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Dare To Be
Puja Singhal & Rinku Paul
224 pages; Average reading time 2 hours 49 min
This bookbhook book summary will take not more than 12 minutes
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This bookbhook summary has been handcrafted by Nandini Shanbhag. Nandini quit her corporate job of 17 years to pursue her passion for reading and writing. Nandini believes reading opens the doors to unknown realms and widens our horizons.
This handcrafted book summary will help you learn
- How women have to fight off two ‘labels’- woman and entrepreneur- to succeed?
- How taking the entrepreneurial plunge makes everyone nervous, and yet why these 14 women followed their heart?
- How it is better to live with ‘Oh, shit!’ than with ‘What if?’
Do not miss some great videos about some of these 14 women, embedded in this book summary, including talks by Sairee Chahal & Kanika Tekriwal.
This book summary of Dare to Be- 14 Fearless Women Who Gave Wings to Their Dreams, captures four remarkable life stories, from among the fourteen incredible women whose lives have been captured in the book. Do pick up the book to read the stories of the other ten incredibly inspiring women.
Given the fact that India ranked 70 among 77 countries in the 2015 female entrepreneurship index (report released by Global Entrepreneurship & Development Institute), it is even more important these 14 brave women’s life stories are celebrated and shared.
1. Kanika Tekriwal – CEO & co-founder JetSetGo
Uber of the skies
Kanika Tekriwal is an alumna of Coventry University, featured among 30 global women entrepreneurs under 30 by BBC, and listed as one of the 100 most inspirational women in the world, 2015 by BBC.
Nothing could rein in Kanika’s feisty spirit to follow her dreams; neither the laid out plans of a conservative Marwari family of small-town Bhopal, nor a dreaded disease like cancer. Kanika only emerged stronger from her tryst with cancer defying her doctor’s prognosis. Her entrepreneurial venture JetSetGo is today referred to as Uber of the skies. Her story is one that tells you how self-belief and passionate pursuit can help you to live your dreams.
First they ignore you….
Kanika recollects that she had a rather uneventful childhood, except for one memory that stood out as a four-year-old when she watched a helicopter land. Her awe and fear led the pilot to give a guided tour, and that is how her life-long love story with aviation started.
Her dreams of being a pilot did not impress her father who thought that it was not meant for women from families like theirs. Boarding school life in Ooty widened Kanika’s horizons, and she followed it up with a degree in arts and fashion technology from Mumbai. She was however reminded continuously about marriage plans at home.
Kanika has a vivid memory, when she was 14, of how a stranger on a flight from Mumbai to Bhopal coaxed her to open up about her dreams. When she spelt out her dreams concluding that none of that was going to materialise due to her family pressures, he advised to never give up on her dreams & quoted the famous lines ‘First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.’ This advice went a long way in her life.
The fight begins
Kanika had a corporate stint with Indiabulls and followed it up with an MBA from Coventry University, UK. While in the UK, she again had a brush with her dreams having got an opportunity to work with Aerospace Resources. This provided her with ample opportunities to work with Indian air charter companies, setting the foundation for her dream entrepreneurial venture.
She returned to India knowing in her heart that she would set out and achieve her dreams, while her parents still believed that marriage was the most important thing for her. This was when fate intervened in the form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system. Though caught off-guard, Kanika’s never-say-die spirit prevailed and so started her fight with the fatal disease.
At twenty-two, she refused to accept that she had little time and knocked on the doors on many doctors till she found one that she could trust and who, in turn, also trusted in her. Though her entrepreneurial plans took a hit, she believes that cancer taught her to face any challenge and provided her with the much-needed reprieve from her marriage plans.
Nine months and multiple chemotherapy sessions later, Kanika was declared free of cancer, and she packed her bags to Delhi to start her journey, never to look back. Though it created friction with her father, Kanika stuck to her plans and was determined to put her plans in place. With two other partners, one from the US and one from Europe, she started a consultancy service in the aviation sector which helped her understand the market for her dream venture JetSetGo.
The idea of JetSetGo was mocked at by many insiders, but eventually, the same people later congratulated Kanika, when JetSetGo became successful. It was while she was on the lookout for a right brand to partner with, that she read about YouWeCan Ventures, backed by cricketer Yuvraj Singh. Just as how she achieved everything else that she had set her mind on, Kanika reached out to Yuvraj Singh’s team and closed an initial round of funding too. Interestingly, she mentions that Yuvraj came to know much later that like him, she too was a cancer survivor.
