The Indian Coffee House has added a moment of great pride to its 61-year-long history. For the first time since it was introduced in 1958, the restaurant chain has recruited women.
Sreekutty and Sheena are among the 10 women recruited by the Indian Coffee House this year. "I was aware that women are not hired here. My husband died, he was a cook at Indian Coffee House. Times have changed, and I believed myself that I will be able to get a job here. There were many union leaders, authorities who supported my cause. I have a 10-year-old child to feed and my mother-in-law to take care of," 32-year-old Sheena told NDTV.
For 24-year-old Sreekutty who lost her husband four months ago, the job at the Indian Coffee House has helped her take care of the needs of her two children. "I am happy that I have got this job. And even everyone around me at the work placement are supportive," a young beaming but nervous Sreekutty said.
The two women were appointed at Thiruvanthapuram's MLA hostel complex under the compassionate appointment scheme.
Built on a concept that all workers are equal and with even top managers rising up the ranks after being recruited as 'general workers', these women are now equal share holders in the Kerala-based restaurant chain.
While the striking white uniform with a red/green waist court and a distinctive head gear is characteristic of servers at Indian Coffee House, these women for now are seen in blue kurta and brown waist court. "We are in probation. After we successfully finished the various tasks at cooking, serving, cleaning departments, we will be given the appropriate uniforms," Sheena says.
Anil Kumar one of the board of directors says it was Sheena's petition that forced the company to think of adding woman employees to the otherwise ubiquitous male staff. "When Sheena first approached us for the job, we had to decline because we hadn't hired women. Later, industries secretary also happened to ask us about why we don't hire women. That's how we started moving in that direction. We are happy that revolutionary idea which began under the great communist leader AK Gopalan, and employs over 2,500 men, now includes women as employees too," Anil Kumar says.
As part of the programme, four women were initially hired by the Kannur section on trial basis earlier this year, followed by seven more who have been hired recently.
Indian Coffee House's decision to hire women staff has been welcomed even by the restaurant chain's customers.
"I have been a regular at Indian Coffee House and used to wonder, why women are not employed. I even mentioned this as a passing comment to union leaders. I am glad that the Indian Coffee House shareholders have taken the decision to include women in their rich history. It's a welcome step," Biju K, Director for Industries and Commerce, said.