So the first ever Forbes India 30 Under 30 list is out. It is there everywhere I go. On Facebook, Twitter, on the magazine and in the news. If you’ve not read it, click here.
When I first saw the title, I was super-excited to read the list. One, I love lists. Two, this was by Forbes. Three, it was about young achievers in India. So reading this list was bound to be a treasure and a pleasure.
As I went on to read the list, I was truly impressed by what these achievers have done. As the post says, ”Showcasing an enterprising new generation that dreams big and refuses to say die“. As I read further, these words from the article caught my attention “This isn’t just a celebration of capitalism and profit; it is also in recognition of social value. Do-gooders, geeks, greens, musicians, sportspersons, creative-types and biz kids: The net was thrown wide to catch the best and the brightest.“
As I scrolled through the list, the sheer diversity impressed me! In terms of age (from 18 years to 29 years), in terms of the categories and in terms of their achievements itself. After I read the post, I also spent significant time in reading more about each of them and their achievements, and I was bowled over. Where did my 20s go? – I wondered!
Well endowed talent, passion, confidence, the genius of their ideas, focus, discipline, the will to succeed, the spirit to go the full mile in spite / despite everything and most importantly their supporting ecosystem (in terms of parents, friends, family, institutes, organizations, technology and capital) have all played a role in their names featuring on this list. For that, my deepest respect, a big bow and a Tiara crown to all of them. I don’t know any of them personally, but I was proud to see such a list recognizing young talent in India.
As I mulled over the list, one thought continued to linger on. Why were there so few women? Among the list of 30, only 6 women featured. 80% were boys and 20% were girls.
For full reading, click here
Being a working mother is no easy task… Every day comes with its share of endless round-the- clock expectations, ups and downs, challenges, surprises, joys and sorrows, good bad and ugly, unanticipated / unexpected events / activities, challenges, exhaustion, moments of self-doubt, wonder, awe, guilt, etc. etc. etc.
Simply because every working mother has to deal with several “mini-projects” as I call it on a daily basis
Project 1 : Kids (A to Z)
Project 2 : Work / Career
Project 3 : Food and Cooking
Project 4 : Husband (Yes! A full time project)
Project 5 : Friends
Project 6 : Home Maintenance
Project 7 : Family
Project 8 : Self
Project 9 : Miscellaneous / Others
Just listing it down exhausted me! Then imagine how exhausting it would be for anyone to manage every single one of them, every single day!
The bottom-line is really this:
- You are primarily accountable and responsible for all / most of the above (In most cases)
- You can plan all that you want. But a lot of things are beyond planning – In fact, beyond your control (For e.g.: Kids not well, You fall sick, A last minute deadline at work, An extremely urgent official “life-and-death” call which the spouse has to take!, A natural calamity, etc etc etc.)
- You can really take it one day at a time in terms of execution! At least till your children are somewhat independent!
And ever since I became a working mother myself, I have often wondered if there was a magic mantra to aid any working mother. Something which
- Gives you that extra energy
- Gives you “Me Time”
- Makes you more productive
- Makes you “clear-headed”; no matter what situation you are in
- Keeps you emotionally balanced
- Gives you those much needed extra-hours
- Makes you look good / younger despite your age / stress-level
And the good news is this – From personal experience, I’ve found one “MAGIC MANTRA” which can truly make a DIFFERENCE for a working mother; at least in addressing all the points listed above..
And that is regular practice of Yoga and Meditation.
Everyday practice of yoga and meditation for 30 – 40 minutes has enormous benefits from all dimensions – physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual.
Here’s what I realized as the key benefits of the practice of yoga and meditation:
- You get that extra energy simply because of the improved blood flow and oxygen circulation in your body
- You get a few minutes of “Me Time” ; just for yourself and to yourself – Time of calm, peace and quiet
- You end up being more productive. Personally, I’ve found that my productivity almost doubles on days I practice yoga / meditate ; and hence you can actually “gain time”
- Your head is a lot clearer; and you can handle high-stress / pressure situations at home and work; and make decisions better. After all, stressful / pressure situations are a routine part of everyday parenting!
- You are more in control of your own emotions; and this is extremely important for a working mother. Else you can go on an emotional roller-coaster ride every single day!
- Last but not least, you get a wonderful body tone, agility and glow on your face / skin – which every women / mother truly loves
If you’re interested in learning more on how yoga can make a difference in your life, hop over to my post on 12 Most Promising Outcomes of the regular practice of yoga
In conclusion.. Looking back at my own life – Ever since I became a mother myself, I have a new found respect and admiration for all working mothers.
