#FSChangemakers 20 Powerful Women. 20 Powerful Stories.

Welcome to #FSChangemakers—where we’re celebrating 20 women from different walks of life and their incredible stories. Today, we bring the end to this fantastic, heartwarming, soulful campaign. Hope you enjoyed these stories & were inspired by them as much as we enjoyed compiling them for you.

 Ruby Didi
Pantry Staff, FableStreet
 
Here is her story:
We can’t truly end 2020 without looking inward at our own team, who has supported us and been with us through thick & thin. Meet Ruby didi (pantry staff), who’s always beaming, brightening the place with a joke or two & basically holds the fort down. She persistently came to the office even during the lockdown, to support us & herself. She’s an expert at personalisation & deliverance as she knows what each & every FS employee prefers. An integral FS employee, we keep learning something new from her every day! The multitasking powerhouse is a part of every department & we wouldn’t know what to do without her!
Reeti Sahai
Lifestyle Entrepreneur, Captain of Adidas Runners Delhi, Marathoner, Endurance Cyclist, Altitude Mountaineer & Yoga Enthusiast
 
What stood out for you in 2020?
I’m grateful for a year that has opened my eyes to things & people that really matter. It opened my eyes to beauty I may have otherwise overlooked. The COVID-proof magic of a sunset, changing seasons, exploring my passions, discovering hidden talent,  spending time at home, improvising operations at work to name, etc. I’ve learned that you can actually be “together” while being apart. It’s possible to maintain the community & connection we’ve worked so hard to develop, but it does take effort. I’m filled & overflowing with gratitude & appreciation!

What would you carry/take forward to 2021?

As we approach 2021, I’m reminded that adversity always has more to teach us, even if we need some time before we’re ready to process those lessons. And grief & gratitude can coexist. Especially if hope is going to defeat despair. The realisation that we need so much less than we thought. World travel, designer clothes, exotic meals & fancy cars are aspirational but in the end, it’s the basics that count—good health, a home, food, family, friends & love; that will sustain us & are worth celebrating.
Vrinda Chadha
Odissi Performer, Arts Educator & Teach for India Fellow

What stood out for you in 2020?
As an active dance performer & arts educator, 2020 to me has been all about resilience, acceptance & change. What stood out was this year’s ability to spark reflections, rethinking & standing strong in the face of a challenge. Adapting to new modes of reaching audiences & students in the given circumstances.

What would you carry/take forward to 2021?

I’d like to carry forward these small but strong acts of stepping back & being conscious so that I can create peace, love & harmony both within me and exude it to those around me.
Swati Bhargava
Co-Founder, CashKaro & EarnKaro
 
What stood out for you in 2020?
The resilience of our teams. Everyone made a genuine effort to stay connected & look out for each other. We started the routine of a morning video call. Seeing smiling faces first thing in the morning gave us all joy & motivation. The fact that our team members put in the effort to make this happen every day has been really admirable.

Here is her story:

I like how our company culture has evolved to a remote working-friendly organization. Culture drives revenue, retention, happiness. I’m happy with the small initiatives we started which made our culture stronger. Before our daily business updates, I host ‘The CK Morning Show’ where I invite team members to talk about their journeys, what’s helped them succeed, personal stories of struggle & success. Hearing from peers has an inspirational impact on the team & they also get to know each other.
The exchange of positive vibes provides a good boost of motivation & creates a semblance of the fun we used to have in the office. 
Antara Ray Chaudhury
Development Editor, Routledge Taylor & Francis Group
 
What stood out for you in 2020?
It was a year of disruption & breaks as well as a year of learning & reflection. I work in editorial & this year, I also got the opportunity to lead a task force for employee empowerment & well-being. This is not part of my job description & as we entered the remote working phase, this became a challenge but an opportunity as well.
 
Here is her story:
While my colleagues adapted to working from home, the team reached out to them through virtual initiatives to make sure the sense of comradery remain intact. This gave me a chance to connect with colleagues, especially women, who were managing a career, home & themselves, under a volatile climate. If I’ve to pick one underline theme, it will be resilience. And by that, I mean emotional honesty, acknowledging a difficult situation & rationally working on it. Emotional honesty is also resilience & courage.
Michelle Obama’s quote is close to me: ‘Just do what works for you, because there will always be someone who thinks differently’. It’s very relatable for the new normal—it shows me that there will always be critics, no matter what you do. So, don’t try to please everyone because you can’t.
Sohini Sen 
Feature Writer at HT Mint, Runner & CrossFitter
 
What would you carry/take forward to 2021?
2020 for me has been about making choices, being responsible for everything in my life—personal & professional. The learning from this year that I will take forward is the confidence that I have learned, that I will handle whatever comes my way.
 
