," said Kuumar, 44, whose designation is divisional head-manufacturing. He is amongthe 20 men employed by Kirloskar at the plant—the others include two drivers, persons doingthe loading and unloading of stock, and some office staff.Set up in 2011 by KirloskarBrothers"Very soon you will see 100% women here,"he said. "We are looking for women driversand conductors to ply our buses. We will beputting out advertisements soon." He saidthere are plans to buy fork lifts and othersimilar contrivances for the loading andunloading—they will be operated by women.The men will be given jobs at other facilities.The plant was set up in 2011 by the 125-year-old Kirloskar Brothers as an "experiment" on a 4-acre plot at a cost of Rs 11 crore. Itnow employs about 70 women who assemble one pump every 20 seconds.Makes 20,000-25,000 pumps a monthSanjay Kirloskar, chairman and MD of Kirloskar Brothers, said the plant makes 20,000-25,000 pumps a month, and the quality of output is of such high standard that customers arenow specifically asking for pumps manufactured at the Coimbatore plant. Pumps made hereare exported to Nepal and South Africa.
"Even at home, it is the woman who decides which pump to buy. They want a pump that does not fail and is reliable," he said. "We know if the pump fails, some lady in the house has to go and fetch water. We told our ladies that if you make anything that fails, someone like you will have a problem."Rejection rate is a miniscule 0.1%The rejection rate at the Coimbatore plant, whichmakes about 11 variants of domestic pumps andfive kinds of irrigation pumps priced from Rs1,800 to Rs 5,000 each, is a miniscule 0.1%.Kirloskar said in the past 20 months, only eightpumps have had quality problems, helping theplant win many awards, including the eighthKaizen Competition award from the Quality CircleForum of India. "Having women employees hashelped increase in productivity and also churned out good quality products. I am not sayingmen dont do it, but women are always extra cautious," said Kuumar.Most of the women are school dropoutsAbout 25 lakh mini-pumps are sold in India every year, of which 65% are made byestablished players and the rest by the unorganised sector. The market leaders currently are Kirloskar Brothers and Crompton Greaves. Most of the women employed at the Coimbatore plant are school dropouts and aged between 18 and 24 years. "While recruiting, the company asked us whether we want to do study further. They even insisted that we go and study," said L Bhuvana, a supervisor. "But we wanted to work." A Antoine Baskar, associate manager of human resources, said recruits are sent fora twomonth training to an Industrial Training Institute free of cost.
The plant has its own problems"After that, we give them on-the-job training." M Shanthi, 23, said working at the plant hasimproved her standing in society. "My landlord had some problem with the pump at our house and I managed to set it right. He now respects me much more after that." But the plant has its own problems. The attrition rate is about 15-20%, especially with the earlier batches, and absenteeism is high. "Women have to stay back at home if their husbands or kids are not well," said Kuumar, who pointed out that the rate of attrition is falling and there is enough talent coming in to replace those leaving. "In case they get married they have to move toother places. When you have women employees these things are unavoidable."