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Friday, 08 June, 2018, 10 : 00 AM [IST]

‘Women have broken the gender barrier in the Indian aviation industry’

Women in Aviation (WAI)-India Chapter, dedicated society for the encouragement and advancement of women in all fields and interests related to the aviation space. It aims to make aviation a viable career choice for all girls. Radha Bhatia, Chairperson, Bird Group, and Cofounder of WAI, met with Lucy Fernandes on the sidelines of the USIndia Aviation Summit in Mumbai, where she spoke about the career issues for women in the aviation sector and activities of WAI.
QYou have come in to the aviation business without any formal education on the domain, but have been able to establish your mark as a women entrepreneur. However, if you look at overall aviation industry, you may not see many women entrepreneurs. What is the reason for this gender gap
Actually, from my childhood whatever I wanted to do, I did it with passion. So it’s my passion that makes me go and for anything you have passion then you get the best result. Bridging the critical gap between manpower availability, skills required for a specific job and employability has been a challenging task for Bird Academy. We wanted to give young women more career opportunities – not only as pilots or cabin crew, but also as all types of engineers, technicians, designers, strategists, air traffic controllers, operations managers, and flight care specialists, to name but a few professions in the field.

Our main focus is on underprivileged youth and women, to not only skill them but also provide a platform where they can prove their mettle. To achieve milestones by imparting skill training to unemployed youth and women across the country and creating thorough professionals for one of the fastest growing aviation industries in the world.

QYou are also the President and Co-Founder of Women in Aviation (WIA)- India Chapter. What are the activities of this forum and how is it going to support the cause of women in aviation industry?
This programme was launched for the women who are not aware about the job opportunities in the aviation sector. Therefore, we decided to come together and discuss this problem and take a step ahead. When this concept was introduced to me, I was very excited, been in the industry and having lots of friends in various verticals. We all came together and started this chapter. The academy offers diploma & certificate courses in travel and tourism, airfares and ticketing, passenger and baggage handling, air safety and emergency handling, dangerous goods regulations and consultant and foundation courses certified by IATA.

The courses range from about a month to a year in duration and the academy trains roughly 3,000 students every year, most of them fresh out of high school. Our students have worked with American Express, MakeMyTrip,, Delhi Tourism and airlines like Jet Airways, Air France and ground handling companies like Celebi.

QYou addressed a session on Human Resource Planning, Recruitment, Training and Retention at the US-India Aviation Summit. With Indian civil aviation set to spread its wings to remote places with the advent of Regional Connectivity Scheme, what kind of Human Resource challenges you expect and what are your suggestions to tackle them?
India is among the fastest-growing aviation markets globally and aims to become the third largest market by 2025. In the Regional Connectivity Scheme there are two models - helicopters and other one is a smaller aircraft. Hence, there are more than 300 runways on India which are not functional so far, but the government is keen to make them all functional. Therefore, for each airport there will be different requirements. That is going to increase day by day. This is a rapidly growing sector and requires highly skilled manpower and we believe that the centre is a positive move in this direction.

QDo you see lack of awareness and understanding about the career opportunities in the aviation industry in the country even today despite a boom in air travel and airport infrastructure over the decades?
Last year on Girls aviation day, we published a small booklet, which was released by the Chairman of Airports Authority of India (AAI). Members present at the release have talked and inspired young girls to join the aviation vertical depending on their choice.

One of the biggest obstacles is lack of information among the young girls. So we inform them about job opportunities that pursuing (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) STEM subjects would provide in aviation. We co-ordinate with NGOs and the AAI to conduct these programmes. This year, we met with students at 10 locations through AAI. Many airport directors have asked us to do such programmes again.

WAI has identified 30 job profiles in aviation suitable for women. It ranges from aircraft maintenance engineer, flight dispatcher, and aviation meteorologist, an aviation doctor, psychologist to attorney or as security officers.

QAs a chairperson of the Bird Group, what kind of role you see for the Group in the rapidly advancing travel, tourism and aviation landscape in the country?
At present I am only taking care of education sectors and other family members are taking care of other business. My goal will be to highlight career avenues in verticals which are largely dominated by men force such as manufacturing, leasing, law, engineering, MRO. The aviation industry, however, is one where women have completely broken the gender barrier and are playing a critical role in the industry’s success. The role of women in aviation is spread across the entire value chain.
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