#FSChangemakers 2021: Powerful Women. Powerful Stories.
When we started #FSChangemakers back in 2020—all we wanted to do was celebrate powerful women from different walks of life and share their stories & aspirations with you. But thanks to the love and support you have shown for these incredible women, we decided to extend the campaign into a new year and make it a weekly journey. Hope you enjoy these stories & are inspired by them as much as we enjoy compiling them for you.
Sakshi and Ayushi Gudwani
SPO with Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation & Founder and CEO of FableStreet respectively
Two fiercely independent women carving out completely different professional journeys—one is driving social impact by leading thought on sanitation and gender neutrality in India and the other is the CEO of a large commercial apparel brand—united by common threads of ambition, drive, and gender-neutral value system imparted to them by their parents.
Here is their story:
We’ve seen our dad, an ENT Specialist build his practice from scratch. A go-getter himself, he set the aspiration for us—pushing us to be the best of the best, never allowing us to compromise for anything less. He taught us how to drive—his point being that he wouldn’t always come to pick or drop us. And, our mom also set the tone—she is a lawyer who multitasked as a mother, a career professional and as a homemaker, while being the backbone of the family. She enabled us into feeling that there was no other option but to HAVE a career!
They’ve taught us to be self-made, shaped us into the women we are today & we don’t remember not dreaming big or thinking that we couldn’t do something because we were women. Now it’s our responsibility to create an enabling environment for the women we come across & work with.
Brand Manager of Amul & listed in Forbes India 30 Under 30 (2021)
Here is her story:
“I was a fresher from IRMA when I started as an Area Sales Manager at Amul. As a young girl raised in urban settings, sales was really difficult; especially with Gujaratis who have high business acumen. And I was to launch diced cheese to institutional users! Belonging to a business family, I observed my father negotiating & building rapport with clients, and that’s the one thing that has stayed with me. So even though it seemed challenging for a first-timer to be straight on the field, the first thing I did was ensuring that I knew everything about Amul—products, pricing, competition. Next was meeting the right people. I never approached them with the sole intention of getting short-term business, but for building long-lasting relationships. That built trust, which was key. I would try to convince them, & when things did not work in my favour, I would just leave it there. And, to my surprise, I started getting conversions & sales started picking up.
Being recognised by Forbes India means a lot to me & I’m elated to have received this recognition. What I think worked for me was that I didn’t follow a set strategy but followed the right approach, remained confident & took challenges head-on, with sincerity & commitment.”
#HouseManager & NOT #HouseHelp
Here is Founder & CEO Ayushi Gudwani’s take on her
1. Problem-solver: You don’t tell her what to do, you ask her ‘what’s the issue’? And voilà, she finds her own hacks & solves the problem!
2. Fast learner: Teach her anything new & she’ll learn. Not just learn the action, but also understand the logic so she can apply the same in other situations. Also, she’s the best cook!
3. Outstanding ownership: She’ll ask me to get things done twice. If I still forget the third time, it’s already done & I’m handed over the bill.
4. Ever so lively & NEVER shirks away from work and effort
5. Outstanding work ethic: She intimates on leave plan ahead, helps us set up the plan for her absence, including pre-prepping the food!
She truly runs my house, I only assist her! It’s a privilege to know & learn from her, and we’re lucky that she works with us! She doesn’t realise her own potential & value—and it’s our job to create opportunities for her & make her shine.
Captain Zoya Agarwal
Senior Commander of Air India, the youngest woman pilot in India to fly a Boeing-777 & also the world’s longest air route with an all-female flight crew
Here is her story
As an 8-year-old, I would star-gaze & trace the contrails of planes as they flew by, wondering if I’d ever be able to fly one myself. But that dream was constantly being drowned by the word ‘impossible’ due to the background I came from, where I was taught to walk in the shadows of menfolk. I was an only child, the only girl in a conservative family. My parents strongly felt that I wouldn’t be able to live a ‘normal’ life or get married.
I knew that it would be a challenge to break away from stereotypes & prove how serious my intentions were. I attended college in the day & aviation classes in the evenings for 3 years. Eventually, I got the support of my parents, which has also helped me to be the woman I am today.
The whole experience has been humbling! I’m just happy that I could spread a strong message of women empowerment, to help other women envision themselves in my place. To show them that if I could defy the odds, then so can they. Hang in there, persevere & be true to yourself. After all, every great reality begins with a great dream & dreamer, which is you.
