Tell us about yourself and your background
I was born in God’s own country – Kerala, raised in Madras that is now Chennai, lived for a couple of years in Mumbai, the commercial capital of India and travelled fairly well within and outside India.
My passion for learning and perfecting languages led me to pursue a degree in English literature and devour five foreign languages one after another – French from the Alliance Francaise, German from the Goethe Institut, Italian from the Italian Chamber of Commerce, Spanish from Instituto Hispania and Japanese from the Indo-Japanese Chamber of Commerce, all in Chennai.
My love and awe for creative work and media along with my people skills found me in the live wire advertising industry right after college, where I spent a successful decade working on several multi-national accounts and brands, in print and electronic media.
I chose to give up my envious career to be a stay-at-home mom. A five year hiatus from the corporate world helped me to pull back and look at life differently. I learnt to focus on my priorities, rationalise issues, understand others’ perspectives and manage crises with patience and calm. I utilised this time to hone my skills in writing and learnt a few of those languages as well as involving myself in children’s activities at leading libraries and book stores.
Serendipity brought me in to the relocation industry. My people skills, corporate client servicing background and my flair for languages were my assets.
Eight years of intense experience in the relocation industry has given me ample skills and expertise in managing expat moves in to India and in offering cross-cultural sensitisation programs for senior level managers and heads of companies. I have established a wide network of corporate clients in the Indian and international relocation fraternity.
Managing international business relations and forming strategic alliances were part of my key responsibilities in my role as country head of relocation. I had the privilege of representing Global Adjustments at six international relocation conferences – five from the Worldwide ERC in Singapore, Shanghai and USA and one from the EuRA in Edinburgh. This further strengthened my networking skills and cemented international business relations resulting in client retention and winning new business.
Tell us about B&P Creatives
B&P Creatives was born as a concept in September 2014 when Padmaja, a very talented art director and a dear friend of mine from my advertising days in the 90s, and I finished an exciting class of Zumba and chatted on our way back home. We were both at a stage in life (mid-40s) where we wanted to do some interesting work using our skills and expertise, though our priority was our family, especially our children.
We decided to tango together and what started off as a casual idea is today a creative outfit. We have since done work for a retail major in Chennai and won their confidence for them to engage us further in their upcoming projects.
I chose to give up my envious career to be a stay-at-home mom. A five year hiatus from the corporate world helped me to pull back and look at life differently. I learnt to focus on my priorities, rationalise issues, understand others’ perspectives and manage crises with patience and calm.
What drove you to become an Entrepreneur?
I had just left a very unique, interesting and rewarding role in expat relocation and international business relations spanning eight successful years at Global Adjustments, a pioneer and leading relocation company in India. I had to give up my role there as Country Head – Relocation Services, a painful decision I had to make, since I needed to manage my work-life balance better.
It was clear that I had to wisely use my collective and varied skills either by engaging myself in a flexi-time job to suit my convenience or start something on my own. Since the first option is hard to come by in India, I decided to venture in my own business with a reliable friend and a talented professional as a partner.
What has been your biggest challenge in achieving your success?
The only challenge I face is the physical time I am able to give to any organisation that hires me. India is perhaps way behind western countries in opening doors to women who can only work on a part / flexi time basis. I know several educated, talented and highly skilled women who have no choice but to stay home due to this reason.
I must confess that I am one among those few lucky women who worked in a company that believed in the potential of women’s and did not demand their physical presence during the day.
My husband is a Captain in the Merchant Navy and his profession keeps him away from the family for about four months at a time. My 12 year old daughter is in grade eight at Sishya, one of the best ICSE schools in Chennai. By God’s grace, she excels at her studies and is keen to top the boards in two years. Besides, she also learns Indian classical music (vocal) and French, to enhance her skills.
Though my parents live in Chennai, they travel a lot in a year. Hence, I do not have a good support system. I also like to cook at least one meal for my family, so while I do have a cook who makes our dinner, through choice, I make the breakfast and lunch every day. I need to balance my work and life and be happy managing both well.
If only physical time was not a requirement, many corporate companies would benefit from my knowledge and experience in the relevant industry.
Intrinsically, I am the kind who gives anything I take up more than 100% of my time, mind and heart. I am extremely committed and clearly avoid what I cannot manage. This focus helps in balancing our priorities.
What has been your greatest achievement so far?
I started my second innings in the corporate world in 2006. When my daughter went to school, I realised I had time in the mornings to step out into the world and explore opportunities.
