Kolkata: The invitation looked promising and on the D-day the leadership session on ‘Women in Family Businesses’ spearheaded by Indian Women Network (IWN) launched by Confederation of Indian Industry (CII)-did turn into one inspiring ‘venture’.
The panel included Minu Budhia, Director, Patton International Ltd and Founder, Caring Minds; Ruchika Gupta, Executive Director, Sanmarg Pvt. Ltd and Esha Chatterjee, CEO, BEE Books who have joined their respective family businesses and carved a niche for themselves by learning on-the-job; braving challenges and moving with the times.
The session was moderated by Dr Kunal Sarkar, Senior Vice Chairman, Director and Head of Cardiac Surgery, Medica Superspecialty Hospital.
While Budhia and Gupta joined the business after getting married into the respective families, Esha Chatterjee is the fourth generation member who joined her ancestral business – that of publishing – by choice.
“My great-grandfather started this business and now my father Tridib Kumar Chatterjee is the Managing Director and owner of Patra Bharati, one of the leading houses publishing books in Bengali. However, when I joined the family business, I decided to publish books in English. Thus, I do not work directly with my father and that is a good decision. There are times when it gets difficult to convince him about certain business propositions and getting his approval is not easy. My grandfather had transferred the business to my father and since then he has been regarded as the higher authority and no one questions him. So, now when I do and try to make him see things from my point-of-view, it becomes a challenge – both for him and for me,” pointed out Esha.
Ruchika during her turn gave the audience a glimpse of how she had to groom herself: “When I got married, I was told that I will not be allowed to go out and work, so if I wanted to put my MBA degree to good use, I had only one choice – join the family business. I had no idea how the media worked, how the market behaved and thus, I had to learn on-the-job. Since the newspaper catered to the Hindi-speaking audience, I had to first understand the readers; their mindset; their needs and aspirations. For me, it was not just an initiation into the world of Journalism, but into a world that was so very different from the one that I had known. It was grandfather-in-law who groomed me. He made me browse the newspaper every day and look for 100 mistakes. This tedious exercise went on for three months and then I had to work in every department till I got to know the nitty-gritty of the business. I had to prove myself and earn the respect.”
During the course of the evening, the panelists also shared how important it is to keep re-inventing oneself by embracing new technology. They also stated despite diversifying it is imperative to stick to the rules; the guidelines and the value system laid down by the earlier generations and how joy emanates from the support that one receives from the family.
“My younger daughter is a special child and I remember how I had to run from pillar-to-post for various counselling sessions and other tests. There were no proper facilities available in Kolkata back then. So, I decided to do something about it and eventually went on to launch Caring Minds, a psychological wellness centre offering a wide range of therapies under a single roof. I received full support of my family during this endeavour. Caring Minds was incorporated as a CSR activity of the parent company. I have also launched Cafe ICanFlyy where special-needs young individuals are being given the opportunity to become self-sufficient and my family supports me in this cause as well,” Minu shared how CSR activities are close to her heart.
Before the session got over, eNewsroom asked the panelists, “What advice will you give to all the women out there who want to make a mark?” and Esha replied, “All this while, men have been sitting on the dias while the women stood in its periphery. Women should now head towards the dias, but they have to remain focused and ensure not to fall down during their journey.”
Ruchika, on her part stated, “I can only think of the dialogue from 3Idiots, “Success ke pechee maat bhago, excellence, excellence ka peecha karo, success jhak mar ke tumharey peechey aayegi.”
And Minu summed it up with, “Just be the woman you are meant to be. Being a woman is an empowerment in itself.”
Hope the women are listening!