Today apart from being the first online private concierge service, JetSetGo also works in the areas of helicopter arrangements, medical evacuation and air ambulances. She says she felt shocked at knowing that BBC had listed her among the 100 most inspirational women in the world.
Advice for aspiring women entrepreneurs
What she would like to advise young women looking to turn entrepreneurs is that they can do it, if they believe in themselves. More importantly, she says you cannot know unless you try. To a query on her marriage plans, she quips that marriage can wait, but dreams cannot.
Through all this Kanika is still modest and says that it is only when investors start looking at aviation sector as a profitable sector, that she would call it her achievement.
2. Neeti Palta – stand-up artist
From JWT to stand-up
Neeti dons multiple hats including those of the founder of Loony Goons, an alumna of Symbiosis Institute of Media and Communication, scriptwriter for the Bollywood movie ‘O Teri’ and the best stand-up comic award at the Oz Fest.
Neeti quit her job as a senior creative director at India’s largest advertising agency, J.Walter Thomson (JWT) to bring to life the Muppets for the famous children’s TV show Gali Gali Sim Sim. Moreover, then she dabbled with the other end of the spectrum- stand-up comedy, which was relatively new and male-dominated to boot. Neeti’s passionate belief in herself saw her emerge as one of the very few successful female stand-up comedians in India.
Asked about her first childhood memory of what she wanted to be, Neeti confesses to being an Amitabh Bachchan fan who dreamt of being Vijay Jasoos. She recalls how she used to write ‘nasty limericks’ about her elder brother to counter his bullying. This love for writing made her end up in a Pune journalism school. Her wedding is a comedy story by her admission.
Though she tried pretending that it was not her wedding, it did not help. The night before the wedding, she ran away from her home. Her mother panicked, but her dad’s instinctive knowledge of how she found solace in food helped them locate her at a KFC with a bucketful of chicken. On the day of the wedding, her fiancé chose to send her 24 red roses with a request not to show up. Neeti did exactly that- she showed up at her wedding and is happily married since.
Saying bye to job
Neeti talks about her advertising career, how she worked up the ranks and enjoyed attractive perks. She decided to bid adieu to this world since she felt that the client, who paid, had a big say in the how the money was spent. To her, this meant that her creativity was being curtailed.
When she made her next career choice after advertising, it was her steely resolve that convinced her parents. Her husband stood resolutely by her. Neeti admits that he has been a ‘pillar of patience’ through her variety of career choices. Around this time Neeti attended a workshop by Sesame Street, which was about to bring out a show called Gali Gali Sim Sim and promptly fell in love with the muppets.
Neeti found a purpose in the show which aimed at educating and entertaining the young kids. Soon she was working sixteen hours a day in the small Sesame Street office with six writers sharing one computer.
The next turning point came in the form of a show of Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood on their India tour. Neeti was chosen as an audience volunteer to make background sounds, and she soon had the audience in splits with funny noises. Around this time stand-up comedy was making its presence felt in India. Neeti started with open-mike sessions in a restaurant in New Delhi and soon felt that she had found her calling.
Testing times followed as her husband had also quit his job to start a venture of his own and they had to reckon with EMIs of a new house. However, they were both determined to do something that they enjoyed. Her husband’s venture did take off well, but Neeti kept looking for work as a full-time stand-up artist.
As a struggling entrepreneur, Neeti felt that many people around her were waiting for her to fail, so that they could be proven right. At times she did feel like someone who had made an overconfident career choice, and the world was waiting to let the ‘truth’ out about her being just another person with limited skills. This is a lot similar to the Impostor Syndrome that Sheryl Sandberg talks about in her book Lean In.
Spreading the wings
Finally, Neeti saw a bright spot in the form of a corporate show with a payout of Rs. 5000. Neeti did a good job and felt exonerated when people walked up to her after the show to tell her that she had a flair for comedy. That was the first of her long list of shows and gigs. Confident, she decided to invite her parents to one of her performances at the India Habitat Centre. At the end of the show, a family walked up to congratulate her for making them all laugh.
