Bio: Tanya is a graduate in Sociology from Sophia College, Mumbai and a post graduate in Communications and Media from SNDT Women’s University in Mumbai. She also has a post-graduate diploma in Instructional Designing, from Symbiosis Institute, Pune. She started her career by writing children’s books, creating e-learning modules and writing lifestyle articles for Rediff.com. Currently she is working as a Content Head at an Insights based PR Company in Mumbai. A foodie, a lifestyle features writer who loves writing restaurant/ food reviews and travelogues and in her spare time, she likes to pursue her hobbies of painting and photography.
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There comes a point in our lives when a story reveals an answer to us. The story could be from a novel, a real-life story or a film. There are plenty of films that resonate with us, but the ones that stand out are the animated films that touch a direct chord with our hearts.
One of the few films that have remained very close to our hearts is Ratatouille that inspired us with the line ‘Anyone can Cook’ and where Anton Ego writes in his review, “Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere.” What simple lines, but speak volumes of truth.
Or the Soothsayer from Kung Fu Panda 2 tells Po, “Your story may not have such a happy beginning, but that doesn’t make you who you are. It is the rest of your story, who you *choose* to be. So, who are you, panda?”
These lines resonate with us no matter where we are in life today. With tones of films being made every day, there’s always a huge audience who love watching animation films – simply because they make us believe in the miracles of life and that anything is possible if we believe.
We asked our readers about an animation film that they liked the most and why, and hear what they had to share with us:
1. The Lion King (1994 & 2019)
As Manisha Panwar, a Certified Executive and Life Coach puts it, “Life is immensely difficult but the motto of Hakuna Matata (there are no worries) help you deal with life in a positive manner. I quote the movie to drive respect for others, humility, and the karmic circle. In the movie, Mufasa tells Simba, “When we die, our bodies become the grass, and the antelope eat the grass and so, we are all connected in the great circle of life”.
2. The Good Dinosaur (2015)
For Madhura Kuchekar-Ware an Anaesthetist and Intensivist, it has to be The Good Dinosaur because she says, “This movie not only inspired me but my 5-year-old boys as well as it talks about family, relationships and the principles we are taught as a child, how to never give up the fighting spirit and the best part being, we related to a superhero who is a simple character.” For us, the movie couldn’t have depicted the beauty of ‘letting go’ of something we truly love so well. There’s a lot to be learned from this film.
3. Finding Dory (2016)
“I just loved every bit of the movie, especially the beautiful bonding that the parents shared with Dory, the kind of communication they have between them, what happens when kids don’t listen to their parents, how people you meet in your life become your friends and how they help you to overcome obstacles. In the end how Dory reunites with her parents through whatever she was taught by them in her childhood,” shares Sheetal Dhillon, a Consulting Clinical Psychologist.
4. Up (2009)
Chicago based artist Subha Chaudhuri pitches in, “My favourite movie has to be Up. It’s such a beautiful portrayal of love and loss. Watching the old man struggle and come to terms with the loss of his life partner, his determination to fulfill his wife’s lifelong dream and the process of opening up to new experiences and relationships no matter how old you are.”
5. Kung Fu Panda (2008)
“Look at Po, he was destined to be the Warrior but had no idea of the same. One needs to trust their inner strength and try and create their own destiny. For example, they talk about the empty scroll, which had no secret. There is also a point in the film, which tells you that what you consider as your biggest fault actually becomes a strength to reckon with,” adds Manisha.
6. Inside Out (2015)
For a mother of two, Dipali Ved Inside Out is a fascinating film that portrays the interplay of the mind, the memories, and the emotions. They are an integral part of us yet we know so little about how the brain works. Make it a point to watch with your children as it talks about the various emotions and feelings and is a must-watch for every parent and child.
7. Ratatouille (2007)
This movie is perfect for dreaming big says Manisha. She further continues, “Also the fact that people complement each other. As a team what is ones’ weakness can be another’s strength and the goal can be achieved together as a team. Harmony in a team will sometimes face adversities but understanding individual goals help to achieve the bigger goal.”
8. Shrek (2001)
“I use this film to motivate people when they feel that they are not good enough. Shrek with all his shortcomings still is a hero in the movie. The value of friendship is another value I drive through this movie. Like Shrek’s best friend who never leaves his side is the Donkey and you may have a completely weird guy as your best friend but he is the one who stays with you always,” laughs Manisha.
9. Brave (2012)
This film kind of redefines what a ‘beauty’ is all about in a woman. In this film she’s boisterous, she’s loud, she’s daring – it kind of breaks the barriers of feminity. As life coach Manisha she quotes this film as an example where one should never give up, value relationships with people in one’s life especially when they are around.
