In the countdown to International Women’s Day, we bring to you some women achievers who have achieved great success on their own steam and can indeed be rightfully called – WOMEN WARRIORS.
Karen de Souza, Director of Shillim Institute
Her father’s daughter, Karen de Souza – whose love for nature was inculcated by him – followed in his footsteps in doing her bit for the conservation of nature. While working in Brussels with a renowned Michelin Star chef, she gathered the connection between sustainability and the creation of quality ingredients. This realization led her to seek a deeper understanding of how to balance the impact of people on their environment.
Karen subsequently worked on a project to restore native plant species in Southern California during a severe decade of drought and recently set up the organic farm at Shillim, applying the same balance of a forest ecosystem. Karen has set up the Shillim Institute with a focus on research and project implementation in conservation, sustainability and healing.
Throwing light on it she says, “The Institute moves beyond the traditional, “environmental” view of sustainability and recognizes equally the roles of the arts, economics, culture, and faith in nurturing sustainable communities. The Shillim Institute is a platform for knowledge and action, a forum for people to discuss ideas and life works, a gathering place to share information and solve problems, and a centre of cultural exchange.” The Shillim Foundation is the global sister organization of the Shillim Institute, which is located at the heart of the Sahyadri Range, the centrepiece of India’s Western Ghats. The Ghats are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a biodiversity conservation hotspot.
Rachel Goenka, Founder & CEO – The Chocolate Spoon Company (TCSC)
Rachel Goenka has under her belt an enviable chain of chic restaurants, bars, bakeries and patisseries. TCSC is behind the introduction of Eclectic European cuisine to India in 2012. To her goes the credit of redefining desserts with a variety of pioneering treats at her restaurants. Sassy is the best attribute for the vivacity she exudes right from her restaurant conceptualization to the epicurean delights with holistic dining experiences. As her tribute to all working moms, she has launched a line of healthy and wholesome snacks for kids, inspired by her son Kabir, called Sassy Littles.
TCSC and Rachel have both been extensively recognized and won numerous accolades over the last couple of years. Her debut book – Adventures with Mithai – most recently won the prestigious ‘Gourmand World Cookbook Awards 2020’ for India in the Pastry and Desserts category.
In 2019, she won the award for ‘Woman Entrepreneur of the Year’ at Times Hospitality Icons. An accomplished journalist, she has been with Reuters, has written features for magazines like Hello!, Hi Blitz, Uppercrust and BBC Good Food as well as for leading newspapers such as Mint Lounge, Hindustan Times, DNA, and more.
Apart from restaurants, Rachel has been instrumental in TCSC’s expansions in other verticals as Rachel reveals, “Outdoor catering, corporate lunch box services, private labelling and banqueting. We have also launched one of the first cloud-based dessert only delivery brand, Cake Me Home, as well as 2 other cloud kitchens – Soul Tadka and Chan’s Chinese Kitchen.”
Shoba Mohan, Founder – RARE India
Poetry reading, floor-art and volunteering for conservation and marine beach were the interests of Shoba (nee Narayanaswamy) till she got married into a family well-known for curating bespoke and incentive travels. She now pioneers a distinctive boutique brand – RARE India – known to promote a major curated collection of owners-run lodges, retreats, palace hotels and glam camps. She says, “RARE Hotels promote experiential walks, riding programs, off-roading, art for tourism, and more. Be it wellness, wildlife, adventure, culinary trails, and conservation, our organisation includes movers and thinkers who foster ideology and learning.”
This Hospitality and Travel Experience Marketing Expert has focused on promoting conscious luxury travel and had her pulse on sustainable tourism since way back in 2004 when she started RARE India. Under her able leadership, the RARE India Community of conscious luxury hotels has gone from 0 to 50 brands. Cuisines, dying art, textiles, architecture, folk traditions, yoga retreats, luxury glamping – you name it and it’s included in Shoba’s RARE Hotels list. She is also the Director of Communications (Ex Officio) at Society for Incentive Travel Excellence India (SITE India) and a Member of Travel + Leisure India’s Advisory A-List.
Tanya Swetta, Co-Founder and CEO – id8 Media Solutions
At 21, when girls are more absorbed in enhancing their beauty to impress, Tanya Swetta was very focused on establishing id8, her PR agency. She believes that there are no shortcuts to success. As the key ideator from a young age, today she jointly leads a team of 60 dedicated literati and has featured in top Fortune magazines for her spectacular achievements. As the mainstay of iconic products like Marks & Spencers, Di Bella Coffee, Grand Hyatt Goa, Tommy Hilfiger, Leena Mogre, Pooja Makhija, Tanya has been instrumental in having launched ultra-luxe brands in India such as Coach, Giorgio Armani, Vogue, Mocha and Mad Over Donuts.
Along with balancing her work life being a mother of two children, she is also a fitness enthusiast, never forgets her daily yoga routine. According to Tanya, “Being the one-stop solution, the company offers an array of 360-degree brand management services ranging from Design, Public Relations, Digital Marketing, Influencer, and Corporate Marketing, Event Management, Filming & Production, and many more services under its umbrella and key associations with top international Fortune brands in the market.”
Nipa Asharam, Founder – Eat.Breathe.Smile
Mumbai-based Nipa Asharam spent 15 years in the corporate world and extensively studied Finance and Marketing. Somewhere in between chasing deadlines, pursuing new hobbies, discovering beautiful places, the hustle of life hit her and she underwent a ‘360-degree’ transformation.