She is vociferous about the societal mindsets about women and their career choices and associated stereotypes. She is also choosy about her assignments. She was India’s first stand-up comedian to perform at the prestigious Melbourne Comedy Festival 2013 and was bestowed with the Devi Award from New Indian Express in 2014.
Advice for budding women entrepreneurs
With all the success as one of India’s stand-up artist, how does Neeti feel about leaving a cushy corporate advertising career? She admits there is a sense of nostalgia, especially of the Monday morning blues that plagues the corporate sector.
However, she also believes that beyond a point, staying in corporate would have only increased her ‘bullshit quotient’. The quest is to achieve that sweet spot of doing something that pays the bill while making you happy. When asked to share a piece of advice to women wanting to turn entrepreneurs, she says that women owe themselves happiness and will never know unless they try.
3. Sairee Chahal – Founder, sheroes.in
Small town girl ?
An alumna of JNU, New Delhi, Cartier Women’s Initiative Asia-Pacific Finalist 2012, winner of Sunday Standard Devi Award 2014, Femina Powerlist North Award, 2015 and featured among the most powerful women in the India Business Today 2012, Sairee Chahal is also a TEDx speaker and an author.
Not satisfied at being the first woman in her extended family to step out of her small-town home for a corporate career, Sairee Chahal went on to become an entrepreneur and a successful one at that to silence all her critics.
Her passionate belief about women having an equal right to financial independence led her to launch Sheroes.in, creating opportunities for thousands of women to restart their career. She has an ambitious goal to touch the lives of 1 million women over the next three years, through various flexible employment models on offer at Sheroes.in. Sairee’s is an inspirational story of a small-town girl becoming a role model for women.
Sairee impresses with her self-assuredness and soft-spoken personality, coupled with a single-minded focus. Her charming personality hides a steely resolve and determination to help as many women to reconnect with their careers as possible.
The bucket list
Early childhood memories of Sairee relate to books and reading and getting to know about a world of opportunities. It also opened her eyes to the fact of how she seemed to be a misfit in her extended family. Even at that young age, Sairee created her bucket list, in which entrepreneurship topped the list. Incredibly enough, by now she has managed to cross many items on that list.
At a time when being a doctor or an engineer was the thing to do, Sairee requested her school principal to introduce commerce and humanities stream. With the principal agreeing to her request, Sairee ended up taking electives of economics and commerce. Her wish to explore studies beyond class ten outside her hometown saw stiff resistance from her father.
However, she finally succeeded when she got an admission in JNU, New Delhi to study international languages. This is how Sairee’s journey to explore the world of possibilities took wings, and she has never looked back since.
Get rid of distractions
Sairee credits her success to her uncanny ability to keep away unwanted distractions right from her college days and the habit sticks on even to this day. In college, she was enterprising enough to find a part-time job at an advertising magazine. Later, a casual meeting with Deepak Kamran, an ex-mariner, got Sairee setting up the highly successful Newslink Services business, targeted at mariners who pine for information from home, while in the high seas.
The testimony of its success and Sairee’s entrepreneurship skills is seen in the fact that at the end of three years, Newslink operations spanned sixty editors and translators, capturing two-thirds of the global market.
Sairee recalls how she did not have any role models while in school. Today she is the role model to not just many kids in her family, but others as well. Her entrepreneurship calling came while working in a blue-chip consulting company where she felt stifled by the constraints of a formal organisational structure.
An entrepreneur sets sail
Sairee found her large canvas in SAITA Consulting in 2006, along with her co-founder Anita. Focusing on small and medium business, the consulting firm did rather well. Being a flexible employer, they also started receiving many applications from mothers at home, which sowed the seeds for sheroes.in. With the birth of her daughter around the same time, Sairee experienced how childbirth leads to a pause in a woman’s career. She then decided to take up the issue of the women who wanted to have a second chance at their careers and desired financial independence.
It’s a shero’s world
For Sairee, the fact that she was a female and not an engineer made things difficult in her journey. Changing the corporate mindset was not easy. However, Sairee’s prior stint with entrepreneurship and the advent of the internet making virtual workforce a reality helped her cause. Her pilot run with a few firms was good enough for her to convince them to take up the flexi job option. That set the sheroes.in the ball rolling into history.
