Summer of 2008
I diligently wait with enthusiasm to conduct an interview with the latest sensation in the business world. I work as a news reporter for CNBC and I have been in this industry for a while now but this interview is something I am sure I would cherish for my entire life. I am about to conduct an interview of Priya, who is a 22 year old woman. She is the founder of a start-up named “Attero”, which is successful and is expected by venture capitalists to do really well in the years to come. She has been proclaimed as the best entrepreneur under 25. The world knows her to be a pretty, strong and a successful woman. The world also knows about her passion for cooking, gardening and reading novels. I am here to unravel what exactly makes her what she is today- modest, charming, introvert and humane.
She attributes everything to the summer of 2008. When I throw her a puzzling look, she gives her trademarked gentle smile and starts reminiscing about her adolescence and how it shaped her life.
It was a new day at school and she dreaded it. Away from her old home, good friends and school – she felt helpless but she was also anticipating a new future and was looking forward to making new friends and hoped that she would adjust to the new surroundings. Basically she was undergoing mixed feelings like a new bride- a combination of excitement and fear.
Priya, a 13 year old girl, was the only child and she was brought up in Delhi. She belonged to a middle class family but her parents strived hard to send her to one the most reputed schools in Delhi. She believed in working hard and was excellent at academics. The first day she walked in to the school with her parents, she funnily commented to her mom about the principal’s announcement to be like the announcement made at railway stations.
After completing her formalities, she and mom goes up to the class and reluctantly she enters into the classroom. She finds that other children were staring at her and feels uncomfortable although the teacher is pretty kind and tries to make her feel comfortable. She pretty soon realizes that her classmates were commenting about her oily hair, her skirt which was longer than usual and her shoes which was not of a the “Action” brand. In short, she was labelled the “Behenji”.
She was consequently subjected to bully in bus, in classrooms, just because she did not match up to the social standards that was set by the society. Bully was probably an understatement, she was harassed. The irony is she was harassed by the very own gender she belonged to-the girls. She considered it to be a shame. The bullies did not restrict themselves to making obscene or hurtful comments; they went to the extent of locking her in the washrooms as well. Priya was beginning to understand how judgemental and ruthless people are going to be and the she would no longer live a sheltered life.
The initial days were hard. She tried making new friends. She tried her best; she would even go the extent of showing her answers during exams for them to cheat or even better to write answers for them.
She could not turn to her old friends- they would not understand, she tried telling her mom about changing her hairstyle, buying a new shoe etc. but it was hard for parents as well, they felt that she was undergoing the routine teenage/adolescent thing. So she changed- not her appearance but her personality. She became more focused, she became strong. She told herself that it was ok to cry, it wasn’t a sign of weakness rather she was emotionally intelligent. She turned to books, she became an avid reader. Books were her new friends- they did not judge her, they were there when she needed them and they were comforting. She found peace in her own company, she knew it was ok to hangout alone, it was ok to go the movies alone and she was proud of it because not many people have the courage to be alone and not feel lonely. As she began getting older, realization dawned, maybe she was not as fashionable as the women around, she sure had the brains to make it big.
She realized that knowledge was power and as long as you are good at what you do and love what you are doing, the world will be at your feet. Although the summer of 2008 was emotionally trying and difficult, it made her stronger and an emotionally stable person that she is now.
Thus the story of her childhood ends. I, on my part , have the responsibility to ask the clichéd question of this century.
Me: “What are your tips for the budding female entrepreneurs?”
Priya, ”Do not try to be the Man. Never think that we are inferior to them. We are exceptionally good at multitasking and make better strategic decisions than men any day. Another most important thing to remember is respect who you are and respect others of your gender. The biggest hurdle in corporate for women are women themselves. Help them, uplift them. Don’t judge her for her looks, dressing etc. It is always the extremes – bimbo or a nerd.”
And here ends my interview with Priya and needless to say it was a gratifying experience. Hope this helps the budding entrepreneurs. She is just one of the many that India has produced. A recent survey shows that the women constitute only 24% of the urban workforce, for a country with such a unique demographic and talent, we have the capabilities to unleash the potential provided we teach youngsters value, morality and equality.