Leave everything better than you find it - advises Anuradha Das Mathur
Anuradha Das Mathur has worn multiple hats in her long and illustrious career. She was selected as one of the 25 emerging global women leaders for the prestigious Global Emerging Women Leader’s Programme offered by Fortune magazine and the US State Department. More recently she was selected for the Yale Greenberg World Fellow 2016 Program. As the Founding Dean of The Vedica Scholars Programme for Women, Anuradha – the “bright star” is truly a role model and inspiration to thousands of women. It was indeed an honour to interview her:
1.What is the meaning of your name "Anuradha"? How would you describe yourself in a sentence?
A bright star – the 17th nakshatra and ‘one who bestows welfare’…
Tough to describe myself – you must ask someone else to do that! But if I had to state my intent ‘I would like to be a person who leaves everything in the world a wee bit better than I find it…
2.Growing up as a child, what was your dream? Did you work towards realizing it as a teenager and adult or did the dreams and goals change with the changing landscape of the growing years?
Honestly, I have always followed my heart… I wanted to make a difference wherever I was – and that’s the only thing that remains unchanged. Lots of different things interested me and attracted me (and they continue to!), and I could see myself in several different fields as a young person. What I knew was that I would be happy doing something meaningful and doing it with excellence. The ‘what’ was always less important… the ‘how’ and the ‘why’ mattered much more.
3. How was your experience studying at Trinity College, Cambridge University in UK? What was the major difference in the education system in India and UK based on your experience?
Trinity and Cambridge were like a dream at many levels. Academic excellence and its pursuit, the exposure to professors who were at the forefront of their areas of study, understanding the importance of the liberal arts in the true sense, a serene and aesthetically appealing environment, a complete absence of spoon-feeding, bright peers studying subjects as varied as divinity and music – all came together to create the magic.
The biggest difference to me between India and the UK was in the overall approach. During my undergraduate degree at Delhi University, exams always seemed designed to discover what you didn’t know i.e. try and spot your weaknesses. At Cambridge, it seemed to me that the exam system was designed to give you an opportunity to demonstrate how much you had learnt and how well.
4. How has been the journey as the Co-Founder of 9.9 Media?
Entrepreneurship is very tough and very rewarding. I would say that describes the journey as a Co-Founder of 9.9 Media pretty accurately. When you stop representing a big brand and represent yourself, everything feels very personal and it takes time to learn not to take everything personally. But then as you start building something that you feel good about, the journey feels much more worthwhile. In the last few years, we have emerged as the leading B2B company in India, we have shaped the industry and created new benchmarks for a range of products and services – which I feel good about. However, the fact that we haven’t grown as fast as we would have wanted and therefore not created as many growth opportunities for our people as we had aspired for – is hard to face and live with.
5. What was the biggest hurdle you faced to grow the organization and how did you overcome it?
I think great financial performance was the biggest challenge. When you don’t have enough resources to invest in areas you would like to, including compensating people, it skews the direction and quality of the business you want to build. We made up for it, a little bit, by the exposure, quality of work, respect and work culture we offered – but it still doesn’t quite make up for the lack of financial performance and attractive growth opportunities for people – specially at senior levels.
6. What triggered the formation of The Vedica Scholars Programme for Women? How do you think women participation in the work force be improved?
The observation that too many women suffer indignity, and that dignity and dependence don’t go hand in hand. So to ensure a life of dignity for women, we had to find ways for them to be independent – and after much thought, it dawned on me that financial independence was at the core of much that I needed to change. I was very concerned by the trend that the number of urban educated women in the workforce was declining.
What could lead to more women being in the workforce? The answer seemed to be: a certain kind of management education that would equip women not only to get jobs, but to keep jobs in the long term. And this meant leadership and personal development courses along with exposure to a variety of women role models who would help young women understand that a career is integral to a fulfilling life.
7. What differentiates a Vedica Scholar from graduates of other institutes?
Vedica Scholars are taught management principles alongside the liberal arts, critical thinking and communications, as well as a strong focus on personal growth and leadership development. The course has been designed in response to the needs of the 21st century professional. We believe this prepares them much better for the workplace.
Secondly, one of the big issues is that women drop off from the workforce. We pay a lot of attention to preparing our Scholars for the dilemmas and challenges of working women so they are much better prepared to navigate these situations and we hope that they will have long, fulfilling and successful careers.
8. As the Founding Dean of The Vedica Scholars Programme for Women, what is your expectation from the graduates of Vedica? What is your vision for the institute?
It is still early days, but above all, I hope it will be their ethos and attitudes – ‘the Vedica Way’. That they will not quit work at the first signs of stress, that they will be authentic, high-integrity and confident women. That they will understand feminism in its truest sense and live its values. That they will work towards leaving the world a better place than they find it – for both men and women. That they will understand the context of their lives and work – given their exposure to the liberal arts, critical thinking and personal growth – and respond appropriately to challenges and opportunities. That they will take responsibility for themselves and their lives, and be role models for future generations.
As I meet people all over the world, I realize Vedica’s mission is far more universal than we had originally imagined. Our vision is that Vedica – and its essence – establish a global footprint, and at the very least we become a prestigious and highly reputed university going forward – an institution of choice for all young women.
9. What according to you is the purpose of our life?
•To use our time on earth meaningfully
•Being kind and helpful
•And leaving everything better than we find it
10. Congratulations to you from the Glad2baWoman Team for being selected as a Yale Greenberg World Fellow 2016. Do share with our readers, your experiences and major learning while at Yale University.
Thank you. It has been a huge privilege to be at Yale for 4 months. A few things stand out based on the experience here:
•the importance of being a global citizen and understanding the world’s complex problems
•That none of the world’s biggest challenges can be solved by any one actor – therefore the importance of people who can ensure that government, businesses and social sector collaborate meaningfully
•That women’s dignity and empowerment is an issue almost everywhere in the world
•That mutual respect is the foundation of all teams and team-work.
11. Now for some rapid fire fun trivia:
a. Your favourite movie – The American President
b. Your favourite food – sambhar, chawal, sukha aloo, and hari mirch
c. Your favourite city - London
d. Your favourite actor – George Clooney
e. Your favourite politician – Justin Trudeau
f. 3 unchecked items from your bucket list - Northern lights, Trans Siberian Rail trip, Mansarovar trek
g. What makes you happy? Love, other people’s happiness, and all little things – babies, puppies… and nature