It been a few days since I attended the TedxHyderabadWomen event at the Wells Fargo Centre at Gachibowli, but my memories of the event still generate a warm glow inside. It was the first time that I attended an event that highlighted women and I was pleasantly surprised to discover that young or old, privileged or not, most women faced similar issues and obstacles. There is a common desire among all women, no matter what their circumstances, to strive for a better life and be free from the invisible shackles that hold them back.
The day started with an inspiring talk by social entrepreneur Pavithra Y S of Vindhya e-Infomedia Pvt Ltd. Her BPO company in Bangalore, employs differently-abled people in various roles and responsibilities and is a unique mix of philanthropy and commerce. Vindhya e-Infomedia offers IT and ITES services and has a workforce of over 1400 employees out of which 60% are differently-abled. This is an astonishing number considering that the Disability Information Web Portal states that only 0.4% of differently-abled people are represented in the Indian corporate sector.
According to Pavithra, it was a mammoth task to train her employees in the initial stages. Since, her first few employees were hearing-impaired, Pavithra learnt sign language to communicate with her staff and now it has become mandatory for all employees of Vindhya to learn sign language. She urges women to improve their networking skills and pay close attention to the profitability of their business. Pavithra has been a great inspiration to women who wish to become entrepreneurs.
It was then the turn of the dynamic Honey Bajaj to take the stage. She enthralled women with the story of her journey from a simple child in Siliguri to a world-renounced innovator and designer who graduated from MIT.
Her passion for innovation led her to design a water filter for the Indian army that converts snow into portable water by using manual and solar energy. Since then she has worked tirelessly to improve people’s lives with her inventions. In 2010, she co-invented Nest, a low-cost infant warmer for pre-mature babies that can be used in the rural areas where incubators are not easily available. Nest is now being manufactured and distributed through a non-profit program across 16 countries. A device that helps autistic children to learn, read and write better is another one of her notable inventions.
She continued to inspire us with her story about how she went about gathering money to fund her studies after she got an acceptance letter from MIT. She first tried a crowdfunding campaign and collected 2500 dollars which wasn’t enough to go to MIT so she emailed every NGO and charitable trust that she knew who might help her. When she got no response from them, she began to email every CEO and philanthropist that she knew. Many of her emails bounced but she finally got a reply from Ratan Tata who made her dream to go to MIT come true. Since then, there has been no looking back and she took the opportunity to launch her next project ‘Hidden Hunar’ at the TedxHyderabadWomen event.
After a lunch break, participants got the opportunity to rub shoulders with the other participants, share ideas with the speakers and even steal a quick selfie or two. As time passed, the air of excitement and electricity increased rapidly as everyone waited with a giddy sense of anticipation for the final speaker of the day, Ms. Renuka Chowdhury, to take stage.
Ms. Chowdhary is a two-time Union Minister and three-time MP. She is an avid horticulturalist and her story about how she learnt to ride a motorcycle and eventually even a tractor, left us in splits. Ms. Chowdhury displayed her clarity of thought, her eloquent speech and her ardent support of women’s problems by touching upon many issues that hold women back. We got a glimpse of her exceptionally warm and friendly personality by the way she took a personal interest in each of the participants.
It was inevitable that her talk was extremely personal and filled with heart-touching anecdotes from her life. She warmed our heart by revealing how she too had her share of setbacks as a woman and how it took grit and a positive attitude to overcome gender stereotypes. Her talk was peppered with inspirational stories about her life and she left us with this unforgettable quote, “If someone does not contribute to your health, your happiness or your bank balance, their opinion doesn’t count.” She received a two-minute standing ovation for her rousing talk.
All in all, it was fabulously well-spent Sunday, and the event ended on a high with a participant-speaker photo session. The drive, discipline and persistence displayed by each speaker is something that has perfumed my life, and indeed, the lives of all the participants.
All three speakers have shown us to dream big and achieve even bigger. They showed us that accomplishing great things demands patience and a can-do attitude. Their life stories are a great lesson for all to discover their passion and pursue it with dedication. Their tireless work has shown women that it is possible to dream big and achieve great things while also contributing to society in a meaningful way.