Thanks to the five languages I had learned, I decided to walk into Global Adjustments, which was just down my street. With faces of people from all over the world, and an Indian face in the middle, the Board intrigued me and I thought it might have something to do with languages.
They were happy to hire me based on my client servicing skills from a decade in advertising, but as a full-time employee. Part time was not an option. My mother was kind enough to step in to take care of my daughter until I returned from work.
In a year I succeeded in my role as Relocation Manager and won the hearts of expat clients, my colleagues and senior management and thus earned the liberty to work on a flexi-time basis. They realised that though I was not physically present at work post lunch sessions, I was always available for clients and the company over phone and emails.
I would attend every meeting, internal or external, as was required. I travelled to other cities and outside India for conferences and there never was a backlog in my work. My strength was my response time. I ensured I responded to every email or call leaving my clients immensely happy about being able to count on me even despite the global time differences.
Over the years, I specialised in international business and this helped me further truncate my timings at work to two physical hours a day and the rest from home or wherever I was with my daughter, thanks to my Blackberry. This was possible because all my clients were outside India and I liaised with them every day at different time zones
From being destination service providers to just five international relocation management companies (RMCs) in 2006, I worked hard at increasing the client count to 42 in my eight years at GA. I was largely instrumental in expanding GA’s presence to other cities like Vizag, Ahmedabad, Chandigarh, Kolkata, Coimbatore and Trivandrum. And I can proudly say that I managed to do all this, without compromising my quality time with my daughter. She continues to be a topper in class and excels in her music and French class as well.
I could not have achieved this success without the help and support of my mother and husband who pitched in to take care of our home and daughter when I was away, especially on international tours at conferences, at least twice every year.
Who has been your biggest inspiration?
I believe that I can be inspired by anyone who can teach me something new in life. From my dearest grandmother who is my greatest inspiration to live life with grace, grit and dignity, to my mother who taught me to be loving and giving, and stay strong and positive above all, despite the odds, to my father who I look up to for his relentless dedication and passion in his work, to my advertising colleagues who awed me with their creative ideas and brilliant strategy, to my mentor Ranjini Manian who taught all I learnt about relocation and cross cultural sensitisation, to my boss at GA who taught me human values and people management, to my maid who balances her work and life so well, never compromising one for another. I owe my success to all of them.
How do you balance your work life and home life?
I have mentioned how I did it in the past and succeeded. Specifically, I believe it boils down to the kind of personality one is. Intrinsically, I am the kind who gives anything I take up more than 100% of my time, mind and heart. I am extremely committed and clearly avoid what I cannot manage. This focus helps in balancing our priorities.
Prioritising, planning and perfecting what you do are the greatest lessons I learnt and followed while doing the balancing act. Even today, my child is clearly my most important priority, but I do know that if I were to get busy with work again, I will give both equal measure of importance and value.
What advice do you have for women starting out on their own?
If you have the skill and the passion, nothing should stop you from pursuing your dream.
Firstly, identify what your skills are, do your homework and know more about the need for your expertise in the market. Learn about the options available and try to study their strengths and strategy if any. Next, work out the finances involved. Most ventures today, especially in the virtual world do not need much capital investment.
Patience is another virtue that is needed in huge doses when you decide to venture out on your own. Success will not come overnight, neither will the dollars/rupees into your bank account
Lastly, having decided to start your venture, do not ever give up. There will be some way of keeping it alive.
Can you recommend any organisations or networking groups that have particularly helped you on your journey?
For advertising professionals, the advertising club in every city is certainly a great place to network and learn more about the industry.
As for relocation and cross cultural learning, membership with the Worldwide ERC (Employee Relocation Council ) which is a global body for relocation professionals and presence at their conferences, and magazines like Mobility (from the ERC) and Re:locate are very helpful for updates and insights in to the global trends in this industry.
Besides, LinkedIn is a sure winner to help you connect with your industry folks on a regular basis. This also is a great way to be seen and heard among your fraternity.
If you could ask for one thing to help propel your business what would it be?
As a relocation and cross cultural specialist, I hope to reach the right set of corporate and individual clients and offer my skills and expertise as they bring expats in to India. I am available to offer counselling, advice, insights on any city in India, both in person and online.
As a creative consultant at B&P Creatives, besides doing interesting work for our favourite hospitality sector, I would like to include unique, fun brands for children and NGOs by and for women.
If you have the skill and the passion, nothing should stop you from pursuing your dream.
What does the future hold for you?
My future is back to being a blank canvass. I need to fill the space with work based on my skills and expertise and that which reflects my passion for what I do. I hope to see a beautiful painting evolve over the next five years.
Phone +91 96290 30008