Dare To Be! Stories of successful women who decided to go with their gut and goals and make a real living off their passions against all odds. Rinku Paul and Puja Singhal have put together narratives of 15 such trailblazers in a book. SheThePeople.TV in partnership with Penguin-Random House presents excerpts of this upcoming showcase. Here’s an excerpt on Pooja Warier who is the co-founder and Director of UnLtd India and Journeys for Change
Born to a Christian mother and a Hindu father, she was brought up in a fairly progressive set-up where her parents consciously chose not to follow any one religion, allowing Pooja the freedom to define her own relationship with God and pretty much everything else. Life with a generous, loving father and a strong, independent and supportive mother went by happily for the first twelve years till a momentous event changed the frontiers of her life forever. To this day she does not know why her father chose to walk out on them with neither any notice nor any explanation, leaving her mother, a hitherto housewife, to take over the reins of the household. There is visible pride as she narrates how her mother ‘set aside her personal grief to provide for herself and her daughter’. The incident left an indelible mark on young Pooja’s mind reinforcing to her, both the necessity and limitations of money. While money was essential for survival, she came to a conclusion early on, that it had no permanence and attachment to it was pointless.
When quizzed about the challenges she has faced as a young woman entrepreneur in a male-dominated set-up, she confesses, ‘If being an entrepreneur is tough, then being a woman entrepreneur is tougher, and being a young woman entrepreneur is tougher still.’ She recalls how in the early days most questions and conversations at meetings were directed to Richard while she had to make double the effort to convince them of her competency. The situation was even worse in legal offices where they would not even look at her and direct all questions to her male colleagues, even though she would be the one answering them. Her ‘pet peeve,’ as she calls it, is men coming up to her in business meetings or conferences and complimenting her on her physical appearance. While she has by now learnt to take biases in stride, there are incidents that still clearly rankle. Like the one where a man walked up to her when she was nominated for the Young Global Leader award in 2013 to tell her that her name must have been included for the sake of having a brown female on the list. She could not help retorting, ‘Maybe the award had come my way because I deserved it.’
Speaking to Pooja Warier is like gulping inspiration in large doses. A large part of the credit for ushering in social entrepreneurship in India can be attributed to her vision and steely determination. A few minutes into the meeting and you see how strongly she feels about the vision of a more equitable India. You can visibly see her eyes light up as she talks about the many success stories made possible through the help and support, monetary and otherwise provided by her organization UnLtd India. Her own life is a reaffirmation of the advice she offers to women sitting on the entrepreneurial fence- “ to minimize their regrets”.
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