Footprints from Formative Years
I have enjoyed a safe and protected childhood, having had parents who supported me with as many resources and opportunities as they could. My father and my teachers used to encourage me to take part in stage performances. I was nervous every time I stepped up the stage thinking I wasn’t meant for it. Even when it came to taking up leadership positions in the school, I knew it was the teachers who entrusted me that I couldn’t let them down. Once I was pushed by people who believed in me, I started doing well in extra-curricular activities and that gave me the confidence that I can do it, and do it well. That was what really helped in forming my personality early on in life.
I remember, as a child, I used to converse with my father that one day I would have a business of my own. I didn’t know back then what would be this business or why exactly this was my passion but I believe all inspirations we have come from what we see and experience. I even recollect sitting down with my dad and charting out a business plan to start my own library in the patients’ waiting room in his clinic. And when he helped me do the math, we both realised it was not a good business plan so we scrapped the idea!
My then partner, now husband was with me throughout the college. We were intrigued in books but we were selective in what we read – it had to be stuff that would help us build our skillset. We used to practically try out whatever we read and the key learning’s of those books have stuck on with me ever since – speed reading, out of the box thinking, mind mapping, and also body language. Later on, I married into a supportive family. And when family backs you up, it is a stress-free environment that you enjoy at home.
Why nonverbal communication as a lifetime career – let’s just say I was ticking off streams I didn’t enjoy till I was almost 30 years old. I had decided I didn’t want to be a hard core engineer, neither a coder nor a business analyst. After being a currency trader and a portfolio manager I realised I wasn’t comfortable with markets moving when I was asleep. I enjoyed the portfolio management quite a bit but being in Mumbai which is the financial capital of India, if I pursued a career in finance, I would just be a fish in the pond. Since childhood I enjoyed shining out more than mingling in the crowd so if I did something of my own, it would have to be one that wasn’t along the common path. I referred back to notes that I had made for myself over the years and what I realised was that all along my life I had loved observing people, and that’s when it dawned – this is what I would love to do for the rest of my life, and teach it as well. That’s when Simply Body Talk was born.
Beyond the Barricades
Nonverbal communication is not an often-explored subject in our country. So when I started, people mistook this for first impressions and grooming, which is not really what we specialise in. That instilled in me that I would have to work on brand building first – a mere sales approach would not do the trick. Once I took this decision, I knew this would be a slow and elaborate process so I really have to exercise patience along the way. As a result, the brand building did yield the right output and we got the opportunity to work with senior leaders from some of the top international brands.
Finding people who share the same passion for this field as much as I do, and figuring out all of this by myself has not been easy. My trainer team themselves need to be trained first to become super specialists and only after that they can start taking sessions independently, so unlike other companies where you can expect the resource to start delivering results, we first have a gestation period.
Large corporates can be tricky to figure out – who is the decision maker, which department to tap into to begin with and so on. We kept at it till we figured out the formula, and fortunately I have gotten the opportunity to work with some fine people in the industry and I have learnt from them as much as I have imparted my knowledge to them. Going international was also not easy – right from breaking the stereotype that international trainers can only be from developed countries to communicating in a manner that the non-English speaking audience can understand the concepts, localising the case studies to make them suitable for the audience, each step can take up a lot of time and effort. Being a first-generation entrepreneur building a content focused company in today’s fast paced world where not many have the patience to wait, this is a slightly different approach but I am convinced that if I do it right, we can make it big.
Right before the lockdown we had zeroed in some consultancy assignments that are really the area of interest personally for me. The invoices were sitting on my table, with figures that were enough to make the entire year a cakewalk for us, and the lockdown hit us. With the intention of not letting any employee have to put in the papers, I somehow managed to wade through those years, putting up with the team’s shortcomings, only to realise that people quit as soon as the “Great Talent Re-Shuffle” began. A business always has challenges in some form or the other. And a true entrepreneur is one who is not afraid of taking on these challenges head on and finds a way through.