No matter what you do
No matter where you live
No matter what else you do
If you’re a working mother
Hats off to you
What is the magic mantra that has worked for you? Would love to hear your views… Leave a comment to let me know
Originally published here
Today (8 March) is International Women’s Day. A day dedicated and celebrated in honor of women. On this occasion, I wanted a write a special post on my blog, and was wondering what I should focus on. As I looked at women all around me, I couldn’t help but observe the striking issues of “Working MOTHERS” – After all, being a mother is an important identity for many women. And working MOTHERS are a reality in the modern economy!
They manage their home, their kids, their careers, their husband [Yes! Needs special mention ], their friends / families / other relationships, themselves and a zillion other things. For all that they do, my DEEPEST APPRECIATION and RESPECT!
But more importantly, what is the “REAL Dilemma” that Working Mothers face. As I reflect more on this, here’s my response:
(1) Getting the PRIORITIES Right
The challenge for most women is getting the priorities right – First in their head, and then in day-to-day action. If you are confused about your priority list, you will have challenges almost every single day. And this becomes all the more complicated because of the intricate nature of the dependencies and inter-dependencies based on your actions.
Take-Away : You should be able to identify the Top 5 priorities for the day, for the week, for the month, etc. And align your actions in line with these priorities.
(2) Managing EXPECTATIONS
Simply put, a working mother plays so many different roles – That of a mother, working professional, wife, daughter, sister, extended family, friend, home manager, cook, employer (in case you leverage support services within the 4 walls, etc.). And with each of these roles are several responsibilities – Both implicit and explicit! And expectations. The reality is that there are 24 hours in a day, and the world expects output worth 50 hours a day from a working mother. Somehow the math does not add up!
Take-Away : Setting and Managing expectations can alleviate a great majority of everyday challenges which most working mothers deal with. And clear communication is the key!
(3) Bridging the DICHOTOMY between the “Corporate World” and the “Other World”
The “Corporate World” expects results – Be it from a “man” or a “woman”. And to achieve results, one needs to be focused, objective, goal-oriented and to go for the kill. On the other hand, the “Other World” expects women to be flexible, accommodating, giving, sacrificing, soft-spoken, caring, nurturing. There is a “real dichotomy” between these two worlds. And it is really tough for most working mothers to transition between these two worlds on a daily basis – between morning to night!
Take-Away: I don’t know if there is any realistic solution for it, but just be aware and acknowledge that these are two different worlds and each expect different things from you
(4) Dealing with personal EMOTIONS
As a working mother, one goes through highs and lows of emotions frequently – Emotions of guilt, satisfaction, sadness, joy, self-rationalization, self-interrogation, etc. etc. At the end of the day, every women has to make personal choices. And with each choice, there are trade-offs. There is no RIGHT or WRONG! Just that every choice has a consequence which will impact your life. So once you make a choice, take responsibility for it! Emotions are a part of life. And they are integral in your personal journey.
Take-Away: Acknowledge and Accept your emotions. And find ways to deal with them!
(5) Finding it hard to say “NO”
Most of us find it hard to say “NO” to things which come our way. However the fact is that as a working mother, TIME is your most valuable resources. So you should value it and treasure it. And be judicious in how you invest it. No point in doing things which are not aligned with your priorities. If something comes you way that does not fit into your scheme of things, learn to say a loud and re-sounding “NO”
Take-Away: Start Saying “NO” to things which are not on your priority list. It is truly liberating!
(6) Aiming to make EVERYONE HAPPY ALL THE TIME
Take-Away: Accept it! You CANNOT make EVERYONE happy all the time. And that’s OK
Nupur Basu is the featured STAR in my Blog-o-Rendezvous Series.
ABOUT NUPUR BASU
Nupur Basu is an independent journalist, award winning documentary film maker and media educator from India.
For the last three decades Nupur has worked in both print and television journalism and reported and filmed extensively from different regions in the world like India, UK, Uganda, Switzerland, South Africa, Spain, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal ,Bangladesh and Afghanistan . She reported extensively on politics, development, gender, child rights, issues of livelihood, hunger, health and environment in print, television and documentary films. Her longest stints in print was with India’s leading national daily Indian Express (1982 to 1991) and in television, with New Delhi Television (NDTV) (from 1994 to 2006) where she was Senior Editor.