10. Finding Nemo (2003)
This is by far one of the most iconic animation films ever made. It talks about fighting all odds for something you believe in and how your weakness can be your strength (remember Nemo’s small fin and how he came to be known as Sharkbait!) For Melbourne based new mom, Sayantani Sengupta, she loves this movie for the sheer resilience of an underdog and the lengths to which a father goes to find his son!
The next time you’re looking for some pep talk, try watching one of these films to lift your spirits or why not share with us your favourite animation and why.
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Have you seen a movie or a book that has inspired you? Why not share it with us! Send us your original write-ups along with your bio to [email protected] and we’ll be happy to publish it.
Can a simple conversation with his son about the learnings in Value Education class at school, inspire a Mumbai-based father to conceptualise a book? Yes, it can! The Lifestyle Portal is extremely happy to share the journey of this 43-year-old Amit Suri on his maiden book – WOW – A TO Z that was born out of some interesting conversations with his 7-year-old son Vikramaditya.
After a career in the Merchant Navy for seven years and working as a Management Consultant for Systems & IT later, Amit has been running a Communication Design Studio since 2012 in Mumbai along with his wife Sucharita Sengupta Suri. We talked to him about his book WOW – A TO Z taking shape, the journey is so surreal and exciting that we just had to share it with our readers.
How did it all begin?
“There was no initial plan or inspiration to start the WOW Project… it all happened quite organically,” laughs Amit. He recalls how his son Vikramaditya, a Standard I grader would come back home from school and often share about his day about what he learned in class. For Value Education, there is no syllabus or book prescribed in his school. As a result, Amit would often nudge him to tell him more about this class. Vikramaditya would tell his father that they learned about Value Words such as Honesty and Sincerity.
“I liked the idea that the children are being sensitized with these words. So, I started telling and reading them stories based on Value Words to help make them understand through examples. I realized that children learn better, maybe they do so instinctively, with stories. I also felt that if there were supporting pictures, it made learning these Value Words more fun,” adds Amit.
The birth of the WOW Project – the first WOW moment
This made Amit prepare a list of 26 Value Words, one for each letter of the English alphabet, and he reached out to 26 different artists from distinctive spheres of creativity, requesting them if they would like to contribute art, basis their imagination on the word he shared with them.
Amit laughs as he shares, “It may seem surreal but that’s how WOW actually happened! And you know what? They all contributed an art each and this was my first WOW moment in the project! I compiled all the artwork into a book and shared it with the artists. We felt that we should try to get the book published.”
Contacting publishers – the second WOW moment
The next step was when Amit started contacting publishing houses to get the book WOW – A TO Z in print but was received with common feedback that it would be helpful if there was some text to go with it.
“So, I started writing 26 short stories inspired by each artwork for the 26 alphabets. When the second version of the book was compiled, it was noticed by Mr Anuj Malhotra (Bahrisons Books, New Delhi) who introduced me to the renowned publisher – Wonder House Books. Wonder House Books liked the book a lot and agreed to publish it immediately. On hindsight it seems that WOW – A TO Z had to happen and we, all participants, were just incidental to it,” smiles Amit.
First-time author & books
While Amit does enjoy writing, he admits, “I lack the discipline to pursue writing diligently. I also feel that I have to learn the language better in order to express myself as authors should. I love to write, but I credit fate a lot to make things happen.”
From a business owner, a parent and now an author, Amit contemplates as he further adds, “There is no transition from these roles. We all have multiple dimensions within us. We must explore all. We are all a bit of everything and everything is a bit of us.”
Amit has written a few books already and some are almost ready; however, none other published yet. Someday, as he shares, destiny will wake up to make those books leave the hard disk and move into the bookshelf. Until then, it is in the best interest to keep hopes and spirits high.
Investments into the WOW Project – the third WOW moment
Amit admits, “It took time, lots of it and not just mine but of lots of people who helped me in the process. There were artists who agreed to contribute, designers who designed the book, proof-readers and editors who tweaked the language in the stories, Mr Anuj Malhotra who mentored me into the publishing world, and more. But the best part is that all, as they did was pro-bono without any expression or wish for anything in return. I feel that I am either blessed to have met all the WOW people who gladly became part of this exercise, or it was just a sweet mistake that happens once in a while.”
How 26 illustrators contributed to the WOW Project
“This is going to be a long narration and a book in itself”, laughs Amit. He continues, “I was able to connect with many of the WOW artists through my wife’s alumni network at the National Institute of Design (NID), Ahmedabad. A few, I contacted on my own, as I follow their work online. Some of them are my friends and remaining I sniffed out by looking deep into the lanes of old cities or on the internet. All artists are Indians and few of them are settled outside India.” You can read about the brilliant line up of artists here – wow.twagaa.com/contributors.