Embarking onto the Entrepreneurial Journey
I always knew I would have my own business one day, I just didn’t know when would be the right day. When I experienced the corporate world, I saw the type of bureaucracy that can exist, how political games can sometimes be played and how one needs to be on their edge all the time even when they are working round the clock and delivering results. This made me realise if I was spending so much time and energy into work, it could not be for someone else rather it had to be for myself.
After quitting the corporate job, before I started my own venture, I also worked with my mother-in-law in her business to see up close how businesses work so that when I start out on my own, I would know what to expect. Yes, giving up a good salary can be excruciating in the beginning, because you are used to spending, you are used to a level of independence. So, the journey to being an independent entrepreneur has not been quick and fast-paced. Rather I took the slower and longer route of learning the ropes well before diving in on my own. I knew that every year I was spending in learning through the experience of another; I was adding a differential factor in myself. Today, when I have to design programs for corporates in different avenues like presentations, sales, negotiations, I do refer to books but I have my own experience that I can borrow from. And this also helps to convince my clients about the depth of our content because there are so many real-life examples that I can share with people, no matter what be their background or experience.
Initially I used to think how would my knowledge as an IT engineer or my education in wealth management or my career as a finance specialist help me in the field of nonverbal communication. But having my own venture means I need to have expertise beyond just my domain of specialisation i.e. body language. When I needed my website or App to be created or business model to be figured out or when I require interacting with international clients, all my experience in the corporate world and my international education added up. I still persist on one of my habits – for anything new that I want to start, I first get my hands dirty so I know how much efforts the task would ideally take, what are the possibilities that can be explored, and then I pass that on to my team. This allows me to be very specific in my expectations of delivery from them.
Simply Body Talk specialises in aiding businesses to improve their efficiency using the power of nonverbal communication. The easiest offering that people understand is training programs to teach senior leaders how to project the right body language and accurately understand people they are dealing with. We also have coaching programs, group modules, online courses and a lot more to teach the subject.
The near future that I foresee for Simply Body Talk is to incorporate more experiential learning in our modules like team bonding events, 3D projection case studies that we will be exploring, using immersive technology based on psychophysiology for our retail research assignments etc. Plans are many, but like always we will be closing them one step at a time.
CueKids focuses on stronger and smarter kids by teaching them important life skills with major focus on nonverbal communication. Over the last two years we have been building content modules and conducting shorter programs with kids from across the globe. We now have elaborated two-year online programs, offline camps with an App that is live now. We even conduct parenting workshops, teacher training modules and parent child bonding events.
Future plans for CueKids include co-branding our online content with some well-known media houses so that we can improve the quality of our content and make this subject more accessible to children. We aim to make parents understand that academics are only part of the deal for children – building their overall personality is more important for having a bright future and a sorted personality. I would be thrilled if the school education system understands the importance and starts incorporating the skillsets in the curriculum; we will be working hard to make this happen.
Powerful lessons from my Mentor
I have had not one mentor but several. My biggest pillar has been my husband – had it not been for him I would never have discovered this field of work! He has been my advisor, critic, consultant, investor and what not. In my moments of weakness, it is his utter belief in my capabilities that have kept me going. The idea of starting the second brand ‘CueKids’ was also a challenge he had thrown at me. When my days are really hectic, despite his workload, he is always there to take care of things at home. So, his value in my life and in my professional journey is simply irreplaceable.
My father and mother-in-law have also been my mentors in my childhood and early business days respectively. And how can I forget my teacher – Joe Navarro retired FBI special agent who validated my subject knowledge of nonverbal communication, that gave me the unshakeable confidence to work with some of the most senior and respectable people.
Along with that, I personally believe that every person I meet has the potential to teach me something I don’t know. For entrepreneurs, there is no one to constantly keep pushing us all the time or guiding us what to do next. So, the real motivation that we find has to be internal and inspired from all around us.
As for advice, learning from every fall and not stopping simply because you fall is something I think is very important. Not all of us have exceptional talent but with learning we can excel at what we wish to, and with practice and perseverance anything can be achieved. The journey for an entrepreneur is long and toiling - sometimes hard work is what it takes, but most of the time it is smart thinking that is the solution. And last but most importantly, if we don’t keep enjoying the journey, then there is no point in choosing a particular path to follow, because there really is no destination.
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