Overcoming the ‘Mindset Barrier’ greatest challenge in promoting diversity: Ecom Express’s Manju Dhawan
Co-founder and Director at Ecom Express Private Limited, an end-to-end technology-enabled logistics solutions provider, Manju Dhawan has broken many glass ceilings and is known as a maverick who has made a mark in an industry usually touted as male-centric.
Bringing more than three decades of experience in the express and logistics industry, including her 25 years in Blue Dart, she steers the company’s operations through customer-centric innovations and oversees the strategic customer and leads sales operations, and customer solutions teams.
Providing strategic direction for sales performance and results, Dhawan is a strong driver of diversity and inclusion at Ecom Express.
Her achievements in business have earned recognition at various reputed platforms. In 2021, the Logistics Skill Council listed her among the ‘Woman Achievers in Logistics Sector’. She was awarded ‘Woman Entrepreneur of The Year 2021’ at the National Enterprise Tech Connect Awards. In 2018, Express Logistics & Supply Chain Leadership Award recognised her for ‘Exemplary Women Leadership’. In 2017, she was conferred the title of ‘Woman Supply Chain Icon of The Year’ at the Global Logistics Excellence Awards.
The journey of a woman as a leader in a male-dominated field like logistics can be challenging, as it often involves overcoming various obstacles, as well as stereotypes and biases, both conscious and unconscious. In an exclusive interaction with People Matters, Dhawan provides an account of her journey, shares insights into the challenges and successes she encountered while leading and promoting diversity and inclusion in the sector and reflects on the lessons learned from her experiences.
What inspired you to launch a logistics company?
I had started working for a logistics company in Delhi in 1988 and then over course of time, met my business partners, T A Krishnan, K Satyanarayana, and Sanjeev Saxena. We eagerly wanted to start our own business since we had recognised the need for a dedicated logistics firm to take care of the diverse shipping and delivery needs of the e-commerce sector.
The company, with its aim "to be the tech-enabled logistics solutions supplier to the e-commerce industry", concentrates on e-retail delivery fulfillment because this market requires a targeted, distinctive, and cutting-edge delivery strategy.
We offer e-commerce players solutions for package pick-up, network movement, delivery, and return. We are able to meet the expanding needs of consumers by offering fulfillment services and enabling their e-commerce business thanks to our broad network that spans metro areas to Tier IV towns.
What challenges did you face as a woman in a male-dominated field, and how did you overcome them?
My well-wishers were worried when I, and my three co-founders, embarked on the path to create Ecom Express in 2012. They expressed concern over the uncertainty and questioned why I was leaving a secure job to be an entrepreneur in a sector which was considered male-dominated.
Being the only woman on the founding team of Ecom Express, I bring a diverse viewpoint to the organisation, whether it is in terms of workforce, investments, or strategy.
How do you define diversity in the context of your logistics firm, and what steps have you taken to promote diversity and inclusivity in it?
The idea that it requires physical labour has led to the perception that the logistics sector is predominately for the male population.
Nonetheless, the entry of women who desire to work in this field has been made easier by the advent of innovative technology, automation, and roles within the business. This is especially true, given the e-commerce boom, which has given a boost to the logistics sector and is quickly turning the industry into one of the primary sources of employment.
Companies must be proactive in their aim to create a culture of equality which inspires and encourages women to rise to the top.
At Ecom Express, we are steadfastly committed to boosting female involvement in all roles. We are promoting more and more women at our large facilities. We have female team members working in last-mile delivery, and there are All-women Delivery Centers (DCs) spread across the nation.
As part of its efforts to increase the number of women in supervisory positions, the corporation is also implementing a variety of skill-building initiatives.
Teams at Ecom Express frequently conducts audits to help improve current facilities for female employees and has considerably invested in these facilities in order to empower and encourage more women employees across our many centres, like delivery centres, warehouses, hub, and processing centres.
What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced in promoting diversity in your company, and how have you addressed them?
The biggest challenge in promoting diversity is the right mindset and to address this, the company has skill development workshops and training sessions to highlight the importance of gender diversity.
Ecom Express has taken many initiatives to support women in the industry and provide a conducive environment. There are career acceleration programmes which offer specialised courses to women looking for career enhancement.
Flexible working hours also give them the freedom to balance work and look after their families at home.
What advice would you give to other logistics firms or founders looking to promote diversity and inclusivity in their companies?
Businesses have evolved and expanded in the modern world. To stay competitive in their respective markets, they need ongoing innovation and fresh approaches. As a result, it is crucial that HR leaders concentrate on continuously empowering all employees and teams. This entails fostering an environment of respect while focusing on mutual trust and compatibility.
Also, giving opportunities to employees for innovation in their line of work will make their occupations meaningful. When a workforce is more diverse, HR practices should be favourable to meet the demands of the employees.
What advice would you give to young women who aspire to become CEOs or leaders in their respective fields?
Believe in yourself when it comes to business decisions. The first steps are often challenging, but never give up; instead, believe in your abilities and aspirations. It's crucial to learn how to leverage business nuances because doing so will provide opportunities to address market gaps that are already present.
Increase your knowledge base and learn from experiences. Aim to fill a variety of functional responsibilities as soon as you can in your profession. Accept advice that is helpful and apply it.