Our environment is constantly changing. All living things must adapt to their surroundings in order to survive. Thus, people must adapt to their surroundings also. As a collective, we must change the norms and ideologies of society, to best reflect and represent the population as a whole. Sujata is no stranger to evolution, as she shares her story of how she has best adapted to accommodate every new change in her life, and how she became successful in the process.
“One must adapt and evolve. People have different strategies to manage their challenges – one size does not fit all.”
Looking back to your early years, what was your biggest inspiration?
The biggest tutor in life is trauma and tragedy, as I have written in my autobiography. Watching my mother deal with widowhood, whilst raising three daughters on her own was a lesson, especially in a society and culture where being a woman is itself a great challenge. I come from a background of freedom fighters, academics and activists who protested the culture of conformity rules, religious beliefs, suicide, and other ailments which are present in society. My mother instilled in us to be self-reliant, independent, kind, and humane.
You state that your choice to start your entrepreneurial career was a “deliberate move.” What prompted this decision and what plans did you have in place to ensure that you would prosper?
When I decided to embark on my entrepreneurship journey, it was due to what my mother instilled in us as children: to be independent, self-reliant and to discover our full potential. When I amassed wisdom from diverse careers, I became an entrepreneur to share and impart the wisdom I had acquired. Moving abroad with my family made me realise that I did not want to be a trailing spouse – I still had a lot to offer and did not want to be dependent on others. I researched the new foreign environment I was in, alongside the business needs of the area. If I wanted to successfully open a business, I had to capture the relevant market and ensure to uphold the diversity of businesses in the area – to spread growth and sustainability. It is always wise not to put all your eggs in one basket.
As a first-time entrepreneur, you faced situations that challenged your skills. How did you overcome this obstacle?
If I could go back and do things differently, I would have given myself more time to think and do a bit more research and planning. Any new environment comes with uniqueness in the culture and mindset of the terrain. One must adapt and evolve. People have different strategies to manage their challenges – one size does not fit all. What worked in another location may not be the same here. Having patience and the willingness to learn is also important.
My advice to first-time entrepreneurs: An individual’s enterprising spirit can be invoked at any time, if one has confidence, courage, resilience, and patience. Do not feel pressured when you start your business. Whether it is about having enough time, or that you must achieve results quickly. If you are lucky enough to have initial success with your business, that is also another type of pressure – to ensure that your business will always be performing on that scale thereafter.
There will always be highs and lows. By being patient from the beginning, you are more likely to learn and evolve. Remember, mistakes are a part of the development process of figuring out what works or does not work, in any given context. When starting, be sure to clarify the basis of your business. Is it an area based on your hobbies and passions, or a product based on scalability and generating revenue?
Before you founded various companies, you were working in a predominantly male industry, as an Anti-Counterfeiting Specialist. Did you face any adversity in this role?
Of course. Any niche, male-driven industry will be a challenge to work in. It will take quite some time to overcome this, even though we may take small steps towards progress in breaking barriers. I had to operate in an environment where people did not see me as an equal, but as a woman who had to earn respect from the opposite sex. They were ready for me to fail or to prove that women can operate in their space. Although, whenever it was a job well done, it incited jealousy towards my accomplishments and accolades.
There were many closed-door episodes of the other sex trying to put me down or clip my wings by using authority. A person once told me, “You should be locked up in a room and a key should be thrown away!” I have always stood my ground against abuse and belittling. From early on I have dealt with this negativity in the workplace, however, people do not define me. Their actions are just a reflection of who they are.
The challenges you faced sparked your desire to become a coach and to help others with their careers. Why was it important for you to share this knowledge with other entrepreneurs?
I have been coaching others since I was young. People were always drawn to me for my advice and guidance, as well as my aura of being a very empathic and non-judgemental listener. After Covid, when I had to pivot, and the world went into lockdown, mental health and wellbeing issues came out of the closet. As a society, we could no longer hide behind a facade.
There were more people who needed coaching during the pandemic, and I found the audience for my talent and skill set. After publishing my autobiography, which I wrote after I finished an eight-year court battle in finding justice against a rape case, I naturally eased into more coaching and mentoring with people across the globe. There are social media platforms where we have regular discussions, based on my book, as it covers a spectrum of various life matters.
When you are starting from nothing on your own, trying to find your space and hold your ground, it is a journey full of lessons. When life altering moments happen, and you are multitasking trying to keep it together, invaluable wisdom needs to be shared for those who have doubts and hesitate to take the plunge. People can get inspired to make the decisions which have been sitting in a locked mind. That is a good enough reason to share this knowledge with upcoming entrepreneurs.