Sanjam Gupta’s journey has been entwined with her sister Sumi who also pursued shipping management. Being daughters of a Master Mariner, both the sisters heard the tales of their father’s voyages on the sea and fell in love with it. This interest grew into a passion which they just could not escape, and it culminated in them joining the family business Sitara Shipping Ltd. The duo make a fabulous team now.
Sanjam though had other plans for her career before she chose shipping. She tells us, “While pursuing my MBA, I got distracted and was contemplating to get into the field of education-my own chain of pre-primary or play schools.” But she gave her childhood dream another chance and just went with it. She had her inhibitions, considering this was a male dominated industry and she had to go out of her comfort zone to be able to put a strong foot in.
Gender disparities are more pronounced in the sector as Gupta mentions, ”In the maritime sector we are women working on ship and ashore. At shore there are limitations for women, such as they are not allowed in port after dark and such. There are also few companies which have a policy not to hire women which is very sad. Even female seafarers are not given the same level of opportunities as male seafarers.
Other than these I feel there is a big divide especially at the Board level where the gentlemen easily outnumber the women –no question. It is also sad that sometimes the few women on top some are very encouraging to others while a handful of them want to remain exactly the “few” women on top and are not pro-women being women themselves.Talk about women being women’s enemies! Sigh.”
I’m very happy to say gender has not made a difference to my career path
She tells us that “Women in our industry are certainly more visible than 2001. Apart from the “mindset” of some individuals who cannot see women as “serious” I’m very happy to say gender has not made a difference to my career path.”
She says success that comes with hard work makes it easier for women because we are always striving to do better. Women have this responsibility of making a mark, and being a multi-tasker makes this job easy because there are so many different roles to play, that of a mother, wife, career woman. “While this is also extremely challenging I am thankful to my parents ,sister and husband for giving me this wonderful opportunity and encouraging me. Family truly levels the playing field with their immense support!” adds Sanjam.
A believer of work-life balance, her working hours are not the traditional Nine to Five. She knows where her priorities lie and knows when you need to stop working to spend some quality time with family.
She is also one of the founding members of WISTA India – Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association, which was launched in December 2012. She was elected to the Board of WISTA International in 2014 and in the same year assisted in the launch of WISTA Sri Lanka. “We have been conducting seminars, training programmes on varied topics ranging from marketing, finance, arbitration ,customs procedures and so on and CFS and Port visits and networking events to enable women to get the opportunities and exposure required. Most importantly WISTA India is providing a platform for the women in the Maritime Industry.”
We need to change the “stodgy image” the industry projects and create awareness
Any words of wisdom for women entrepreneurs?
“The passion, will to succeed, hard work and ability to think out of the box are essential ingredients to create a winning combination!
I want talented young people especially women to join the shipping industry and take the Indian Shipping Industry to greater heights. We need to change the “stodgy image” the industry projects and create awareness of our industry so people take pride in being part of the same.”
Believing that you can do what your heart desires, is the key. Break stereotypes, question the “norms”, and just do what suits you. After all, only taking risks push you further and help you move things along!