Having donned multiple hats of an entrepreneur, mother, mentor and flexi-work evangelist, Sairee has no doubts about which tops the list – entrepreneur. She looks at all the awards and recognition just as an affirmation of the societal change she sought to bring towards encouraging women’s careers.
When asked for a piece of advice to wannabe women entrepreneurs, she urges women to be kind to self and follow their inner voice. She further mentions that there is no perfect formula for success and that it is important to stay grounded.
4. Yukti Kapoor Mehandiratta – Enterpreneur, model & actor
What’s the larger purpose?
Yukti Kapoor is the founder of Concept Exhibitions, an alumna of JDBIMS and Gladrags Mrs India Second Runner-up in 2008.
Good looking, with a well-paid corporate banking job, and the Gladrags title under her belt, most people would have thought Yukti had everything going for her. She, however, decided to follow her heart and turn entrepreneur by setting up Concept Exhibitions. Yukti’s venture focuses on experiential learning for children, and she hopes to expand it to special children as well.
Though Yukti is a natural head turner, her intelligence and perceptive mind comes across when she mentions that there is a larger purpose to life than beyond making money. Growing up as the eldest sibling who took charge due to working parents, Yukti learnt to shoulder responsibilities quite young. This made her more mature than other kids of her age.
Glamour & hard work
Owing to her good looks, Yukti began with modelling offers, though her father had misgivings about being a model. Seeing her father lose sleep over her modelling assignments, Yukti decided it was worth the stress her parents were going through. Armed with a Master’s in mathematics, Yukti then set out on a career in banking, which is where she also met her husband. He has been the anchor in her life ever since, having no qualms even to give up his job to follow her when she got an attractive offer in Mumbai.
It was on her husband’s insistence that Yukti applied for the Gladrags Mrs India contest, and went on to be in the top ten finalists. She has fond memories of the one-month residential program for all finalists where all of them connected well with each other. Yukti cherishes the lifelong friendships made during the pageant much more than the glory of winning, which she believes is short-lived.
Being a woman at work
The harsh reality of tough situations that women face at work struck her, when she took her maternity leave, only to come back to be assigned a low-performance rating. Given charge of an entirely new business on her return, Yukti felt she was being set up for failure. Despite this, she ensured a job well done and was soon regarded as a valuable and high performing employee in the organisation. During her corporate stint, Yukti faced yet another issue that most women at work struggle with- the discipline of doing work well and then leaving for home on time, while male colleagues hang around in office till late in the evening. It was extremely disconcerting for her when her success would be credited to her good looks instead of her hard work.
The constant need to prove herself at work, simply because she was a woman, and a good looking one, got Yukti to look for purpose beyond the comfort of monthly salary. With her heart urging her to find a purpose better than just making money, she finally picked on the thought of Concept Exhibitions, which organises experiential learn-while-you-play exhibitions for children.
Did she feel scared resigning from a high paying job? Yukti admits to a sense of fear but also quickly points out that money follows work that is driven by passion and true intent.
What is success?
Yukti describes how most of us narrowly define success within the realm of making a lot of money, and failure being unable to make money. She also recollects the added societal pressure of the accusation that as an entrepreneur, she was not paying enough attention to her kids. Yukti is convinced that women should just exercise their dreams with passion, which in turn, will automatically make all other relations like a wife, mother and daughter-in-law fall in place.
Yukti is a strong believer in the power of intentions and affirms that if you strongly wish for something, the universe conspires to help you get that. Success, however, did not come easily, especially when Yukti eroded her savings and had to reach out to her parents for financial support.
Take that one baby step
As an entrepreneur, Yukti had her share of detractors and nay-sayers around her, but she fondly recollects how RJ Anita helped her build awareness for her venture. Her first Kids’ Mela held at the World Trade Centre was a runaway hit, screening original curated children’s films in partnership with Children’s Film Society of India (CFSI). Many more such exhibitions followed after that.
Today, Yukti pursues, along with her venture, other interests like modelling and anchoring for various events and TV shows. Having seen glamour, fame and money, Yukti is incredibly unfazed by it all and boldly chooses to live a life of meaning and purpose. Her advice to budding women entrepreneurs is that there are only one life and the best way to live it is to follow your heart.
She encourages women to take that one baby step, and, she says, God will take ten steps for you.
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