Rinku Paul & Puja Singhal On Stories That Made Housewives Millionaires
Millionaire Housewives tells the stories of 12 enterprising homemakers who, in spite of having no prior experience in business, managed to build successful empires through the single-minded pursuit of their goal, defying all stereotypes. From Ambika Pillai, who set up her own chain of salons, to Savita Chabbra, vice-chairperson of Hygienic Research Institute Pvt Ltd, who at one time hadn’t as much as operated a bank account, these stories inspire and elevate. We speak to the authors — Rinku Paul and Puja Singhal — about their writing process and how women can break boundaries and follow their dreams!
What do you want women reading the book to take away from the stories?
Stories are great change agents and we felt there was no better way to offer oodles of hope to homemakers who often times want to reinvent themselves beyond their call of duty as a wife or mother.
More than anything else, we wanted to bring to the forefront relatable role models, women who had walked the talk when it came to turning entrepreneurs from being homemakers. For women wanting to undertake this journey, we wanted them to know that fear is their biggest impediment. As long as they didn’t get pulled down thinking of the enormity of the problem, they would be able to overcome what seemingly seems insurmountable. Also, that lack of experience or relevant qualification need not be a deterrent as long as there is passion and the will to succeed.
How did you choose who you were going to feature in the stories?
Of course, we wanted to feature women who had made this incredible transition and hadn’t been cowed down by the roadblocks. But we also wanted to bring a mix of stories that homemakers would identify with. On one hand, we featured stories of women who took to entrepreneurship because they wanted to do something beyond their traditional roles, while on the other, we also featured women who were pushed towards entrepreneurship on account of unfortunate events rocking their worlds.
From first gen entrepreneurs to taking on the challenge of legacy businesses, there are a range of stories in the book. We have also featured women from myriad industries — from those perceived as being women-oriented, to those classified as male bastions
What patterns did you see amongst the women entrepreneurs?
In their seemingly diverse journeys, both in terms of the circumstances that propelled them towards entrepreneurship and in the challenges they had to face in their journey, emerged a whole lot of common life lessons. Primary among them being the fact that one needs to follow one’s own inner compass without bothering about naysayers. Also, that lack of experience and qualification cannot be stumbling blocks when you bring passion and commitment to the business.
What these women also realized once they undertook their entrepreneurial journey is that homemakers are intrinsically good managers. They know a number of principles of running an enterprise — from controlling inventory to making purchases, from producing goods to providing consistent quality, from satisfying customers to delivering on time. All they need is a little more faith in their abilities
What advice would you have for women who start out as housewives but who want to break boundaries and run their own companies?
We are not wishing away the challenges that a homemaker-turned-entrepreneur faces — be it in terms of her own mental blocks of stepping out of her comfort zone or maintaining a work-life balance. Our advice would be that the homemaker not relegate herself to the bottom of the priority list and relinquish the guilt that she often feels about spending time and money on developing her own skills. As long as she rejigs this equation and is willing to re-skill herself, there is no stopping her.
How does writing a book jointly work? Can you describe your collaboration and writing process?
Hard to generalize, but for us specifically, writing it jointly helped add perspective and layers to these incredible accounts. As far as the writing process goes, it has been highly iterative, with us adding on to each other’s understanding. Since we are geographically apart, technology came in extremely handy — not to mention the fact that being in India & the US, we had the advantage of working round the clock — when it was day for one, it was night for the other!
Which story was the most compelling to you, and are there any stories that you left out?
It may sound like a clichéd answer, but honestly it is very hard to pick one account. How can you choose between tales of boundless grit and passion?
We heard incredible accounts of women like the story of Ambika Pillai, for example, where she walked out of a loveless marriage with a small child in tow and went on to build a salon empire through her single-minded dedication. There is also the story of Savita Chabbra, vice-chairperson of Hygienic Research Institute Pvt Ltd, who at one time hadn’t as much as operated a bank account and who had to step into her husband’s shoes following his untimely death. There are tales of unbridled grit like that of Patricia Narayan who had humble beginnings by way of starting up with a tea stall on Marina beach or that of Jyothi Reddy who started out as a farm labourer and heads a Rs 96-crore software business now.
The interview process
None of these women allowed themselves to be consumed by the enormity of the problem and get sucked into the voice of naysayers. That is what stands out at the end of each story. As authors, after each interview, our spirits soared on witnessing the strength of the human will in the face of almost insurmountable odds.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t include all the stories in the book. It wasn’t in the least because they weren’t compelling. Each story had a lesson, an inspiration to offer.