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Women in Car Rentals: An Interview with a car hire business based in London

Men and women around the world are striving to achieve a better future in mobility for all.

Although women contribute to transforming mobility, they frequently remain invisible and their contribution to safer, more inclusive and more sustainable transport is insufficiently acknowledged. To highlight changemakers in the transport sector, we at Coastr interviewed two such women, who are changing the traditional narrative in the vehicle rental space with their drive and passion.

Bamila Baskaran and May Hoang from Sunshine Automobiles, a fast-growing private vehicle hire based in London, share perspectives on what excited them about the car rental space, the challenges they faced as women professionals in the industry and why it's important to make women more visible.


Q: Tell us about your role at Sunshine Rentals?

Bamila: I am the operations manager at Sunshine Rentals. I handle the PCNs and fines that customers receive. I organise the fleet checker’s schedule and take care of key inventory.

May: I am the Maintenance Manager and look after maintenance and repair of all cars in the fleet.

Q: Given that it is just the beginning of your career, what made you say yes to an ops manager role in a traditionally male-dominated industry?

Bamila: I wanted to prove to the car industry that women can take on this role and influence young women to get into something that is traditionally male-dominated.

Q: Being on the ground, after seeing things first-hand and experiencing industry operations, do you think it's been difficult for you to tackle the bias and stereotypical thoughts around women?

Bamila: I have experienced male customers wanting to speak to male staff and not me, as they think I don’t have any knowledge of cars.

May: I have experienced something very similar. Many male customers and sometimes even female customers think I am just a secretary. I remain firm and push through their stereotypes to change their perspective. Since I handle car parts and repairs, I am often not seen as “tough” enough or considered “emotional”, but I think we need to normalise and personalise the professional work space in a way so that it breeds an open environment where employees, male or female, can be open about their feelings without being ridiculed.

Q: What's the best part and the worst part of working in the vehicle rental space?

Bamila: The worst part for me is dealing with bailiffs. Learning new things every single day is what I enjoy the most.

May: The worst would be working with garages that don’t take me seriously. The best part would be getting to handle and experience new roles such as marketing. I can do that here because it is a small company.

Q: What do you have to say about the gender diversity ratio in your industry? What is Sunshine rentals doing to bring about a change?

Bamila: The diversity in the company is currently good. We maintain 1:1 ratio between male and female employees. Sunshine is giving a chance to any and every candidate and is mindful of gender diversity when choosing new employees.

May: As an industry it doesn’t look too appealing to a woman like me, as it is heavily male-dominated. The industry typically assigns certain roles to certain genders. Sunshine doesn’t seem to have a problem with employing a woman on the field which is typically a male role.

Q: Do you have any female role models/ mentors? What is the biggest thing you have learnt from them?

Bamila: Yes. My mum is my female role model. She is a hardworking single mother, who works two jobs to ensure her three kids have a roof over their heads. She is motivating and extremely independent.

May: I would say my mum too. She has always been a strong figure and leader in the family. She is independent and when she wants something she will go out and get it.

Q: What skill set is required to work in the vehicle rental space and make your mark?

Bamila: You have to be intuitive and have good problem-solving skills, especially when you work in a small business. Good communication is also key.

Q: What do you #ChooseToChallenge this International Women's Day?

Bamila: I #ChooseToChallenge the notion that women are stereotypically better with attention to detail and should hold more responsibility for their actions, but will never be put in roles other than admin and general office work. I don’t think I would be considered for a fleet management role as I am not considered as forward enough.

May: I want to challenge the white lens that International Women’s Day is seen through. Feminism is mostly discussed with the western woman in mind. We should choose to focus our efforts to empower women and educate men who are in less fortunate circumstances than us. I don’t believe I am doing anything particularly special at Sunshine as a woman, but there are women who are being oppressed because of natural body functions.

About Sunshine Automobiles:

Sunshine Automobiles established in 2016, is already one of the fastest growing newly established companies in the private hire industry. The company prides itself on excellent ethical standards and all of their cars are fuel-efficient with very low carbon footprint. The company strives to provide best service to its customers in this dynamic and fast-paced business.

Offering a variety of cars and prices, Sunshine Autos is the only Central London-based PCO car rental company which is efficient, fast and rewards good drivers.

About Coastr:

Coastr is a B2B cloud technology company in the smart mobility space that is disrupting the vehicle rental market with an AI and IoT-enabled digital platform and related tech-enabled services. Our cloud-based car rental management software for independent operators, leverages advanced telematics technology to digitise rental operations, improve efficiency and reduce operational costs. We also have a customer-friendly mobile app that utilises keyless entry technology to enable contactless rental services. Since its founding in 2018, the business has won both Scottish Enterprise and Innovate UK grants for smart mobility solutions and is planning on completing a Series A round in late 2021.

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