In 2010 Nupur was visiting faculty for the spring term at the Graduate School of Journalism at UC Berkeley teaching a course on ‘International Reporting: India”. She is an Associate Fellow at the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS) at Bangalore and also on the executive committee of the Delhi based Media Foundation. She is also on the Board of Panos, London.
Nupur has also made five independent documentary films between 1995 to 2008:
”No Country for Young Girls?” (2008- produced by TVE ,UK and telecast on BBC World)
”Lost Generations” (2000 – produced by TVE,UK and telecast on BBC World)
”Michael Jackson Comes to Manikganj” (2000 - supported by Media South Asia and IDS, Sussex and Ford Foundation.)
”Mothers of Malappuram” ( 1997 – produced by TVE, UK and telecast on BBC World)
”Dry Days in Dobbagunta” (1995 – produced by TVE, UK and telecast on BBC World)- award for Excellence in Television at IAWRT Festival at Harare, Zimbabwe in 1997.)
Nischala: Hi Nupur. Firstly, thank you so much for your time. It’s indeed a pleasure and honour to talk to you.
Nupur: Hello, Nischala. I am impressed with your patience and perseverance. You would have made a very good journalist – it is the hallmark of a good reporter to chase their story, till they get it.
Nischala: Thank you, for your kind words … So let me start this rendezvous with a subject and topic dear to your heart – Empowerment of Women. What does empowerment really mean?
Nupur: Empowerment of women is simply about giving girls equal opportunities in life to learn, grow and evolve. It is about instilling self-confidence and belief in their own strengths and capabilities.
Nischala: That’s an interesting response. So can you please elaborate on these?
Nupur: All of the above really start with making a daughter feel wanted and special from the time she is born. It’s about how you condition her to perceive a role for herself in life. In a fundamental sense, in our country, it’s linked to survival itself. As you are aware in India we have the shameful sex- ratio distortion due to a son- loving society. As per published data, 70 lakh girls (seven million) have been aborted in India in the last ten years alone through sex-selective abortions.
The situation has got worse year upon year. In the 1991 census, there were 945 girls in India to 1000 boys. Ten years later, in the 2001 census it was 928 girls. In the 2011 census, it is down to 914. Only in the state of Kerala the sex ratio is in favour of women. The Prime Minister of our country has described it as a ‘national shame’ but there is no political will to do anything to stop this genocide. The PNDT (Pre-Natal Diagnostic Technique) Act which makes sex selective abortions illegal was passed in 1994. After 18 years, the number of convictions for pre-natal sex determination is abysmally low- only 80 cases have so far resulted in conviction.
Aamir Khan’s recent episode of ‘Satyameva Jayate’ brought this into national focus. Let’s hope it helps our society break the silence on this national crime. I have editorially described it as a very positive effort and a missed opportunity for the national media. Here is the link for that article in the media watch website-The Hoot
Nischala: You have also made a film on this for BBC World on this subject- Tell us about it.
Nupur: Yes, I made a documentary on this subject in 2008 titled: No Country for Young Girls? . In the film, the protagonist is 27 year- old Vaijanti , a young married women with two young daughters. Like lakhs of women in India, this young married woman too has been rejected by her husband and in-laws for giving birth only to girls. Ironically, Vaijanti lives in Agra just one kilometre from the Taj Mahal , the monument that symbolises eternal love for the world. When we started filming her story, she had returned to her mother’s house and was in a legal battle with the husband. The film begins with petite Vaijanti sitting alone on that lover’s bench in from of the magnificent Taj Mahal saying: “I grew up in the land of Rani of Jhansi and I wanted to give birth to my daughters… my husband threw me out of the house for that but I will fight for my girls till the very end” . Princess Diana had sat alone on the same bench at the Taj and it had symbolised the end of her marriage with Prince Charles.
Vaijanti then leaves Agra with us and travels across the country meeting women from different economic backgrounds to find out whether she is alone in her suffering. From women ministers, to women construction workers to IT women CEOs- she meets them all and finds that she not alone in her suffering. One woman who particularly inspires her is Jasbir, a nurse in Ganganagar who was rejected by her husband and in-laws because she had triplets- all girls. She had resolved to work and bring up the girls and today they are three lovely 13 year-olds who are studying in school and who adore their mother. No Country for Young Girls? is a story of deep despair and utmost hope.
Nischala: Was the film well received?