Here is her story:
I’ve always been told that we must prioritise. Must choose one thing to excel in. Believing that, I’ve always chosen work over friends, sports over dance, etc. But during this year, I decided to slowly go back to each of my previous loves. I painted weird sceneries (none of them beautiful), signed up for online classical dance classes, worked 12 hours a day, read books which I hadn’t done before & managed to get back to running long distances. I decided to stop believing people who said I couldn’t or shouldn’t. Instead, I’ve built a tribe of friends who believe in me & hype me up. This year has been a lot of learning, taking a step back & a step ahead again.
Aahna Mehrotra
Sports Lawyer, Author & Founder of AM Sports Law & Management Co
 
What would you carry/take forward to 2021?
Every bad situation will have something positive. “Even a dead clock shows the correct time twice a day”, and I take with me the positives of 2020 into 2021.
 
Here is her story:
In 2015, I had been roped in by Justice Mudgal to work on a book. In December, I was away for graduation, only to come back to find that my name had been taken off the cover. I submitted proof of my work to Justice Mudgal & he was apologetic.
In 2016, I was offered a job at TMT Law Practice. In 2017, they underwent a merger & the new senior partner & I didn’t share the same work ethos. I was in Mumbai later & informed the client office that I was moving on. When one of the directors inquired, I told him about an offer from a corporate organisation, but I wasn’t too keen. I was contemplating starting my own practice, eventually.
That’s how AM Sports Law & Management Co. was born. The confidence my clients showed, their trust & their support (without letting clichés about women in sports mar their judgment) at a time that I was questioning everything, is what keeps me going day in and day out.
Shibani Bedi
Actress
 
What stood out for you in 2020?
2020 quintessentially taught me ways to find joy in the little things & making the most of whatever source of peace, purpose & happiness one can find when the storm strikes. This year was all about gratitude, introspection, peace & forgiveness. It was also a lesson in counting one’s blessings, keeping loved ones close & letting go of the need to run against time or to be perpetually in control. And finally, what I will carry with me not just to 2021 but also for the rest of my life, is the realisation that I am stronger than I think. Kindness & empathy is a muscle one needs to constantly exercise & choose over bitterness and anger. Happiness is almost always a choice, the things we need to survive & being happy has nothing to do with the milestones society & our conditioning have us believe. That where there is a will, there is a way or one will strive to find it. And when all else fails, there is no shame & harm in reaching out for help.
Rachana Gupta
Co-Founder, Gynoveda
 
What stood out for you in 2020?
‘TENACITY’.  T – Have Trust, E – Have Empathy, N – Never Say ‘Never’, A-Stay Authentic, C – Develop Connections, I – Listen to you Inner Voice, T – Time management & Y – Say ‘Yes’ to life!
 
Here is her story:
My understanding of ‘Tenacity’ comes from my maternal grandmother. She lived life on her terms, leaving behind a legacy of tenacity & “simple living, high thinking.” A widow at a young age, I’ve such precious memories of her being in control of her household & letting go when that control is no longer needed. Neither did I know that some of her tenacious streak, which had been passed to me, would get amply tested in 2020.
When the lockdown happened, Gynoveda was barely 5 months old. But I was determined to do something constructive. With all protocols in place, we reopened our office. As a ‘period solution’ company, I didn’t want women to suffer due to lack of access to our supplements. So, we went to work every day during the pandemic, with a resilience that we didn’t know existed within us. 8 months post-lockdown, our team has grown, our consumers have multiplied five-folds & the contentment that we have is beyond words.
Sunaina Rekhi
Yoga Instructor & Psychotherapist
 
What stood out for you in 2020?
Getting the gift of time. Spending quality time with loved ones, calling old friends, reading, playing with my babies. Cooking, baking, eating together. Decluttering our home. Every day, I practised yoga, self-love, & self-care to help myself, my loved ones & my community. Sleep, recharge, pray, meditate, journal. Reflect on what’s important & what makes us truly happy.
 