Country Head (India) of Louboutin, Co-Founder of Lighthouse & Happy Soil
Here is her story
One of the key learnings have been via launching Happy Soil. With the purpose of contributing to my father’s organic business, my sister & I founded the customer vertical to help him expand his business. As much as I wanted to meaningfully contribute to his existing business, I was extremely nervous as I’ve been in the business of luxury & this was a completely different territory that I had to conquer responsibly.
That’s when I realised that pushing my limits would be a profound facilitator of growth. We developed the brand through the lockdown, only to realise that it actually helped me attest myself to something bigger than myself—to contribute to a completely different ecosystem than I was typically comfortable in.
Lesson learnt: Just go for it ! I can’t stress enough that we all should push our limits & take up new things. I promise it may be painful initially, but it would only make you dynamic & discover and unleash your capabilities.
Assistant Professor, National Institute of Fashion Technology
Here is her story
Working in fashion means to always be on your toes. It’s challenging, fun & requires a metropolitan city life. Which was my life 2 years ago, when I was pursuing my job in retail. All my peers, family, friends & mentors were convinced by my growth & achievements over those years. However, I found a constant craving for nature & the peace that comes with it. Soon I felt exhausted by the noise & hectic schedule which leaves you no time to work on any non-monetary interests in life. That pushed me to find something which provides me mental satisfaction & the time to discover myself more. I needed to pursue something that I knew I could do & wanted to do.
Then happened my second encounter with NIFT but this time, I had to be on the other side, as a professor. The city I was offered was Raebareli, a small town in Uttar Pradesh. Without a second thought, I grabbed the opportunity & went on the journey of downsizing life. This life is much more peaceful & productive, and it has brought best in me both personally & professionally. It seems more real as I have the time & space to tap into my passion of travelling. It helps me stretch my limits & set up goals higher than before.
Chairman of Edith Pro, Co-founder & CSO of MPowered, Global Vice President – IT Services Life Science & Infrastructure at Infinity and Official Member of Forbes Technology Council
Here is her story
My life has been a roller coaster ride, but faith & hope have kept me going. You don’t always get what you want & I have learnt this on many occasions. However, the fact that I continue to be positive & keep trying new avenues, enables me to grow both as a human being & an entrepreneur. I had faith in myself that instead of doing a job, I could start my own business & turn my vision into reality and I did exactly that.
Every journey is a combination of roadblocks & beautiful gardens and until one reaches their goal, giving up is not an option. Hence, not losing hope is one of the most important lessons I’ve learnt in my life’s journey so far. Raising two kids alone for the last 18 years & being a serial entrepreneur were only possible due to my unwavering hope & faith.
I’ll never forget what my mother (whom I lost to cancer) told me: When you put God on the throne as your caretaker, you never doubt. Have faith!
Country Head – Strategy & Growth at Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Consultant & Entrepreneur
Here is her story
I’m very competitive, partly due to my sports background, and have always worked hard to win. But I’ve realised that sometimes, it takes the joy away from the game. Over the years, I’ve reoriented myself to learn the joy of competing, making peace with the outcome & bouncing back harder with better learnings.
Passion & happiness have inspired me to do what I do today. If you’re a multitasker, it’s very important to love & respect what you do, especially when you’re balancing a lot of things. If you’re spending time away from family, it’s vital to ensure that your work is worth it. So far, this rollercoaster ride has been extremely rewarding, as I’ve been blessed to work in multiple, multicultural industries. It has humbled me, helped me move out of my comfort zone & grow and stay relevant.
Dr Shamoly Khera
TEDx Speaker, Executive Presence Coach & Founder, Author & Formerly TV Presenter
Here is her story
At the start of my media career, I was appearing for media interviews. Sometimes, during the interview, it would come up that I’m a professional doctor by degree— that’s when some of the interviewers would immediately quip, “Doctor?! Then why are you here, dear? Your profession is very stable. Media is very unpredictable.” There were many who unknowingly & unintentionally discouraged me from making the switch or from even trying. I realised that most people had their own lessons & had learnt the hard way. And if I had to make my place, I had to do it my way.
I turned a deaf ear to all such advice & continued to step into an absolutely new career, with only self-belief & a will to learn. I realised early on that newer paths need a new perspective; if you are doing something absolutely different from others, put on your blinders & keep walking. The path will appear.
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Know any such Changemaker with an inspirational story and perspective? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or DM us on Instagram.
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