“Artists are inherently social and helpful people. When they see a good idea being conceptualised, they bond over it and help take the idea ahead. This is how WOW book was put together when different skill sets got together and contributed their part. But, the biggest challenges was finding a publisher.” said Amit.
“I feel that when Mr Anuj Malhotra noticed the book, it was a turning point for the project. Through his guidance and support, we met our publisher Wonder House Books. It is also commendable that Wonder House Books liked the book from day zero. In my first meeting with them, I sensed that they will give the book a good release. I thank them a lot for their support,” adds Amit.
What makes the WOW Project unique?
Amit lists down the key USPs that will make the WOW Project stand out from the crowd.
First is the spirit of all the artists and other people who are associated with the ethos of the project and contributed pro-bono. Second is the fact that this book is not written to target any audience specifically – its appeal is across age groups, professional inclinations and readership categories or genres. It is a universal appeal book to attract people who read short stories, those who love all forms of art, some who wish to get inspiration, many who like to imbibe the values within themselves. Third, the book is unique in the way it was orchestrated where creativity of individuals was collaborated to make something much bigger than one’s individual contribution. Fourth, the book is entertaining, inspiring and also educative. In essence, it depends on how one wishes to see it…this book serves all readers very well.
The theme of the WOW Project
The theme of WOW is what Aristotle had said many centuries ago – “The sum of the whole is greater than the parts”. None of us knew that our part could create such a beautiful whole. It did. It always does when the spirits are aligned.
“The book caters to everyone who likes art or stories. There is no age group that I feel the need to mention; this book is for everyone. There is also no ‘type of readers’ for the WOW Project. Anyone who loves to be entertained and inspired, whether by words or visuals or by the spirit of creativity should pick this book,” smiles Amit.
How does the WOW Project impact the readers
Amit and all those who are a part of the WOW Project are simply happy that the book got this far. As Amit reiterates what he mentioned earlier, “We are incidental to the process, the book harnessed our energies to come alive. We are blessed. We hope that the reader might also feel so. Somewhere a small tug in their heart may inspire, entertain and motivate them to be their best selves.”
Encouraging feedback on the WOW Project
Amit looks forward to the feedback of readers who are independent of the process of making of this book. While there have been several positive feedback, but as Amit shares, “I respect Mr. Anuj Malhotra’s the most. When he saw the book the first time in a Whatsapp forward, he messaged me (I had mentioned my contact number in the forwarded message) and said books like WOW need a good publisher and a good release. To me, this remark was very encouraging since I know that Mr Anuj Malhotra is a stalwart and he had no reason to message me. But he did and took the project under his wings.”
Response so far
The response has been excellent. Many people have picked copies of WOW – A TO Z at pre-order stage. Amit hopes that when the book is available on stands, stores and on Amazon worldwide, the responses may be more WOW.
How can illustrators/ artists/ creative minds contribute to The WOW Project
The next time, if WOW happens again, Amit would like to reach out to artists from across various countries. That would make the experience unique and possibly the end result even more varied than what Amit has compiled this time in the book ‘Words of Wonder – A to Z’.
He signs off by saying, “It will be great to create an ecosystem where people join hands, contribute their part, and build a beautiful whole part by part. You can visit wow.twagaa.com and share your part here wow.twagaa.com/collaborate. I like to think we are incidental to a bigger spirit that makes the whole happen. Let’s believe in it first.”
And we at The Lifestyle Portal would surely like to be a part of the WOW Project too!
Get listed & collaborate with us:
Write to us at [email protected] if you’d like to get listed, featured & collaborate with us at The Lifestyle Portal.
Meet Udit (40) and Umang (35) Bothra, the Co-Founders of WonderPath who have recently started their entrepreneurial journey to help you explore the world in a whole new light. If you think they’re just another travel company, just too bad, you’ll miss out on their upcoming India-Myanmar-Thailand trip starting on 4th May 2020.
The Lifestyle Portal in conversation with the co-founders on their love for road trips and motorcycle riding and are now taking people along in their maiden venture – WonderPath, that was officially launched on 29th January 2020 in Kolkata. It’s quite intriguing to see a new breed of entrepreneurs who after having worked in the Telecom, IT, BPO & KPO industries, finally stepping out of their comfort zones. They’re now listening to the little voice inside them to savour life, pursue their passion and follow their calling.
During his career, Udit had managed various small/ big, single and multi-location and multi-mode customer service delivery units including inbound and outbound call centres, retention centres, doc processing operations, upselling units and experience outlets. He has been extensively involved in training, coaching and mentoring various teams towards effective servce delivery.