Here is her story:
2021 is a transition from survival to living. We were invited to learn new ways of being—to do less, be more & reconnect with our true human nature.
There are many things beyond my control: Earthquakes, tsunamis, political changes, this pandemic, etc. But there’s one thing that I can manage—my inner world, actions & emotions. The way I respond to whatever happens outside my inner space is totally up to me. There’s much power in hope & faith. A positive mindset boosts our immune system with serotonin, the feel-good hormone. I choose to believe we live in an intelligent universe where everything happens for us, not to us. There’s no breakthrough without a breakdown. I think we’re all students of life, to learn from our experiences & get more resilient, wiser and stronger.
Dr Rohini Rau
Doctor, Sailor, TEDFellow, Facilitator – Human-centred Design
 
What stood out for you in 2020?
2020 was really a time that forced me to reconnect with my family & cement these connections as truly it is so easy to take them for granted.
Sometimes, it’s important to prioritise yourself to the extent of being borderline selfish. But it’s a very thin line, that borders on taking advantage of one’s love. What I would carry forward quite literally is my baby girl who was born in September. She has brought so much joy into our lives & I can’t wait to see what’s in store for us in 2021!
 
Here is her story:
Being a “Jack of all trades” needn’t necessarily make you a “master of none”. I grew up thinking that I may not be good at anything. But it was the opposite. I now truly believe that doing different things like Bharatnatyam, playing the piano, martial arts, theatre to sailing has helped me excel in academics or any job I needed to do. In an era where we don’t know what future jobs are going to be like, it’s important to know a lot of skills to be able to adapt & be relevant. So, there will always be a place for specialists and generalists as well.
Archana Jain
Founder & MD, PR Pundit
 
What would you carry/take forward to 2021?
Stand united & together—that gives the muscle to weather all challenges!
 
Here is her story:
PR Pundit is a women-dominated firm. My outlook has always been to help women balance their personal & professional lives. As we’re aware, women tend to drop out at a point of time in their careers to nurture families. I introduced work from home for mothers & flexible working hours in 2004. I’ve also consciously encouraged women who’ve taken a long break from corporate life, to get back to work.
Having senior women role models helps women grow within a company & industry. Having processes in place to recognise, develop & reward female talent; a mentor who can help boost confidence, open up networks & give strategic insights to other women trying to progress at the workplace.
Megha Agarwal
Chef, Summer House Cafe & Auro Kitchen & Bar
 
What would you carry/take forward to 2021?
Starting a new venture Big Spoon Condiments in the middle of a pandemic was defining for me. Thanks to the lockdown, I’ve had many opportunities to collaborate with new & emerging food brands to take Assamese cuisine to places! Encouraging messages, shout-outs for homegrown brands, support from the community & coming together to support one another in a community that’s still fighting to survive, is something that I will always take forward with me.
 
Here is her story:
Coming from a small town, it’s very difficult to establish yourself in a big city like Delhi. I remember visiting this new hip café in my first year there. Asking for the head chef’s phone number, a cold call the next morning, an interview & trial the same evening and just like that—hired! Especially after losing my job a week prior due to a road accident. The last 7 years have been eventful with constant growth. From assistant chef to corporate chef of not just that one outlet but its sister property as well. 7 years of being the only female chef in the nightlife kitchen with every possible hurdle overcome, I can’t wait to see what more it brings.
Srishti Guptaroy
Illustrator
 
What stood out for you in 2020?
It’s incredible how time seems to be moving so slowly yet so fast. Seeing such heartbreaking news from all over the world, I was grateful for my health, family & friends. I’ve spent so much energy thinking about the things I don’t have & this year, I was just overwhelmed by all the amazing things that I do have. I definitely want to carry this feeling of gratitude forward!
 
Here is her story:
After fighting with my parents & taking up fashion design, I realised at 27, that I wasn’t doing what I really enjoy. After graduation, I joined the corporate retail industry. The structure & financial stability of a corporate environment is hard to let go of. I kept waiting to save up enough money to sustain before quitting but I ended up making that decision overnight despite barely having enough savings. In May 2019, I finally left my stable corporate job & plunged into freelance life. It feels so gratifying to see my name on a project & that I am doing all this on my own. From starting out with calendars, art prints, etc. to working with Netflix, Google & Vogue, it’s a feeling of pride to know that they like my work enough to commission projects. I understand, that for many people it’s not feasible to take that leap, financially. However, there will never be a right time to do something you feel passionately about. Life will figure itself out once you make that decision.
Purnota Dutta Bahl
Founder & CEO, Cuddles Foundation
 
What stood out for you in 2020?
The immense opportunity the pandemic gave us to look deep within & draw strength. It helped us accelerate personal & organisational growth and allowed us to innovate and adapt—all of which we’ll carry into our future.
 