She started questioning things, even at the peak of her career. She had a great job and was working with some of the best mentors, so it wasn’t even a ‘burn-out’. However, her emotional and mental being had been neglected for a while and now the physical signs were visible. She had insomnia, leaky gut, 18 hours migraine, addiction to Combiflam, over-analysing every situation, constant negative emotions so on and so forth. She was hellbent to get to the root of it and, most importantly, get rid of her 18 hours migraine! It had kind of paralyzed her life because there was no saying when it would occur and she would be room bound till the excruciating pain disappeared to function normally. There were clear toxic patterns in relationships that were exhausting her. So when all of this came together, it was a breaking point.
She decided to figure out the answers herself as she further trained and certified herself as a life and health coach. She started off as a certified Life Coach and Health Coach by acquiring her training for the life coaching course from ICF (International Coaching Federation) and IIN (Institute of Integrative nutrition) and then took a step further in the healing and healthcare space by launching her range of products – Eat.Breathe.Smile.
She claims, “All of these are blends of 1000s of years old herbs, which are holistic, natural, vegan and also healing and are FSSAI licensed. It works for age group starting 15 to 80 – men and women.”
Kusum Bhandari – Director, BhookhaHaathi Hospitality
Kusum Bhandari is the Director of BhookhaHaathi Hospitality Pvt. Ltd., one of India’s fastest-growing alternative foods-based B2B2C health and food tech company. A seasoned advertising veteran, Kusum has over 18 years of experience of bringing to life innovative concepts and delivering inventive brand right solutions. Through her previous experience, Kusum has earned a reputation as a stellar brand builder with a forte in digital storytelling and market-moving strategies.
With a keen interest in food and responsible for the R&D unit at Bhookha Haathi, she can be credited with the creation of a range of innovative recipes and healthy products under the ‘alternative foods’ umbrella. Another expression of her creativity involves painting. Having held various leadership and strategic level positions in her past stints with Images Bazaar, Triton Communications and Sahara Group, she is a role model for may aspirants!
Vahbiz Dorabjee – Actor, Entrepreneur, Women Empowerment activist
Hailing from a renowned entrepreneur family from Pune, she was born with the proverbial silver spoon. Her parents’ darling daughter, Vahbiz’s love for acting brought her to Mumbai and she made it on her own. Having modelled for lifestyle products, she took to television career and acted in several serials like ‘pyaar ki yeh ek kahani’, Saraswatichandra, and bahu hamaari Rajnikant for leading channels.
Recently, her web series Kashmakash released on Hungama play. She has walked the ramp for Lakme India Fashion Week for the designer Rina Dhaka. That’s not all for this down-to-earth achiever. We may find plenty of movers and shakers but Vahbiz is one actor who has taken up several women-oriented causes and believes in uplifting women to stand on their feet and be independent. This gorgeous lady also stands up for plus-size women as a crusader against body-shaming.
Purvi Pugalia – Founder, SOCH Foods, LLP
Career reflects a rich and diverse experience. Belonging to a textile background, pursuing studies in floral art from Europe, topping BA in college, and completing masters in handwriting analysis, her transition was planned with utmost passion and consideration. Being a book lover, she enjoyed reading English Literature and classics and began her career as a teacher. But today, she has changed paths and is also an expert graphologist, proud to be one of the most renowned in her field. While she analyses people’s handwriting, she also satisfies every soul with healthy and yummy food. Yes, she’s none other than the master chef of Munchilicious and the mastermind of SOCH. So for all those finger-licking recipes, you know whom to thank!
The typical Indian meal comprises of wholesome nutrients required to fulfil our body requirements. However, the typical Indian stomach is never satisfied with these three meals alone. This set off an interesting thought process in Mrs Purvi Pugalia’s mind. Seeing her husband battle constantly to maintain a balance between mid-meal cravings and a healthy lifestyle, she realised the need to create a way for the flavour to marry health.
She decided to attack unhealthy snacks with an array of healthy, crunchy and scrumptious food, without the addition of any preservatives. Experimenting with a variety of guilt-free options, these homemade mouthwatering recipes lead the husband-wife duo to work together in giving rise to food brands that are perfectly healthy, tasty and hassle-free.
Aradhana Minawala – Co-Founder, CAI Footwear
Footwear and vegan? Yes, that is what CAI footwear is all about!
An epitome of grace and style herself, Aradhana Minawala is an ambitious business prodigy and the co-founder and partner of CAI footwear. With her business venture CAI, Aradhana is one of the very few fashion connoisseurs who believe in cruelty-free and 100% vegan fashionable footwear.
After completing her Bachelor’s in Management Studies specializing in marketing, Aradhana pursued her MSC in Marketing and Strategy from the esteemed Warwick University, UK. She established the CAI Store in the year 2015 with the sole purpose of providing fashionable and modest footwear that is manufactured without the use of leather, with contemporary styles and a compassionate virtue warrantying the tagline – “handmade with love.”
Courtesy her deep understanding of the dynamics of the market, Aradhana realized the prevalence of an inflammatory price hike of non-leather shoes in the global footwear frontiers. She drew inspiration from the same to bridge the gap between comfortable, chic vegan shoes having economical and wider accessibility. For supporters of cruelty-free products, here is friendly footwear!
Ramya Rao and Kavea R Chavali – Founders, Kalaneca
Twin sisters and co-founders Ramya Rao and Kavea R Chavali draped a handwoven saree as 14-year-old enterprising NCC cadets when they represented Andhra Pradesh at the prestigious Republic Day Parade. Little did they realise that they would one day create the brand Kalaneca to help their mom promote the work of weavers from Andhra.
What started as a hobby gradually turned into a passionate move to showcase the versatility of the fabric much like the co-founders of the brand.
Taking their passion to the next level, the sisters launched India’s first-ever Saree podcast featuring handloom enthusiasts talking about their journey of six yards and beyond.
What sets them apart from the others is they are in the business of celebrating the versatility of the sarees rather than selling sarees.