Nupur: It was on BBC World as part of series called Living on the Edge and it had a worldwide telecast to good reviews. The very first day it was on the BBC website it had 87,000 hits. There is enormous interest in the subject as people cannot understand why a country like India which is supposed to have a vibrant democracy and wants to project itself as an economic powerhouse, should be eliminating its daughters in the 21st century. It is really mind boggling. In the film an expert on Gandhi pointed out to us that “Gandhi would most definitely have fasted unto death if he had known Indian daughters were being killed in this manner“. Unfortunately there are no Gandhis in our country today who find this practice morally abhorrent. It’s really crazy that as a society we worship women goddesses – but we abuse women in real life.
Nischala: Has it always been this way ?
Nupur: Not really..thanks again to Gandhi, Indian women took part in large numbers in the Indian freedom struggle. By coming out of their homes onto their streets in thousands, to take part in a national political movement, they made a huge statement . If this was the case in 1946-47, you would have imagined a rising graph of emancipation of women in free India in 2012. Sadly, as you and I know it, that’s not been the case. Although India had a woman Prime Minister in Indira Gandhi for double digit years, and although women are in power at the helm of politics in India even as we talk today – the President is a woman, the Speaker of Lok Sabha is a woman, the head of the Congress party is a women, the leader of the opposition in Lok Sabha is a woman, we have three women Chief Ministers- yet, ironically, our elected MPs in the lower House of Lok Sabha refuse to pass the 33 per cent reservation Bill for women in Parliament .In January this year it was once again turned down in the lower house. These are the dichotomies we are grappling with as a society/nation.
The truth is that in 21 st century India, both in rural and urban India, many women are not safe in their homes, on the streets or at their workplace. Everywhere there are instances of abuse of women. Honour killings, dowry deaths, rapes of women and minor girls…the list is long and depressing. This is not restricted to specific communities or any particular economic segment. It is endemic, cutting across class, caste. It is as if the whole eco-system is conspiring to keep women down. And the political class and the judiciary is looking the other way. The nation’s capital, Delhi, has a skewed sex-ratio. When we had filmed in 2008 it was 821 girls to 1000 boys. If elimination of daughters through sex selection can happen in Delhi, where the Parliament and Supreme Court are located, it can surely happen anywhere in the country.
Nischala: So, what in your opinion is the cause of this abuse?
Nupur: We still live in a feudal and patriarchal society in the 21st century. Having shiny metros and IT parks and glitzy cars does not make us modern. In No Country for Young Girls , women IT professionals (who comprise 33 per cent of the workforce- at least you all have breached the figure that Indian Parliament will not allow women Parliamentarians to reach) tell us that they too are still subjected to harassment for dowry and also harassed by their in-laws to part with their own income etc. A woman IT Manager told us on camera how the men in her section openly asked for placements to Dubai and the US, saying it will increase their dowry. The Burns Ward at the Victoria hospital in India’s IT city, Bangalore, used to have an admission rate of 90 women a month. Three a day. As a journalist I have covered this and I can tell you that some of the cases are simply heart-breaking. Several women are burnt in dowry harassment cases. Another woman was set on fire by her husband ostensibly because she could not conceive after marriage – she had been married only for three months. The list of horror stories could just go on…
One huge problem in our system is that daughters are brought up believing that marriage is the be all and end all of their existence. Marriage should be one thing you do among various things in life. Not the only thing you do. It is this age-old- ‘ladki to paraya ghar ki hoti hain’ (the daughter is reared for someone else) which is the genesis of the problem. It is this conditioning that instils the feeling of inferiority and lack of self-confidence in girls. Adding insult to injury, this message is accentuated by the mass media. The gender stereotypes of a patriarchal society that we see in television serials, makes matters worse. And women are the largest consumers of these TV serials which are reinforcing stereotypes about themselves and it has an adverse impact on them.
Nischala: So any specific observations that you’d like to highlight based on your research as a journalist over the past several decades?
Nupur: While urban India has benefitted from liberalisation, it is the poor – both urban and rural poor who have been hit badly. Just look at the canvas that we celebrate as India Shining – 840 million people live on less than 20 Rs a day .Ninety three per cent of India’s workfoce works in the unorganised sector and is not paid minimum wages, a large number of whom are women. Thirty-three per cent (one in three) of children in India are born low birth weight (less than2.5 kgs). In the year 2000 I had made a documentary again for BBC World titled- Lost Generations- in which I showed that the cycle of malnourishment of underweight mothers (some of them actually girls of 15 who had been married off) giving birth to underweight children. Research showed that malnourishment at birth leads to diseases like diabetes in later life among other problems. While looking at these children filming in rural Maharashtra, the title of the film came to us. We felt that these malnourished children, many of them girl children, have no future unless there are policies in place that help them – And these have to be proactive.
