Published: 26th January 2018
Is it really a man's world? Think again, hints Ampere CEO Hemalatha Annamalai
Whoever said that only a man knows what's under the hood couldn't be more wrong! Hemalatha Annamalai, the CEO of Ampere Vehicles, talks about breaking the glass ceiling
After gushing about Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu's keynote on the first day of TNIE's ThinkEdu Conclave, we steal away Hemalatha Annamalai, CEO, Ampere Vehicles, from the first session, though she was intent on attending it. She very graciously obliged and we found a quiet corner in an otherwise busy hall. Right off the bat we assure her that we won't waste her time with trivial womanly questions, you know like 'How do you balance your kitchen and business?' or 'How do you manage life as a working mother?’ Basically, "any question that men never get asked," we say in exasperation. So instead, we ask her, "What are the two questions you'd like to ask and how would you answer them yourself?"
"One question that I'd ask women entrepreneurs is ‘How do you empower yourselves?’," mulls Annamalai, who believes that women are master multitaskers and that enables them to execute any task better than anyone else. "We hire those people who are adept at finding solutions and that's how you empower yourself because if you are eternally looking for faults, things will never improve," she states, adding that, "the moment you empower yourself in every possible way, people will observe and learn from you. That's when the transition from a manager to a leader happens," she says.
Hidden gems: They hire engineers from Tier II and Tier III cities to build electric vehicles and their components and some ground-breaking work is done by them
Another question she would like to ask is, ‘Once you empower yourself, what can you do for the society?’ To answer this, she invokes what the Vice-President of India said, “Always remember your mother, your mother tongue and your native place.” That's why the Salem-born entrepreneur, who was brought up in Chennai, chose to set up the factory of Ampere Vehicles, an electric vehicles company, in Coimbatore.
"We wanted to be in a place where we can create more jobs. We saw no point in setting up in the city, where we would just add to the chaos, pollution, traffic and congestion. All they needed was guidance and mentorship," avers Annamalai, adding that the company recently tested the commercial viability of their solar-powered boats and is now focusing on developing components of electric vehicles.
And as a woman entrepreneur in this industry, we're sure she's turning some heads. She shares instances when dealers have come to the factory asking 'Sir enge?' (Where is sir?), "because they expect a male Head," she laughs. And her response? Quite simply, ‘I am the sir, please come here'. "Once they see that you are a firm decision-maker and value time, they submit," she explains. And what advice does she have for others trying to break that glass ceiling?
"First and foremost, you need to believe in yourself. People will always have something to say. You must ignore them all because you can never make everyone happy," she says. She also advocates the cause of being attentive to your own self and your needs. "I do yoga for about two hours every day which I feel has given me the immense strength to overcome my problems," she states.