Britannia Industries, with its 100-year legacy, is India’s leading biscuit manufacturer. The brand’s presence also extends to other food categories, and to more than 60 countries worldwide. Not just high product quality, Britannia has stayed committed to a quality work environment as well.

The number of female employees remains disproportionately low in the manufacturing sector, which has long been regarded as a male-dominated arena. But Britannia is trying to address that imbalance.

Vinay Singh Kushwaha, Vice President, Supply Chain at Britannia Industries, spoke to Guardian 20 about the growth of women in the manufacturing sector, and how Britannia has ensured a gender-neutral workforce. Kushwaha handles manufacturing, projects and technology, planning and replenishment for the brand.  Currently, he is responsible for creating capability and technology for new products at Britannia, and their commercialisation through the supply chain.

Q. What measures have you taken to ensure gender parity at Britannia facilities?

A. According to reports, women in India represent close to 30% of the labour force. At Britannia, we have maintained a strong workforce spread across 16 of our factories. One in every three workers is a woman and in more than 50% of our factories, one of two workers is a woman. Production shifts that comprise a larger number of women are seen to achieve higher manufacturing standards.

Q. What’s the current scene of gender equality in the Indian manufacturing sector?

A. The increased role of women in manufacturing is the central driver of multifaceted growth of the industry while also making a positive impact on the Indian economy. In accordance to the market mapping for the Indian business landscape, 70% of companies have committed to employing more female workforce. Automation and technology application has played a pivotal role in increasing opportunities as manual workload has considerably reduced. Industry has also moved along the axis of knowledge and skill-based roles. These trends have ensured that employability in factories has become gender-neutral in several areas which hitherto were male-dominated domains.

Women employees at a Britannia plant.

Q. Tell us about the impact of increased number of women professionals on the overall economy.

A. The Indian economy, with the growth rate expected to rise over 9%, can sustain this trend with the enlargement of its employable workforce which is trained, skilled and qualified. Exclusion of women from participating in the economic growth is a limiting factor for growth. While the trend of double-income nuclear urban families has been around in India over the past two decades, we are witnessing a trend of women in smaller cities, towns and rural areas getting into formal industry roles. The increase in opportunity through democratisation of industry investment, government policies to incentivise industry in development deprived areas and growing awareness and aspirations fueled by access to net connectivity, are enabling trends for women to take up income-generating roles. Women would be contributing disproportionately to economic growth in the years to follow.

Q. What are the highlights of the Britannia Sustainability Chart?

A. Sustainability has always been an important vector and we strongly believe it is necessary to be competitive today. Our findings suggest that green technologies and efficient manufacturing, coupled with investments in global technology are actively being pursued.

Q. How do you expect the employment ratio to change over the coming years in India?

A. We expect to see the ratio getting more neutral over the years. We, at Britannia have seen the ratio of women employed in our factories increase significantly over the last seven years. While the ratio was around 10%, it is now around 35-40% across India as an average. Some of our factories that employ over 1,000 employees, have over 70% women.

Q. Are you planning any initiatives to empower women through your brand?

A. We at Britannia have always been advocates of homemakers, given they are the core consumers for most of our brands. Over the years, we have done extensive research to get to know these women and have observed a key shift over time. We are now seeing homemakers with bigger aspirations and entrepreneurial ambitions. To remain in sync with this change, we are soon launching a new initiative with one of our power brands, Marie Gold. The brand is currently positioned as “fuel for the homemaker” and we want to create a platform where we aim to reward women who have gone beyond their everyday housework/duties and started something of their own. We believe that every Indian homemaker holds the ability to create something unique and we want to nudge them to start. Our upcoming campaign is aligned to acknowledge the budding talents among our country’s female minds.