Nischala: OK.. These are interesting insights and perspectives.. Thanks for sharing.. Moving ahead, you’ve spoken a little about “financial independence” for a woman. Why do you think this is important?
Nupur: Financial independence is absolutely crucial. Lakhs of women are forced to endure abusive marriages because they have no financial independence. When I talk in colleges in India, I literally plead with women students not to see university education just as a ticket to a acquiring a husband. Instead think and focus only on your career ahead. Marriage should take place when they are ready for it and on their own terms. Marriage needs to climb down the priority list for women in India. A career and financial independence can ensure that to a large extent.
The flip side is that many a times when women do become financially independent, the irony is that many of them do not have control over their money. Their salaries are taken away by their husband or in-laws. This may sound really crazy, but it’s true. A multi-metro research conducted in India recently showed that working women in Delhi had the least control over their finances. Other metros too revealed this shocking trend. Kolkata was the only exception. Women there had control over their earnings.
Nischala: That’s a very interesting response.. And very profound advice.. So What are the three skills that women of today need to build?
Nupur : Well, left to a man a skilled woman is one who brings a huge dowry when she marries, obeys him and his parents, produces his sons, cooks and maintains the house well , entertains, works and hands over her salary to him at the beginning of the month. First of all we need the skill to reject this role for ourselves. Instead we need to build our confidence in ourselves, have the courage to walk down a different path and learn to negotiate life on our own terms.
Nischala: So any specific woman / women who is an inspiration for you personally?
Nupur: Women who have inspired me the most in my 30 -year journalistic career are poor women from rural India. The courage of these women in the face of such gruelling poverty, deprivation and an indifferent government is truly inspiring. Examples that come to mind are women like 60 year old Rosamma who led the struggle against liquor shops in the village of Dobbagunta in Nellore District in Andhra Pradesh . It was one of the most amazing grass-roots women’s struggle in India against the government’s cynical policy on liquor (reflected in a documentary I made in 1995- Dry Days in Dobbagunta). Women like Jasbir from Ganganagar who dared to go ahead and give birth to triplets-all girls- and bring them up as a single mother. The widows of dozens of farmers who had committed suicide as they could not pay back their debts. Even as we speak these women have to struggle for a livelihood so that their children do not go to bed hungry. Their resilience has left a deep impression on me and also left me feeling frustrated with myself, the government and the society I live in, for leaving them out in the cold.
Nischala: That’s really touching Nupur.. So if you had a look into a crystal ball and predict what will make a difference in India 50 years from now with respect to women in modern India… What would be your response?
Nupur: Crystal ball gazing is not my forte. But as a journalist since 1982, I have documented many trends in this country and I think you may not have to wait for another 50 years to feel the impact. To be honest- the dreams in the eyes of girls from towns like Ganganagar, Salem, Kanpur, Aligarh, Pondicherry– will provide the trigger for change in India in the next twenty-five years. Do you know that the rank holders in some of these places are girls from the government schools? They want to study. They have dreams in their eyes and are willing to work hard to make them come true. These girls will source the strength that lies within.
Nischala: Great to hear Nupur.. That’s really promising! Looking back at your own life, what do you think really made the difference to where you’ve come today?
Nupur: First I think it is how my parents raised me and my two sisters. They made us feel loved and wanted and gave us the best education and opportunities. The one thing that my father drilled into us three girls was : “Whether you marry an emperor or a beggar- you must be independent and stand on your own feet”. That shaped us to what we are today. Today, in the twilight of their lives, we three sisters try and do everything we can to nurture our parents. Choices of marriage were also on one’s own terms. I have been married for the last 31 years (it was a love marriage) and also have the most wonderful relations with my in-laws, despite all the feminist lectures I have given them over the years.
In one’s professional career, one always pushed the boundaries, innovated, never-took-short-cuts and believed in the old school of journalism that ‘good journalism can change the world’.
I believe that the personal is the political and have lived my life that way.
Nischala: Nupur, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts through your rendezvous.
Nupur: It was good to talk to you Nischala. All the best with your passion for blogging and your career in IT.
As I did my research for the Women’s Day Series, I was surprised to find the number of lists on Women on Twitter… I am yet to create my own list and it will take some time since I have just become active on Twitter. Nevertheless, I have compiled all the useful and interesting links I found about Women on Twitter…
Hope you find this compilation useful!