Here is her story:
My husband & I used to support children with their treatment at the Tata Memorial Hospital. One day, I visited the hospital to look at the kids. That was truly life-changing! I’d never seen so many sick kids, little ones with balding heads with IVs running around. It was mere luck that I was standing outside the hospital as a donor, while a mother was sitting inside with her child. I met the head of social services, who said, ‘We get enough help with treatment, but we don’t get any help with nutrition’. That part didn’t make any sense, because as a culture, we feed, right? All our happiness, sadness, celebrations revolves around food. And that’s when Cuddles was born. I started donating towards nutrition. Eventually, this one-person initiative grew into something significant as more supporters, donors & team members began joining. It had become a movement.
Mitali Nikore
Economic Consultant & Founder, Nikore Associates

What stood out for you in 2020?
It was actually a great year for me professionally! My book was published, I won an award at an international academic conference & I won an election to lead a group of community changemakers! Most importantly, my firm Nikore Associates grew by leaps & bounds! Staying at home gave me a lot of time to research the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on women. My team & I started speaking with women across income brackets, and realising just how bad things are for female daily wage workers, domestic help & rural workers! Speaking with women’s groups is my inspiration—it’s kept me going throughout the lockdown & given my life a new meaning!
Kajol Srinivasan
Stand-up Comedian

What would you carry/take forward to 2021?
That you cannot live your life in different personal & professional bubbles. And when all control over a situation is taken away, people will come through for you as you will come through for them.

Here is her story:
Before I became a comedian, I was a ballroom dancer. I once attended a Samba class being taught by a teacher from the UK. She taught us hand movements with a lot of flair but told us not to do them on stage until we were totally comfortable with it. “Because the audience will sense your nervousness and be embarrassed on your behalf”. That has held so true in comedy. The reason the audience is silent most times is because they sense your fear. It’s not them being judgemental, but just human empathy. This helps you as a comedian because you drop your defences against the audience as well.
Abigail Pande
Actress

What stood out for you in 2020?
What stood out for me was the way people were helping each other out. Whether it’s sending groceries, helping financially or even calling each other up to find out if everyone’s doing okay. And even though everyone is from different upbringings, religions & backgrounds; we realised that we’re all in this together. And that has really changed about how I look at the world & I would definitely want to carry that forward.

Here is her story:
When I was 15, I didn’t know what I wanted to do in life but I was sure that it couldn’t be 9-5. One day, I bunked college to attend a college fest with a friend. Someone from Balaji came up & asked me to audition. At the time, I wasn’t fluent in Hindi & knew nothing about acting. But a friend pressured me into auditioning because she didn’t want to do it alone. I remember laughing about it because it was a disaster. But I got the part. And it was the lead character for a new show! I knew it was a once-in-a-lifetime chance. And it’s been 13 years since I’ve been acting. And there’s NOTHING that can give me more happiness than standing in front of the camera. You know what they say; life is what happens to you when you’re too busy planning.
Isha Bhansali
Celebrity Stylist

What you would carry/take forward to 2021?
2020 was a chance to introspect. To slow down & look within. And rejuvenate with a fresh mind. Catch up with my older hobbies. This year has taught me patience which I hope to carry ahead with me.

Here is her story:
I have many stories to share. But as a single woman in her mid-thirties, I must say it wasn’t easy for me to stand my ground & wait for the right time to make changes in my life. Not to settle for less, rather I’ve listened to my gut. And wait for the right time to settle down. That’s been the most defining decision in my life.
Deepanshi Kapoor
Wedding Photographer & Founder of Happyframes
 
What stood out for you in 2020?
2020 has been challenging for the world. But at the same time, this lockdown has gotten us high on the learning curve. We could ‘slow down’ & make time to learn. I would like to ‘make time’ for this in the years ahead.
 
Here is her story:
In 2017, we found out about my mom’s Liver Cirrhosis. It needed an immediate transplant. Early in 2018, we went ahead with surgery as I decided to donate to her a part of my liver. I had a 13-15 inch cut on my stomach with a gall bladder that goes away as part of the process during surgery. I remember people telling me pre & post-surgery on how I could have problems in conceiving with such ‘health issues’. In about 6 months, I went back to work. I started walking & swimming as those were the things I could really do. I started worrying if I’ll ever be able to pursue my career and also have a baby. This was the toughest phase of my life. You are stronger than you think you are really. I decided to take on backend work, expand the team, take courses in photography & business growth and think of things that really matter in future. 2019 was very special for us! I doubled the team, saw my mother recover & start living a normal life and I became a mother to Nayanika.

 

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