Umang is a certified Six Sigma Green Belt and has over 12 years of experience in BPOs & KPOs, Sales & Marketing, Digital Marketing, Business Management Services and Strategic Planning.
How did it all begin?
Armed with almost 18 years of corporate experience in the Telecom and BPO industries, Udit who hails from a business family in Kolkata, always wanted to do his own thing. He shares, “I never wanted to take the family business route, and in fact, I was the first one in my whole family to take up a job! At various points in time, I felt like quitting and jumping onto the entrepreneur wagon but family commitments or various situations in life kept me away from it.”
Since both Udit and Umang always wanted to start a venture together, finally, after almost two decades in corporate life, Udit felt a calling to EXPERIENCE life and not just drift through it.
He adds, “This was also because I had come to a stage where I wasn’t really enjoying what I was doing and I believe that when you enjoy your work, you really LIVE it. That’s when I knew that becoming an entrepreneur was the only way to go and one fine day I quit from my my comfortable and stable job at Airtel.
Overcoming an entrepreneurial roadblock & a blessing in disguise
It wasn’t their first attempt at entrepreneurship. As Udit recalls, “Food has always been a fun thing for me and I believe that when people eat together, and if the food is healthy and the experiences are engaging, it forges happy memories and an everlasting bond!” Based on this thought Udit and his wife Manjira, an ethical vegan and Umang, envisaged opening a vegan cafe in Kolkata. Even though the trio had a great plan and was able to arrange a part of the fund that they needed, their project got derailed as one of the investors backed out citing Vegan as the reason. In fact, in retrospect, had the vegan restaurant had taken off, maybe, WonderPath wouldn’t have seen the light of day.
Riding through the country
“Riding a motorcycle makes me happy, it makes me feel ‘alive’”, smiles Udit with a twinkle in his eyes. AAs he felt he needed some time for himself, he set off on yet another long distance ride; this time a 5,000 km cross country solo ride to Goa (from Kolkata) and back. Upon his return, he was sharing his varied experiences of the ride and that’s when Umang came up with the idea of venturing into the adventure travel space. Umang is already a successful entrepreneur and has dabbled in into segments like BPO/KPO, Digital Marketing & Fashion & Lifestyle and is already running a Travel & Tour company. “Since we share the passion for wheels and the love to travel, give a wheel in his hand and four on the road and you have made him a happy man!” laughs Udit.
Umang shares, “Bhaiya makes such meticulous plans of his rides with all aspects taken care of and after every ride, he usually says “It was one hell of a ride!”; I am sure if he can do it for himself, he can do it for others too and with the right kind of marketing and reach, we can make this a successful venture. I talked to Bhaiya about it and it made perfect sense to him and that’s how we ventured on this WonderPath!”
They admit that one of the biggest challenges is working out the logistics, for both inland and overland trips and experiences. The duo is dealing with different sets of laws, cultures and ethos in every experience that they are curating. Working out the minute details while keeping the needs of their patrons in mind, it is definitely very daunting, but they absolutely love doing this.
Udit further adds, “The other would be the cost of such tours, these are tours where you come in immense contact with the environment, the culture, the people and the laws of the particular place you are going by and going to! This isn’t about hopping on an aeroplane and bang, landing at your destination – the logistic and regulatory requirements of road trips and guided ones at that are very different. We take care of all probable aspects, for example, our road trips have a back-up vehicle equipped with radio comms units (in case we lose cellular network), medipacks, basic spares, mechanic (where necessary), you are always safe; we take care of all the permits, visa etc both for you as well as your vehicle. And hence there is a cost to it; the idea here is to provide a profound experience not limited by the cost of it.”
Products and services at WonderPath
At WonderPath, the idea is to combine the pure joy of travel with the child-like wonder that we miss in our lives. WonderPath’s passion is to curate inland and overland travel experiences where the journey becomes the destination.
“We handpick locales that will fascinate you and the process of reaching there will give wings to your adventure bug! We will ensure that you reconnect with the elements of nature on the way and come back with a soul weathered by the sun, the wind and the earth – a soul reawakened, and senses wondered,” smiles Udit.
Areas that WonderPath venture into include Rides, Drives, Camping, Hiking, Trails, Experience Tours & Curated Tours. As part of the first two experiences Udit and Umang are embarking on an All Women’s Motorcycle Expedition to Gurudongmar Lake (Sikkim) in April ‘20 and then an India – Myanmar – Thailand Drive (& Ride) in May 2020. **
** Should you travel now?
With the recent Corona Virus (Covid-19) scare, it is but natural that we all would like to stay safe and healthy and avoid any unnecessary travel to affected areas. As we all hope that things gradually settle down and you would like to resume travelling all over again, it would be good to plan your trips wisely. It is advisable that you get a health check up done before you plan any trip. Please consult your doctor or local health care centre before planning a trip. You wouldn’t want the virus to travel with you and affect the others too!
