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First Indian female bus driver shows diligence accelerates success



Mala Rangarajan, New Zealand’s first Indian female bus driver (Photo Supplied)

Dr Malini Yugendran
Auckland, March 2, 2023

Mala Rangarajan is perhaps the first woman of Indian origin to become a bus driver in New Zealand entering what was then a male-dominated profession.

When she and her family moved to New Zealand in 2002, like any other migrant, tried various jobs. Unfortunately, the response to her job applications was negative.

Ms Rangarajan and her husband then decided to abandon their education (degree in Commerce) and become ‘professional job searchers.’

She started working in the flyer distribution sector and noted different locations and routes. Little did she know that this knowledge would be the route to her future career.

With her children still in school, Ms Rangarajan sought a part-time job at a call centre in the Newmarket area. When that did not work out, she found an advertisement in the paper recruiting bus drivers. She thought to herself that her geographical knowledge would be useful and applied.

To her surprise, she was recruited as a part-time bus driver at the Mt Roskill Depot.

“The company provided full training and helped me get Class two, Class four, and then a Passenger endorsement,” she said.

Mala Rangarajan in the (bus) driver’s seat (Photo Supplied)

Breaking barriers

As a female bus driver, Ms Rangarajan was a little intimidated to mingle with her male colleagues. At first, her male colleagues were very reluctant to accept a female driver, let alone an Indian woman. She did not lose sight of her goals and worked hard to gain their respect.

“I was not going to let gender, race or culture stand in the way of achieving my dreams,” she said.

Ms Rangarajan saw other opportunities that led her to apply for more office-based roles.

She moved up the ranks as a Leading Operator, Operations Supervisor, and Depot Manager before deciding to resign. Throughout her career, she enjoyed driving various bus models, learning the mechanisms and manoeuvres, and liaising with passengers and other drivers daily.

“Growing up in a semi-conservative low-income family in India, I was not able to achieve my dreams or attend the educational courses of my choice because of monetary implications.

After marriage, my supportive husband allowed me to explore and find the right option for me, and I chose to do something unique – become a bus driver,” she said.

After many other ventures following her resignation as a Depot Manager, and with her children settled, Ms Rangarajan and her husband are now semi-retired and are co-owners of a shuttle company (Air Shuttle Pvt Ltd) that provides general/luxury transfers.

Despite all her achievements, she is still passionate about “driving and being a people mover.”

Speed-breakers of careers

Some employers insist on ‘The New Zealand experience, which can be a barrier for skilled migrants to find employment at their level of expertise.

This can be frustrating for skilled migrants who have the necessary qualifications and experience but are not given the opportunity to showcase their skills.

However, some companies in New Zealand are recognising the value of diverse perspectives and experiences and are actively seeking to hire skilled migrants.

The government is taking steps to address this issue by providing support and resources for skilled migrants to help them find meaningful employment.

Dr Malini Yugendran is an Indian Newslink Reporter based in Auckland.

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