I grew up in Calcutta and am totally indebted to the school I went to – Loreto House – for instilling the courage of conviction in us. I trained to be a teacher but taught for only six months before I found matrimonial bliss. It was great bringing up two children, managing the home of a third generation business family, steeped in tradition. Life was not a cakewalk but it was fun.
There were two hundred families dependent on CICO and it was imperative that I chose to carry on the legacy.
Tell us about your company
Unlike most entrepreneurs, I did not set up the company. Ours was an eighty year old brand, the oldest in the country. We manufacture Construction Chemicals, which go into any construction with concrete. I happened to come into the business by accident. Our products range from waterproofers, concrete admixtures, bonding agents, floorings etc. We supply to big infrastructure projects like roads, power stations, ports and highways as well as directly to end users who are very often household owners. I would ideally like to reach out to all or most construction-related projects to ensure the durability of the structures which is our responsibility.
What drove you to become an Entrepreneur?
As I had mentioned earlier, I came into the business by accident. There was a personal loss and I made the decision to take over the mantle and run the company. I believe every enterprise is a social responsibility and every business house must view it as top priority. There were two hundred families dependent on CICO and it was imperative that I chose to carry on the legacy.
What has been your biggest challenge in achieving your success?
I did face and still do face many challenges. One of the biggest I would imagine would have been acceptance of a complete novice taking responsibility of a mid-sized enterprise, the oldest and a name to reckon with in the country. The fact that I was a woman in a totally man’s world added to my woes and understandably the nervousness of my colleagues. There were pressures from banks, investors and legal cases slapped on me which together was a lethal combination. One overcame that, as aspersions are cast even today, but I let my work speak for itself.
She is the unsung hero, the spark and the anchor of the family and the company. How easily she slipped back into her role as head of the family looking at domestic needs after she chalked out a succession plan, still amazes me.
What has been your greatest achievement so far?
I think the fact that we are still considered a stiff competitor with our products and services and that we have successfully sustained our image and relevance would be my achievement. Needless to mention that we bought back 45% of the shares from our erstwhile venture capital partners. Also the fact that I have been able to hold the employees together, and made them proud of the organisation they belong to gives me the satisfaction and encouragement to rally forth.
Who has been your biggest inspiration?
It’s strange that this question is asked because I don’t think I had the opportunity to be inspired. However the one person I raise my hat to is Usha Prova Gupta, my late husband’s grandmother, an uneducated, unlettered lady, ensconced in a conservative, traditional Bengali joint family, who took on the mantle of a leader. She helped mix the waterproofing compounds manufactured in our factory with the workers, kept accounts, paid salaries as she saw fit and carried on the work after the founder of CICO’S demise, till her young sons came into the business. She is the unsung hero, the spark and the anchor of the family and the company. How easily she slipped back into her role as head of the family looking at domestic needs after she chalked out a succession plan, still amazes me.
How do you balance your work life and home life?
I integrate work and life and I always say I am a “mum” first. I have amazing friends and am truly blessed to have them in my life. I think I have learnt not to expect top marks, A+ grades in everything I do, so it helps if I trip up somewhere and I accept not too good a performance in certain spheres. Loreto also taught us time management and planning which today is paying rich dividends, as I am able to pack in a lot in a single day. Lastly I think all of us women must learn to look after our health as that is the foundation of energy which helps me power on. It is critical that we pay attention to our diet, exercise and ‘time out” regime to have a healthy balance.
Also the fact that I have been able to hold the employees together, and made them proud of the organisation they belong to gives me the satisfaction and encouragement to rally forth.
What advice do you have for women starting out on their own?
I think I would like to quote Brené Brown here where she says you cannot be “brave and comfortable”. If you wish to start off you have to get prepared to step out of your comfort zone, take risks, be prepared for failures, flak etc but your courage and determination will see you through.
Can you recommend any organisations or networking groups that have particularly helped you on your journey?
I think a lot of the women’s organizations like WeConnect and DWEN helped me. You meet a whole bunch of very inspirational women, sharing similar problems and successes and that is a huge push to go forward with your mission.
If you wish to start off you have to get prepared to step out of your comfort zone, take risks, be prepared for failures, flak etc but your courage and determination will see you through.
If you could ask for one thing to help propel your business what would it be?
I would have a magic wand and say, “Abracadabra” and lo and behold have everything I ever wished for! But on a more serious note perhaps access to funds to do justice to enhance the brand and unleash the value that is locked up and give it the recognition and respect that it deserves would be part of the dream I have for CICO.
What does the future hold for you?
Well the future is definitely not entirely in our hands but I would wish to create a CICO where every member and their families can boast of a standard of living far ahead of what they have. I’d like to create structures with values which stand the test of time because we did things right in keeping with social responsibility, environmental responsibility and really walk into the sunset leaving an enterprise a much better, healthier place which the next generation can be really proud of. Of course I would like to bake cup cakes and improve my golf on a very personal note!
CICO Technologies Ltd.
C-44/2, Okhla Phase-II, New Delhi-20
Tel: +91 11 4050 9400
Email ID: [email protected]
About Mrs. Anasuya Gupta
Chairperson & Managing Director of CICO Technologies Limited, Mrs. Anasuya Gupta had primarily been a homemaker till the unfortunate ailment and untimely death of her entrepreneur-husband in 2008 prompted her to step up to the stage and embrace the daunting task of stabilising CICO and taking it forward “for the sake of the 180 loyal employees and their families whose lives depended directly on it”.
Five years hence, Anasuya Gupta has piloted the firm to being one of the top five companies in the Construction Chemicals industry with a CAGR of 16.5% over the last six 6 years. She has successfully fortified the trusted “Tapecrete” brand, and implemented ERP systems BI tools throughout her organisation while buying back all shares from CICO’s erstwhile joint venture partner.
Over the last four years, Mrs. Gupta has been repeatedly honored as a business leader of substance, an Outstanding Woman Contributor in the Construction and Infrastructure Industry and under her tutelage, CICO has won several honors including Best Professionally Managed Company and Outstanding Company in Construction Chemicals.
A Political Science honors graduate from St Xavier’s College Calcutta, and B. Ed. from Loreto College, Anasuya has played state-level basketball and has sustained interests in golf, horse-racing, singing, theatre and traveling.