While Udit and Umang are taking all the necessary precautions before the trip and have tie-ups with the concerned authorities, should you have any concerns and queries, feel free to contact them on the following: Email: [email protected] and Mobile: +91-9831049060 / 91-9007000606. For more details on Covid-19, please feel free to visit the official World Health Organization website for accurate data and information.
How WonderPath will rekindle the adventurer in you
Gurudongmar Lake is situated at the height of 5,425 m (17,800 ft) and is one of the highest lakes in the world. If you haven’t been there yet, or already have, how about a ride leading up to this place surrounded by snow-capped mountains that are only going to leave you truly awestruck. Significantly higher than the other popular lakes in India, this is a hidden unexplored gem that is going to push your adrenaline meter to an ultimate high!
Umang adds, “Other locations that we will cover in this expedition include Zero Point, Yumthang Valley (15,300 ft.); Nathula at 14,410 ft. one of the highest motorable roads in the world and a glacial lake Changu or Tsomgo, meaning the ‘source of water’. Located at an altitude of 12,310 ft! Each of these places will refresh your senses and leave you feeling ecstatic. The steep roads and the twists on them leading up to all these spots will be nothing short of adrenaline rush as you unleash the inner adventurer in you!” Read more details about the trip.
Why you should sign up for the India-Myanmar-Thailand bike/ car road trip?
Udit explains, “On the India-Myanmar-Thailand trip, you should come for the miles and smiles, for this road trip you will remember for times to come. You live the thrill of crossing two international borders and zipping through the landmark AH1 on your own wheels, immerse yourself in the shades of thousands of pagodas, soak in the natural beauty of a pristine lake nestled in a valley between two mountain ranges; feast your eyes on stunning countrysides, breeze through open roads and arrive in a city once described as the prime diamond on the crown of the land. Find your way through the mountain roads to experience a city that is an amazing blend of the traditional and the modern and pulsates with a unique energy. Expansive landscapes, ancient to ultra-modern architecture, laid back to bustling vibes, dusty roads to slick highway, this one has it all! Read more details about the trip.
What makes WonderPath so unique?
The best part being, WonderPath takes care of all the requirements in terms of permits, routes, visas and vehicle permits (overland tours), stay, guides, escort vehicles etc. so that you can completely immerse yourself in the journey and the destination.
As Udit explains, “What’s going to make us stand out eventually are the locations and experiences we offer. There are quite many people and organizations doing similar work, but in due time you would always find a newer destination or a more unique experience with WonderPath.
For WonderPath, road trips are about the sheer contact you experience when you take a road and come in contact with people, their culture, nature, the wind, the heat, the cold, the smell, the sheer visuals that your eyes can see! Besides, the fun part about a road trip is that you stop when you want to stop, now try doing that when in a train or an aeroplane! 😉
With the current state of environmental degradation, it is imperative that we travel in the most conscious, sustainable and responsible manner. Sharing our thoughts on the same, Udit adds, “Oh absolutely! We believe in responsible tourism and in respecting the law of the land and its culture. In all our trips emphasis will be on promoting and following the same. As far as experiencing and getting acquainted with is concerned, it is a very individual as well as an internal thing, all I can say is we promise to create trips which have very opportune conditions to be able to do so.”
Udit seriously feels that one has to be responsible and have basic respect for co-passengers and co-travellers irrespective of the mode of transport one is taking. One very important aspect here that most people tend to overlook is respect for other peoples’ private space, this manifests everywhere, it is not uncommon in our country for people to push you in queues or poke you with their elbows in a flight or even occupy your seat and neither is it uncommon for drivers and riders to always wanting to go ahead of everyone by whatever means! The thing with driving or riding is when you do that, you are not only putting yourself at risk but others too which I feel we have no right to. So yes, when on roads you must respect the law, the environment and other people who use it.
Vision for WonderPath
“We have just started and have announced the first two experiences. The journey so far has been amazing, we are very passionate about this and are hooked on the idea of making this one hell of a lifelong ride! All the people who we have spoken to or associated with so far have been very encouraging and helping in whichever way they can, and we hope to create some amazing #wonderpaths and spread the #wonderofwandering,” shares Udit.
WonderPath would like to evolve into an organization that not only caters to Indians for inland and overland experiences but to the global community as well to make them experience what our beautiful country has to offer.
Get in touch with WonderPath
Click here you’d like to get in touch with Udit and Umang and know more about their trips!
Get listed & collaborate with us:
Write to us at [email protected] if you’d like to get listed, featured & collaborate with us at The Lifestyle Portal.
