The first thing that strikes you about Neelu Khatri is her inherent simplicity even while she is tough as nails.
After all, she was part of the first batch of women logistics officers in the Indian Air Force way back in 1993. Since then, she has had some interesting stints before coming on board Akasa Air as Co-Founder and Head of Operations.
Neelu grew up in Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh, and it was from here that her aspirations of conquering the skies took off. For a woman to join the IAF was a big deal back then even though gender diversity has come a long way since then. She did face her share of challenges but refused to be deterred during her 15-year tenure at the IAF.
From Neelu’s point of view, it was perhaps important to drive home the point to her male colleagues that a woman was as good as a man. There were some difficult moments along the way but these were accompanied by some hilarious incidents too. Over time, the men acknowledged that women like Neelu were more than competent with a never-say-die attitude.
They also brought to the table higher levels of emotional intelligence, which helped in critical areas like counselling. After all, the IAF is not a bed of roses and can take a toll on people’s mental health, especially in difficult situations. Here’s where women officers like Neelu excelled in reaching out to those who needed help and support.
These 15 years at the IAF also created a lot of deep friendships with male colleagues and they continue to keep in touch with her. She is particularly pleased that women have a far more proactive role to play in the IAF as well as in the Army and Navy.
Neelu then worked at KPMG Consulting and Honeywell before she became part of the leadership team at Akasa Air. While ensuring that women have a fair representation across all functions here, she makes it clear that it is finally competencies that matter. Neelu is passionate about biking and has made it known that she will become a bus driver when she retires!
Watch The Conversation Here: https://youtu.be/K1SKPfAD8JA