How Gurjeet Dhillon navigates her way in a male dominated industry

By Pradip Rodrigues

Toronto, January 15 (CINEWS): Making the transition from Punjab to Toronto wasn’t easy for Gurjeet Dhillon who was eleven when she moved here with her family. She went to school in Mississauga and had her challenges navigating the culture she knew and the culture here in Canada which for the most part was alien to her. Her father Rachhpal Singh meanwhile had his own set of challenges as he worked long hours driving a cab, he built his gurjeetbusiness slowly and steadily and today the Scarborough City Cab company which for the longest time has been a service provider for TTC serving seniors and persons with disabilities. Gurjeet is now taking the business to the next level. We hailed her down for an interview recently. Here are excerpts.

Tell us a little about your company?
My father came to Canada in 1981, in a few years, he drove a cab for a while until he and his brother, purchased additional cabs and soon ran a fleet. In 1994, he purchased a cab company in Scarborough and soon doubled the size of the company which is named Scarborough City Cab (SCC). In 1995, the company signed on to be one of the service providers for the TTC Wheel-Trans division to offer wheelchair accessible minivans. He started with five vehicles and today has 60 accessible minivans.
Our group of companies also provides accessible transportation to the Region of York. In 2014, we were awarded the contract for accessible service for the City of Calgary and I shuttle between the two cities as we expand the business there.

Have you always been involved in the family business?
I’ve been involved since the age of 15. My only summer jobs through university were working at SCC. I’ve had the opportunity to be involved in all aspects of the business including call-taking, administration and management.

How has the industry evolved over the years?
The taxicab industry has seen a multitude of changes, from new by-laws to updated payment methods. However, the biggest evolution by all means has been the entry of Uber. While the technology they bring has been very effective in improving the customer experience, the approach of operating under the radar of city regulations and safety requirements such as proper commercial insurance has made it impossible for legal taxicab companies to compete.

What are your plans to grow the business in these challenging times?
I am able to bring a sense of professionalism to an industry (taxi) that normally is not run in such a systematic manner. I am able to apply my studies in psychology and Human resources to help build a successful business. I also bring a ‘Canadian’ approach to business management and customer service.

You must be possibly one of the few women in a largely male dominated business, how does it feel?
Often times, I found myself to be the only woman around the table at external meetings. However, I never felt this worked against me. I think often people found it refreshing to have a different perspective. In terms of dealing with dispatchers and drivers, I also never found my gender to be a negative. Everyone is looking for fairness and respect. If those components are there, the gender of the person delivering the message is insignificant.
I have not faced outward sexism or racism. Although, I may have had to work a little harder to prove myself and achieve credibility.

What are the things required to succeed in the taxi business?
Knowledge of the industry and city by-laws; understanding and responding to new challenges; being a people person and being able to apply policies consistently are really important. In the taxi industry, it’s been important to know all the different stakeholders- eg. Drivers, plate-owners, agents, fleet owners, politicians etc. – and have the ability to work with everyone even though they have differing interests.

Pradip Rodrigues started out as a journalist at Society magazine, part of the Magna Group in Mumbai. He wrote extensively on a variety of subjects. He later moved to the Times of India where he was instrumental in starting the now defunct E-times, a television magazine. He conceptualized Bombay Times and became its first assistant editor where he handled features and page three. Since coming to Canada in 2000, he has freelanced for newspapers and magazines in India and written autobiographies for seniors.

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