Meet 20-year-old Harshita Sharma, a first-year Bachelors in Fine Arts student from Kanpur University, who stumbled upon her hidden talent of bringing lifeless stones to life quite by chance.
Harshita contacted us through the Shereos App, when we shared our feature on a Pune based entrepreneur, Shweta Menon, the Founder of Truly Tribal. When we received pictures of her artwork, we were blown! Don’t go by our word, you have to see her fascinating artwork on stones and pebbles to believe us.
In spite of having cleared her entrance exam for the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT), Harshita was unable to pursue her dream owing to financial constraints. The eternal optimist in her continued to teach young school children after college hours to earn some income through home tuitions.
It was around this time Harshita recalls, “One day, my students brought stones in the tuition class to help them do an art project for “Best out of Waste” in school. I made some artwork out of those stones and their teachers absolutely loved their work. This was when I decided to learn more about stone painting through YouTube.”
Harshita does admit, that the initial days was an uphill task. She shares, “The initial stages were more challenging because not everyone understood my work. I would often get comments such as kaun kharidega pather (who will buy a stone!). I did find it very discouraging as such comments would pull me down for not having a regular job. But my inner strength would pull me out of this, and I continued painting. I started visiting local fairs but not a single artwork of mine was sold at that time. People would often tell me as to why I am wasting my time as no local art shops would accept my work.
But this didn’t stop Harshita to continue painting and learning. She would regularly post pictures of her artwork on social media and on the Sheroes platform. Then on 1st January 2019, she made a portrait of Sairee Chahal, the Founder of Sheroes, Harshita recalls, “I got tremendous feedback. Everyone said that this was something unique which they hadn’t seen before.”
Harshita went on to get featured on the Sheroes App and started receiving a few orders as well. Not only that, she has successfully completed the ‘100-day art challenge’ and was crowned a winner on by an art studio called Simsum Arts and she adds, “This is how I became a stone artist and launched Stonemania in December 2019.”
The daily dose of encouragement that she received from the fellow members on the Sheroes App, made Harshita launch her maiden venture, Stonemania. While her mother a home manager pitches in with giving ideas and helping her with her artwork, Harshita’s father a banker is now extremely supportive seeing the potential her work has.
While Harshita does feel that painting on stone may not be as popular as abroad, but she is hopeful to make her mark. You can find nature-inspired themes, landscapes, sculpture and portraits painted by her on stones.
Get listed & collaborate with us:
Write to us at [email protected] if you’d like to get listed, featured & collaborate with us at The Lifestyle Portal.
The market is flooded with home décor items at competitive pricing. When we pick up a product, we look for its finishing and price. We seldom notice that the product that claims to be an ‘Indian handicraft’ is often not made in India, and yet we pick it up.
We at The Lifestyle Portal support handmade, traditional Indian handicrafts and artisans and have been writing about them for the last eight years. In our quest for authentic conventional Indian craftsmanship, sourced directly from the artisans, brought us to Truly Tribal. Truly Tribal is a one-of-its-kind handicraft store in Pune, that is working to give the traditional Indian handicraft it is due in the world of machine-made, mass-produced goods.
The Lifestyle Portal is genuinely awestruck at the hard work and perseverance by Shweta Menon, Founder, and MD of Truly Tribal, who has embarked upon this journey to revive Indian handicraft and to give its due space in India and at a global level.
We got to know more about her work when she attended our second entrepreneurs’ meetup in Pune in November 2019. The Lifestyle Portal is happy to share with you our conversation with this 45-year-old computer engineer turned entrepreneur who has been successfully running Truly Tribal since July 2015.
When did it all begin?
Being a Computer Engineer and having worked in the IT Sector for almost 13 years, Shweta realized it was time to step out of the comfort zone and follow her heart. She shares, “IT is a good sector, but personally after a point, it was not fulfilling for me to continue as monotony started seeping in. I always wanted to do something where I could directly connect with people. Also hailing from a Marwadi business background when I thought of switching the career line, business was an obvious choice!”
How Truly Tribal was born
Shweta has always been an art enthusiast who was fascinated by traditional Indian artwork. Coming from a small tribal town Chhindwara in Madhya Pradesh, she has been a witness to the work by tribal artists since her childhood, which she felt was highly undervalued.
She adds, “I have witnessed the potential of these artisans and realised how they’re affected by the massive gap between the supply and demand. The idea of getting all kinds of Indian artwork at an affordable rate is where I saw the protentional. I also realised this market is very scattered and in need of a single window. It needed a space where all kinds of Indian artwork can be made available and not filled with ‘ready to use’, ‘off the shelf’ standard designs, but also with possibilities of expanding these art forms in newer and more contemporary designs. It would need evolution to be able to cater to customised design requirements and that’s how “Truly Tribal” was born.