The Nifty Top 50 Women on Twitter @ http://webbiquity.com/social-media-marketing/the-nifty-50-top-women-of-twitter-for-2011/
Twitters Top 75 Badass Women @ http://www.bitrebels.com/social/twitter%E2%80%99s-top-75-badass-women/ Top
Business Women to Follow on Twitter @ http://www.mba-online-program.com/top-women-to-follow-on-twitter 8/
Extraordinary Women to Follow on Twitter @ http://www.8womendream.com/27075/more-8-women-dreamers-on-twitter/
18 Funny Women you should be following on Twitter @ http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/23/18-funny-women-on-twitter_n_1224751.html & http://holykaw.alltop.com/18-funny-women-to-follow-on-twitter
20 Inspiring Young Female Founders to Follow on Twitter @ http://www.forbes.com/sites/meghancasserly/2012/02/10/20-inspiring-young-female-founders-to-follow-on-twitter/
8 Women to Follow on Twitter @ http://businessontwitter.co.uk/twitter/2011/03/international-womens-day-8-women-to-follow-on-twitter/
Top 20 Business Women to Follow on Twitter @ http://www.forbes.com/sites/work-in-progress/2010/10/06/womanzworld-top-20-business-women-to-follow-on-twitter/
People you should follow on Twitter @ http://www.cosmopolitan.com/advice/people-you-should-follow-on-twitter
The Listorious 140 Twitterers : The Most Listed People on Twitter @ http://listorious.com/top/listed
The Most Powerful Twitter Users @ http://tweet.grader.com/top/users
The First 99 People to Follow on Twitter @ http://technmarketing.com/2010/08/the-first-99-people-to-follow-on-twitter/
About AISHWARYA SURESH
Aishwarya is the founder of Banna Creations. As a part of her corporate career, Aishwarya has a decade of experience with Fortune-100 IT / ITES companies leading sales, marketing and sales support teams before she became an entrepreneur. Though an Electrical Engineer by qualification, she has always taken a keen interest in India’s rich cultural heritage and vast repertoire of hand-crafted products and textiles that are the livelihood of millions of people across the country. Aishwarya is also a painter, a potter and runs marathons in her spare time.
Banna in Kannada means ‘color’. Banna Creations is a platform for customers to easily access exquisite hand- crafted products from India. Banna specializes in hand-made textiles, art & craft products that are commercially un-exposed / marginally exposed and not easily accessible. The products range from handmade art and craft to handloom and weaves from across India. In doing so, Banna provides commercial and social upliftment to artists and artisans, creates awareness about different forms of art, craft, weaves and textiles and helps both products and the creators move into the mainstream. The long-term vision for Banna is to create a Creative Centre for Art and Craft that will be used by artists and artisans to showcase their work and for regular workshops and training sessions to train interested individuals and groups.
Banna creations has also been featured in several leading publications including papers like “The Hindu” and magazines like “Femina”. Stop by her website or blog , Follow her on Twitter @bannacreations, Or Check her Facebook page
Nischala: Hi Aishwarya! Congrats on the success of your recent exhibition and more importantly on the great initial success as an entrepreneur. So tell me how it all started?
Aishwarya: Thank You! Banna Creations is 6 months old and was conceptualized with the objective to revive Indian hand-made art and crafts. The aim is not just to provide a retail outlet for the products created by Indian artists and craftsmen, but also by working to create a larger awareness of several art forms and the artists who create them using traditional skills that have been handed down the ages.
To be honest, there were multiple triggers for starting this venture. Firstly, my personal interest in the Indian heritage of hand-made arts and crafts. Secondly, my personal experiences in retail stores made me realize a large number of products being sold as Indian handicraft were not necessarily hand-crafted. So the word handicraft or even handloom as it is known today which does not necessarily mean that a product is actually being hand- crafted.
The result is that traditional skills and the people practicing them are completely lost in the whole value chain from production to the retail shelf. Artists and artisans lose their traditional means of livelihood and don’t get their due. The beauty of the traditional art form and the whole process of creating a product and the people involved in the creation was and is a story waiting to be told.
Banna works with the following objectives:
1) To provide a connect between the artisans who are creating these hand-made arts and crafts to the end-customer. Essentially, to provide opportunities for people to understand and learn the age-old unique techniques of these art and craft forms. And more importantly to appreciate heritage family traditions and Indian art forms. This is being done by our exhibitions and corporate sales, and also by workshops and demonstrations which are platforms for artisans to interact directly with a customer base and showcase their skills
2) To provide additional monetization avenues to the artists and craftsman for their products – with the intent that this will ensure that these art forms continue to exist, and not really perish with time
Nischala: That’s awesome. But the decision to leave a flourishing corporate job to doing something of your own is not easy… How was it in your case?
Aishwarya: Hmm.. I spent a lot of time on background research and analysis to understand issues from various angles. I mainly tried to understand issues and problems faced by artisans as well as the way in which retail stores operate in this sector in India today. Over a period of time, I was clear about 3 things:
1) I was deeply passionate about this – And I believe that passion is the key element which can actually enable you to make such a choice,
2) I strongly believed that I could make a difference
3) With the vision and scale of impact I had in mind, it was not possible to toggle between a corporate job and a venture such as this which is a 24X7 job. – So I made a choice to quit.
In my case, I was lucky that I received full support from friends and family. And that’s been one of my BIGGEST lessons so far – An entrepreneur does not survive alone. You need an entire ecosystem to support you. In my case, my family and friends were willing to believe in what I believed in.
Nischala: OK. So what kind of support did your family extend?
Aishwarya: In my specific case, there are no entrepreneurs on my side of the family. So my mentor for understanding basics of running a business was my father-in-law. He runs his own enterprise, so helped me with all the documentation and paper-work. For marketing, my husband who is a marketing guru has helped by putting in place Banna’s marketing strategy which I execute.. And I must confess that it’s a lot of hard-work. And my family and friends have stood by me in many small and big ways to ensure that I am able to give my time and energy towards something I believe in and am truly passionate about.
Nischala: So, what’s the tough part?
Aishwarya: The tough and yet very fulfilling part is that I do everything on my own – My exhibitions, dealing with vendors, suppliers and artisans itself. Also, given that the sector is completely unorganized, the need to adhere to deadlines needs to be re- iterated several times over.. There is also always the challenge of balancing quality versus quantity. There have been several instances where quality has been compromised because of tight deadlines and larger quantities and entire shipments have been sent back as a result. However disheartening this might sound the sheer sense of fulfillment after the completion of an exhibition or workshop or executing an order makes up for a lot of tough challenges that one constantly faces.
Nischala: What’s the happiest moment in your journey so far?
Aishwarya: I think the happiest moment is that I have been able to achieve the primary objective of Banna in less than 6 months – which is essentially to connect artisans with customers. The model of my initiative is not ONLY to sell, but to provide that connect, to revive art forms and to re-create a market. So we’ve successfully done workshops and exhibitions; and have received a phenomenal response. Workshops are where you can see how these products are created and also learn from the artisans themselves. For e.g: We’ve done a painting workshop, embroidery workshop, etc.
Nischala: But many of these art forms are on products which don’t sell. Like many women don’t wear saris as in the past. So is there any product innovation done?
Aishwarya: Yes. Absolutely. Based on my own ideas and feedback from customers. For e.g: There’s a specific form of embroidery (Kasuti) which is famous in North Karnataka and typically done on silk sarees. But not too many people wear sarees in the fast paced lives that we lead today. . So we have innovated in using this same embroidery to create other products which customers actually buy and use – like clutch purses, home linen, folders, books, files, etc. So we are promoting the art form and retaining livelihoods, but creating an alternate market – so there is a commercial success as well
Nischala: What’s been the response from the artists and craftsman?
Aishwarya: It’s been a mixed response. Some don’t think of it as a big deal, as many people have done it before. They are tougher to deal with. Some are hungry for business and for their art forms to get popularized. So it’s easier to work with them. Personally, I look at the positives and learn from all the experiences and never let myself get disheartened ( however difficult that is to do) regardless of the response I get from artisans as well as from customers.
Nischala: If you had to look back at your corporate job, and yourself now – what is the biggest change?
Aishwarya: It’s a lot of HARD WORK to be on your own. I used to work 16 – 17 hours a day as a part of my corporate job, but this is different because this is so much more intense. You are that much more driven since this is for yourself. You are answerable to yourself and at all times to the vision and the reason why this was started.
Also, since I am on my own and it is a new venture, the sheer amount of brain-work to get things moving is phenomenal. Financially too, every single earning is ploughed back into the initiative as we need to grow and expand.
Nischala: So what’s the long term vision? Something like a Dilli Haat in Bangalore?
Aishwarya: Well.. One is to (re-)create and generate a market for these products, and really that means for the traditional handicraft and hand-made art forms – So in that sense, it can be called a Dilli Haat. The other critical part is to have a centre of art and craft which will essentially be a space where artists and artisans can showcase their skills and conduct demonstrations and workshops at all times. . People can not only buy products, it’s an opportunity for self-education and also people can also learn how to do these
Nischala: Just curious, but how has the response been for the workshops? Are people keen to learn and what kind of people attend these?
Aishwarya: There’s been a phenomenal response for the workshops. Initially I was anxious myself, as I did not know if people had time or interest. Surprisingly, all kinds of people have attended – Diversity in age (17 – 70), Men & Women, Professions – House-wife, HR head, Trainer, NGO, etc. And they’ve all giving me very positive feedback, which is encouraging…
Nischala: That’s good to hear. So given that there’s a lot of ways for new businesses to leverage digital marketing and social media, do you use these at Banna?
Aishwarya: Yes absolutely. Marketing is basically digital marketing or more specifically social media marketing – We use Facebook, Twitter , our blog etc.. Our web-site is work–in-progress and the best part is that it has an online payment gateway to facilitate online sales. So looking forward to the launch to facilitate this
Nischala: Awesome! That’s great progress. So any last words you want to share as a part of this rendezvous?
Aishwarya: I recently had the opportunity to attend the Development Dialogue 2012 at Hubli conducted by the Gururaj Deshpande Foundation. Development Dialogue is a three day event that brings together hundreds of practitioners, academics, investors, grassroots activists, philanthropists and entrepreneurs from across the world to discuss sustainable solutions to society’s problems.
This year the key note speaker was N R Narayana Murthy and he spoke about the journey of Infosys. That was so inspirational, and also something that I will never forget. Three basic messages stuck with me and this is what I will share in regards to starting and being an entrepreneur:
* “Never lose sight of your goals”
* “Believe in what you want to achieve”
* “Constantly re- invent yourself and innovate”
Very powerful messages and they will stay with me….
Nischala: Great Aishwarya! Best wishes on your journey at Banna. And hope it brings back color into the life’s of many…. Thanks for your time
Aishwarya: Thank You
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On the occasion of Women’s Day, I spent a significant amount of time on women – I read about them, observed them, analyzed them and interacted with them – Women in business, Women in art, Women in politics, Women in power, Women in academics, Women at work, Women who have it all, Women who are a part of my life, Women who rule my life
On reflection, I realized that some women were definitely more PROSPEROUS than others. There is no universal definition of prosperity … But whatever is your definition of PROSPERITY and in whatever sphere you are looking at, you will find these traits listed below as TRULY DISTINGUSHING in a PROSPEROUS WOMAN
1) CONNECTED WITH THEIR FEMININITY
All the women who I consider prosperous have this as a distinguishing trait – They are deeply connected with their femininity. They are aware of it they accept it and also know how to leverage this strength in their life. There is a definite power in femininity – Just that many women are unaware of it, ignore it or simply choose to underplay it. And those who are able to harness it in their lives usually end up prosperous
2) AMAZINGLY POSITIVE
Prosperous women are amazingly positive. Encircle them with the worst situation or circumstance, and they’ll still be positive – Rather they will choose to look at the positive and find a way out. And I don’t mean that they are disconnected from reality, but more in terms of being pragmatic and positive. Positivity is a mind-set; and some woman are born this way, some are conditioned this way and some turn out this way. Just pause and reflect “Would you rather be around someone who is always positive or negative?”
Being accepting is a truly admirable trait and one which make a REAL DIFFERENCE in the life of a woman. And prosperous women have TRULY made peace and accepted their past, their strengths, their weakness, their power and their many roles – In one word ACCEPTED THEMSELVES FOR WHAT THEY ARE.
I was surprised when I discovered this. But openness seems to really stand out when it came to prosperous women – They were open in their thoughts, in their expressions, with their emotions, to people, experiences, life, and most importantly, to learn/un-learn and re-learn…
Prosperous women observe, are aware, sense, are sensitive, understand – what you say, what you don’t say, what you feel and many times even what you’re thinking. They have an exclusive combination of a high EQ (Emotional Quotient),high IQ (Intellectual Quotient) and high SQ (Spiritual Quotient) which is balanced… This gives them a unique insight into people and human behavior. Of course, they continuously enrich these quotients with their real-life interactions & experiences; and continuously improve along the way
What do you think? Do the prosperous women in your life exhibit one / more of these distinguishing traits? Leave a comment to let me know…
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