From managing director to pilot: How women at Blue Dart are playing crucial roles during the pandemic

Managing Director Tulsi Mirchandaney and First Officer Qwenlyn D’Souza are helping Blue Dart Aviation deliver essential PPEs, and COVID-19 related medical supplies.

From a charter load to critical shipments, Blue Dart Aviation has transported tonnes of cargo carrying essential supplies since the nationwide lockdown began, to keep the mission-critical supply chain running, and helping the nation in fighting the war against the coronavirus pandemic.

It recently operated its Boeing 757-200 freighter cross border on the Kolkata-Guangzhou, China-Guwahati-Kolkata route, to bring critical PPE and COVID-19 related medical supplies. 

Blue Dart freighters flew on the Kolkata-Dhaka-Kolkata route frequently, and on the Delhi-Guangzhou, China-Delhi, and Kolkata-Guangzhou, China-Kolkata routes throughout in April 2020. 

Among the staff, two women at Blue Dart are playing crucial roles during the pandemic.

Woman on top

Managing Director of Blue Dart Aviation Tulsi Mirchandaney’s journey began in 1995 even before the launch of the company.

“Led by the founder of Blue Dart Clyde Cooper, we worked towards the culmination of this historic event – the launch of India’s first domestic cargo airline in 1996. I started my career with Japan Airlines in Kolkata, and subsequently have had stints in Mumbai (then Bombay), Bengaluru (with Air France Cargo), Delhi, and Chennai,” Tulsi recalls.

Aviation was not a planned career move for her. It was a stop-gap arrangement to fund her further studies. She holds an MBA degree in International Aviation from Concordia University, Montreal.

During her almost five decades-long career, Tulsi has several achievements to her credit. Under her tenure, the company phased out its vintage fleet of B737-200 freighters, replacing them with the higher capacity and more fuel-efficient B757-200s. The support for the freighter conversions and inductions have been carried out successfully by the team, together with major aircraft modifications and upgrade. Technology has been innovated in-house to support training, quality monitoring and assurance, HR and business intelligence, and infrastructure and facilities have been expanded across airports to provide greater operations efficiency, and a more conducive work environment, among others.

“The biggest challenge for us has been the rising cost of ATF against the depreciation of the Indian rupee. Apart from this, the increasing cost of infrastructure has significantly affected our business’s increasing cost burden. We have also been facing challenges at the airports as the infrastructure primarily caters to passenger airlines only,” she says.

Navigating the pandemic

Navigating the COVID-19 pandemic, Tulsi says, Blue Dart has supported the Indian government, several state governments, local municipalities, hospitals, and research institutions.

“Blue Dart has also been delivering essential and non-essential products across 7000+ pin codes in India through its strong air and ground express network. Making customer’s health and safety a priority, it has introduced contactless delivery services as a protocol, which is designed to minimise and eliminate contact during the delivery and collection of shipments,” Tulsi adds.

On the international front, the company has also been operating cross border to China (Guangzhou and Shanghai), to support the carriage of medical and related supplies, and expanded its charters to Myanmar, Hong Kong, and Bangladesh. It is also delivering medicines to NRIs residing overseas.

Call of duty

If Tulsi Mirchandaney is overseeing Blue Dart’s operations during the pandemic on terra firma, 24-year-old First Officer Qwenlyn D’Souza is risking life by being a pilot during these turbulent times.

After receiving her commercial pilot licence (CPL), Qwenlyn worked as a Simulator Instructor in IGRUA from 2015-2017, and eventually joined Blue Dart Aviation in July 2017.

In tough times, the call of duty is most important, she says.

“The cargo sector is working in full swing and helping the government and authorities deliver essential goods and other medical equipment. Having said that, safety comes first for us. Our professional obligation states that there should be no compromise on safety and security. Our support and service is a necessity during a national crisis like this.”

While fear and anxiety have been a constant hurdle, Qwenlyn believes, this line of duty encourages a courageous mindset.

“At first, I was apprehensive when an opportunity to fly to China was proposed. However, voicing out my concerns with management, Tulsi Mirchandaney helped me lay my apprehensions to rest after being educated about the safety protocols that were implemented. My family, along with my friends, have always been encouraging and are a pillar of strength in my decision making. I live in a different city because of my job, and having good friends and mentors who push you to do your best makes it easy to navigate through a tough situation,” she adds.

Her long-term goal is to be a part of the Flying Training Team. She also aims to attain an ATPL licence, and start training. “I'm still exploring this beautiful industry and keeping all my options open as I continue to educate and re-skill myself,” she says.

According to Tulsi, we are limited only by the extent of our willingness to execute our dreams.

“While it is true that women find it harder to advance to positions of leadership in their chosen careers, I believe that if decisions are made based on merit, then gender is not a factor. We know that the intent of every business is to succeed, regardless of the diversity of input. Astute leaders in every organisation understand that, and I’m sure, appreciate women who help them achieve their business goals.”

On the ground or in the sky, the women at Blue Dart are inspiring others to dream big and reach for the stars.

Edited by Suman Singh