Shweta recalls how it all began around four years back when she wanted to get back to work after her second child. She shares, “I was very clear that I did not want to be part of the IT sector anymore and wanted to start something of my own. I tried my hand on Soft Skills and Process Training but was still not very happy.”
The idea of a business didn’t occur to her before July 2015, when she started to look for an alternative career. Shweta has always been an art lover and loved collecting traditional artwork from different places. It was then that Shweta realised that Indian art is hugely popular in India and abroad, but people are unaware of where to procure genuine products. She has also seen how these artisans get exploited by middlemen, and they hardly get a good price for their artwork.
She further adds, “At the same time, I also realised where talented artisans did not know how to reinvent their art to remain relevant. Art needs to be more in line with the changing time.
Another constraint that Shweta witnessed was there is no place where all kinds of Indian artwork would be available under a single umbrella. Some retail options are there, but they are expensive and have only readymade products. She explains, “If I want specific customisation or a particular concept being created, it is a herculean task to find the right person to do the work. I put my IT background to use and decided to come up with a digital solution to bridge this gap.”
Hailing from a business family and the IT corporate background helped Shweta in her entrepreneurial journey. “I am a self-taught entrepreneur and learned as I progressed. Yes, I did receive a few business tips from my father but I couldn’t have done it without the unwavering support from my husband who helped me to stay afloat and remain in the business, despite the setback. I did face quite a few setbacks and breaks before things started moving the desired direction, which even involved revamping the business model entirely.
Shifting gears from retail to manufacturing
Shweta further explains, “Initially, we started as a retail and an online setup, and landed up spending on wrong marketing strategies. We didn’t understand the buying pattern in this industry well. Indian handicraft products are essentially, a ‘touch and feel’ purchases, and not the impulse buys or a daily needs buy. Hence, we decided to reach out to existing retail home décor and gifting stores.
It became their vision to make art affordable, which will lead to more work for the artisans apart from a considerable penetration in the customer base. That’s how Truly Tribal got into manufacturing and trading of these artefacts.
Shweta started travelling across the country to set up her team of artisans to understand their work which would further in better designing of the products.
She also decided to enter into corporate gifting as that will help Indian handicraft connect to a much larger audience. Corporate gifting exposes a larger audience to these kinds of handicraft products and also helps artisans come up with different types of product ideas.
Setting up an online platform
When Shweta started working on the website for Truly Tribal, the initial idea was to have an online retail portal catering to domestic and international customers.
She recalls, “The first year was full of trials – from understanding the customer base, requirements, products and artisans’ identification, building a production team to identify the sales and marketing channels and logistics channels. Today, we’re on a completely different business model. We are no more have a retail setup. Truly Tribal is now a manufacturer, trader, wholesaler and exporter of Indian handicraft and Indian paintings catering across the country and the globe.”
Initial investments and hard work paying off
“I started with a few lacs rupees for product procurement, website, exhibitions and marketing. Initially, we started as an online retail setup running from home and now, we have moved on to a wholesale setup, having our physical office cum display store along with a small warehouse. We launched Truly Tribal with three artisans, and three art forms and now have over 100 artisans with over 20 traditional art forms. We started with only 25 products, and now the handcrafted traditional products count is limited only by the imagination!” smiles Shweta with pride.
Today, Truly Tribal is supplying to various stores, corporate and social gifting segment, connecting with interior designers to make new custom products and exporting and manufacturing custom products, trying to establish Indian art into the map of world art. They supply to Indian and international brands such as Sandvik Asia, India, Ethnic Mantra, Canada, Arumi Designs, UK, Srishti Gifts LLP, Banglore, Generikart Medicines, Mahrahstra, Tribes Chatri, Pune and Things Etc. Thane to name a few.
Choosing merchandise for Truly Tribal
Shweta admits, “Initially I would choose what kind of product I like. However, over a period of time, I understood that everybody likes different things, and as a business, we should be catering to all kinds of requirements.”
Now armed with research Shweta and her team review the kinds of items are trending and if those items could be created or produced by infusing traditional handicraft. They also keep coming up with different product ideas and take them to their artisans to see if they work.
Gradually with time, Shweta and her team at Truly Tribal have listed out some criteria when designing, creating and introducing a new product and try and do something utilising those criteria like utility, costing, packaging, size and detailing. For example, utility-based décor has the most demand, followed by pure décor products. She found that having a contemporary touch to these artworks also helps in having a higher demand.
