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Guts and grace

Meet G. Sree Vidhya, the first woman to run a security services business in Chennai



Standing tall in a man's world: G. Sree Vidhya

AT 5'11", G. Sree Vidhya towers over most of her clients. "In my profession, my height is an advantage," she says with a smile. What's so unusual about her profession, you would ask.

Vidhya runs Ravindra Services, which owns Dialzone Hotline Services and D Group Security Force. It is the security business that gives Vidya that edge over others as she's "the only woman in the city to run such a business."

When Vidhya talks about her job, her pride is evident. "It's tough, believe me. In fact, I have learnt to conduct myself like a man while on the job. It's the challenge that motivates me each day," she says.

Pain, her teacher

Life has not been a bed of roses for the mother of two. A bad marriage at a young age left Vidhya scarred.

"But, when I look back I realise that the pain helped me emerge stronger. Instead of running away from life, I faced it head-on. I owe a lot to my mentor and boss, Dr. Ravindra Padmanabhan, who encouraged me every time I hit a psychological low."

Dr. Ravindra started Dialzone Hotline Services in 1978, which besides looking into all kinds of emergency needs of households and corporates, also supplied skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled manpower. Vidhya, who met him while working at Malar Hospitals, soon joined him in the business, which diversified into security services in 1989. The company supplies guards, gunmen and escorts, and has branches in Bangalore, Delhi, Hyderabad, Pune, Ranipet and Hosur.

"I started my career on a two-wheeler, selling security services to corporates as I wanted to learn the nuances of the trade. It was something unheard of then, as it was a man's world," recalls Vidhya.

"But the job made me stronger and bolder. It's not easy dealing with drunken or rude guards." The untimely passing away of her mentor "left me shattered."

But, like before, she moved on, completed her Masters in Marketing, bought the company four years ago from Dr. Ravindra's family "as I had invested my blood, sweat and time in it," and turned it into a profit-making venture.

Today, Vidhya is the major shareholder of the company that employs over 3,000 people. Her clients include L&T, Cognizant Technologies, Sundaram Fasteners and Konica.

Artistic side

The tough woman has an artistic side too. She's a trained classical singer. Vidhya is the daughter of Vaigal S. Gnanaskandan, one of Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer's disciples. "I practise music whenever I find the time. I also act in plays and host programmes on radio," says the president of the Rotary Club of Chennai Samudra.

The club is another of her passions. Talking about it, she says, "The three-year-old all-woman club has only 23 members, but we are a close-knit group. We are trying to do our bit for society by helping create AIDS awareness." The club in fact recently hosted Pakistani ghazal maestro Ghulam Ali on whom it conferred the Paul Harris Fellow.

As for the future, Sree Vidhya is inching towards a tie-up with a Malaysian company. But her focus will be on making the security services industry part of the organised sector.

SAVITHA GAUTAM

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