[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Friday, 4 November 2005, 11:02 GMT
Sales soar at all-women garage
Female pump attendant
Petrol stations are traditional bastions of male employment
A petrol station in Delhi has seen profits soar by more than 300% since it became one of the first petrol stations in India to employ only female staff.

The Bharat Petrol outlet, in Delhi's diplomatic enclave, is run entirely by women - in a sector of the job market that, traditionally, has been virtually exclusively dominated by men.

"The customers have more faith in the girls because they think male employees are more likely to cheat them," supervisor Rajinda Prasad told BBC World Service's Everywoman programme.

"The difference in sales is nearly 3-4,000 litres of fuel, and that's thanks to our female employees."

Defying tradition

The women are employed in all aspects of the petrol station's workings, from management through to washing cars, filling the tanks and checking the oil and the tyre pressures. At the entrance, a huge billboard displays women smiling in their uniforms.

In all, around 30 young women work there - and in doing so are defying tradition.

In some cases, the petrol station women are serving fuel to men who believe firmly that a woman's place is in the home.

Female pump attendant fills a motorcycle
This is a shining example of this country's progress
Barrett petrol station customer
"When I first started working here, people used to ridicule me because I was doing a man's job," said one of the attendants.

"I used to get nervous and wonder whether I could do the job. I also used to be terrified of working late nights. But I no longer feel like that."

Another said that some male customers think that "because we are women, they can take advantage of us, or be rude to us.

"Some get really angry and shout abuse at us. But we have learned to deal with them."

Even some of the female customers are not entirely comfortable about being served by a woman.

One recently told an attendant that "'this is not a job for women'. She was a woman herself, and yet she felt my place was in the kitchen. I felt like quitting work and giving up altogether."

It is not only tradition that has meant women are a rare sight at Indian petrol pumps - Delhi's reputation as a dangerous city has discouraged them, especially given the unsociable working hours - including late nights - that pump attendants work.

But in response to these concerns, Delhi's police have provided the women at the Bharat Petrol station with martial arts training.


"My mum said girls shouldn't be scared, and should step out and find a career," said 22-year-old Sonu.

"I hesitated, because being a petrol pump attendant is normally a man's job. But my mother firmly believed there is nothing a woman can't do.

"So she said I should go ahead and try it out."

Meanwhile, the management of the station insists that the women are an asset, and not a liability, and other state-run oil companies are now said to be considering hiring more women.

And although there are occasional problems, most customers are happy.

"They should continue to work in these jobs, because they're setting an example for the girls," one customer said.

"I feel bad that Delhi has become so unsafe - but that should not deter them."

Another insisted that there should be more oil companies now hiring women.

"This is a shining example of this country's progress," he added.

Delhi Metro line up and running
02 Jul 05 |  South Asia
Green buses ordered in Delhi
16 Feb 01 |  South Asia


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific