To her, with love: From Licious’ Simeran Bhasin to HCL’s Srimathi Shivashankar, a shoutout to inspirational women in their lives

Forbes

3 March, 2022

If she can do it, so can I: Simeran Bhasin, business head—alternative protein, Licious, on how her mother’s resilience and ability to reinvent herself shaped her

My mother, Kamini Bhasin, has played a key role in shaping me as a professional. One of the few mothers who had her own business in the 70s, her concept of quality time with her kids was carting us along on her sourcing trips.

She ran a few apparel businesses over 25 years before she joined my father to expand his furniture business, adding interior design to the portfolio. She is completely self-taught, so I grew up believing that education or prior experience wasn’t a qualification one required to build a business in any field.

I developed a sense of aesthetics and attention to detail watching her design garments and then homes. I learned the pride in financial independence early as she would get me to earn by embroidering kurtas for her boutique. Her work has always been her core identity and therefore it was only natural for me to grow up believing the same.

She’s always been a natural leader, who was always quick to take charge in any situation that demanded it. I watched her create businesses from scratch—taking help where needed and relying on her gut for other decisions. She is now reinventing herself at 74 by taking on coaching—a profession she knew nothing of till a few years ago. Like her, I’ve learned by doing, and by making mistakes. I do believe that the hurdle to try something new is what holds us back, and every time I go into self-doubt mode, I remind myself that if mom can do it, so can I.

Manju Singh, my mother in law, has been a force to learn from in my personal life—the strength, determination and calm with which she has dealt with life’s ups and downs. She has always been in complete control of her emotions – something that I have been trying to inculcate with small wins every now and then. Her mind-over-matter approach amazes me—sheer positivity thrown at everything life has thrown at her.

Another name I’d like to take is Vandana Kohli, author, film maker, composer, director, performer and more recently entrepreneur. A dear family friend who was the reason I went to Lady Shriram College in New Delhi. I’ve watched her pack in more in a day than I could dream of. Her words of advice over the years have stayed with me always.

My mother, Sudha Murty, and millennial women: Niti Kumar, chief operations officer, Starcom, on the women who inspire and impress her

As the eldest of four children, three of whom were girls, being a ‘girl’ was something I was sensitive to from a very young age. While there was no discrimination in those growing up years, it always felt oddly different being a woman with a purpose beyond managing the home and kids. A clichéd choice perhaps, but a lot of who I am today is driven and influenced by the encouragement of my mother. Mostly a homemaker in a conservative Marwari family, she pushed her daughters to be independent, ambitious and at the appropriate time, not give a damn about what others thought.

I’ve met so many inspiring women in the course of my career, however it is Sudha Murty who stood out. The journey she has undertaken from the founding days of Infosys to the author and philanthropist she is today is just amazing. Not for a minute is she in the shadow of her spouse, and her thoughts and ideals are grounded in a deep knowledge of the Indian ethos. For me, she is the perfect balance of what a professionally successful woman should be.

For her, it’s not about men versus women, rather it’s a co-existence – as she once said, “Men and women are complementary to each other. One need not prove one’s strength.”

Lastly (and perhaps a little oddly) I’m extremely impressed with the millennial women in the workforce today. I love the focus that this generation has, the clarity of goals when it comes to a career and life and I really wish I had this when I started out. There is so much more that young women have to deal with today and to see them grow and navigate their way is very inspiring–makes me feel the future is in the safe hands of fantastically capable women.

In her shoes: Unmisha Bhatt, cofounder and chief strategy officer, Tonic Worldwide, shares how she learnt to take the lead

Dina Bhatt, the inspiration and role model of my life, forever. Beautician, stylist, food blogger, poet, writer, creator, designer, artist and many other hats she wore in the late ’90s, when I was still graduating.

She was technologically ahead of the curve at the age of 50 when the Internet itself was nascent. Receiving cheques from Google AdSense in her name for Google ads that would run on her blogs, when the concept of earning from ads was nascent for many digital content creators, was extremely fascinating for me.

She used to take on freelancing projects for content writing as a hobby, when I wasn’t even familiar with the industry. Little did I imagine that I would be running an independent digital agency after 20 years.

Focusing on everyone’s well-being and accepting any challenge, she was a strong and compassionate woman and the role model of my life. She raised three financially independent daughters who are strong and empowered to take on the world and any challenge it throws at them.

Proud forever and ever to have her as my inspiration, my mother.

Every drop counts: Srimathi Shivashankar, corporate vice president, HCL Technologies, uses lessons she learned from her grandmother in her work and life

I hail from Ariyalur, a village in Tamil Nadu in South India, and grew up in an environment where we were always told that less is more. In India, where one grows up with grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins, teamwork with discipline back then was the only way of life. There were processes and standardisation of schedules in the household that did not differentiate between earners and caregivers.

My paternal grandmother is one of my role models for imbibing values that promoted ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam,’ which means the world is one family. She would always be up by 4am and prepare food for the household. She would also always keep aside a handful of rice in a pot and donate it to any temple or charity every month. Whoever was up early in the household was also asked to join this exercise. The intent was to contribute every day for a cause that one believed in. I witnessed how with this small deed, we were able to help communities during famine and other emergencies in the village.

I learned at a very early stage in life the concept of charity and how it has to be integrated into everyday life. Later in my career I applied this in HCL, through the ‘Power of One’ program, where employees volunteered to give a rupee a day for community actions and adopted a cause to service one day in a year.

My grandmother taught me that money is not needed to transform the world but sharing what one has in excess every day in their own way and advocating the same at workplaces can go a long way.

‘To her, with love’ is a Storyboard18 special series where women in leadership tell us about the women who inspired them and led the way. A shout-out to her.

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