What makes Truly Tribal unique is that they’re a one-stop-shop for all kind Indian handicrafts, paintings and other traditional artwork. They don’t just sell off the shelf products; in fact, Truly Tribal designs the customised products based on customers’ requirements and expectations. They also do the fusion of the different kind of art from different states and develop new lifestyle products utilising these artworks.
Awareness about Indian handicraft
“I believe we don’t have enough awareness about the range of Indian handicrafts and other traditional artwork. People use the term ‘tribal art’, ‘folk art’ and ‘traditional art’ interchangeably. Sadly, people have limited knowledge of a few artworks that are more marketed. The history, geography and traditions of the artwork is very little known,” shares Shweta.
Shweta strongly feels that most people don’t understand much and consider these art forms to be cheap work done by the villagers. Very few people appreciate the hard work and effort going behind these artworks and compare the costing, production time and packaging with machine-made and Chinese products, which is impossible to match. However, if compared on the creativity, story, effort behind these products, they will fare far better than Chinese and imported products.
“It is crucial that we put in the effort to make people and the next generation aware of our rich heritage of the art and craft and also support them to keep these alive. It is our responsibility not just to support Indian artisans but also help them reinvent and reive their work through ideation. This will help them to create new mediums and products, which will help them to remain relevant in present times and also create products which are a conversation starter,” adds Shweta.
The response so far…
“People seem to be excited and appreciative of the work we are doing with artisans, art and handicraft. We are getting new insight into the industry as we progress, and we are learning as we are moving along on the upward trajectory. But due to the nature of the industry, it has been slower growth than other industries,” explains Shweta.
Having moved from an organised industry to an unorganised one, from working with a global IT crowd to village artisans, from a purely profit-oriented profession to a social enterprise, Shweta feels a sense of contentment having moved from one end of the spectrum to another.
“The journey has been an enriching experience with lots of learning and unlearning. It has helped my growth as a person and not just from the professional perspective but also at a very personal level as well,” smiles Shweta.
Shweta signs off by saying, “Our vision is to be the name people think, whenever they think about any Indian handicrafts and paintings. We want to introduce new products to suit the need of changing times while keeping the cost and budget in mind. We want to make the handicrafts and paintings easily available at affordable rates so that it can expand to a larger consumer base as well as provide the traditional artisans with enough work so that they don’t leave this line of work.”
To connect with Truly Tribal for orders, click here.
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The Lifestyle Portal’s 2nd Entrepreneurs’ Meetup was a launchpad to many first-timers who were testing the waters of entrepreneurship. Each of the participants got a chance to speak about their work which helped us to understand their visions, hard work and the perseverance that goes into running one’s own enterprise. This is where we got to interact with more than 20 entrepreneurs from various segments and one of them was Ammara, a home-grown business curating natural skincare product across all age groups.
We’re extremely happy to share the entrepreneurial journey of 44-year-old, Pune based Kainaaz Mehta, Founder of Ammara. Find out how Kainaaz, after having spent almost two decades in the service industry decided to start her own venture on skincare.
When did it all begin?
She shares, “After having worked in the services industry for 21 years, I got increasingly obsessed with the idea of creating something I really cared about for the last couple of years. I am a firm believer that business has the ability, even the responsibility, to bring about change. Change that is for the better.”
Kainaaz has always been fascinated by skincare and when she decided to hop onto the entrepreneurial bandwagon, this was what came to her mind instantly. Once she decided on her new career shift, she completed a Diploma in Beauty Care from VLCC and attended several workshops to keep learning and growing in the field.
Kainaaz launched Ammara in January 2018 with a handful, around 8-10 varieties of soaps ranging from Goat Milk, Shea Butter, Charcoal and Green Tea. Today she has more than 25 types of soaps. She also makes customised soaps, soaps for events, occasions, and now even launched her line of scrubs, creams, body lotion, kumkumadi tailam and lip balms as well.
After gearing up with all the new learnings, Kainaaz started from her home kitchen. Eventually with time, as worked picked up, she now has a dedicated studio in her house. Her network, friends, social media and exhibitions have paved her path to moving ahead.
What makes Ammara products unique
“Soaps by Ammara are paraben-free, all-natural made with the goodness of Almond oil, Shea Butter and Cocoa Butter to name a few. At Ammara, I only use natural and chemical-free ingredients. I play with a palette of oils, butters and natural colours. Most of my clients are the ones who are aware of the benefits of natural products and prefer to buy handmade and chemical-free products from Ammara,” adds Kainaaz.
Why should consumers make a shift to natural products?
Kainaaz further explains, “Most people actively try to minimize the number of toxins that enter their bodies. They eat good food, drink purified water, breathe purified air, and some even take added measures to detoxify their bodies. However, what many people don’t realize is that toxins can also be absorbed through their skin as well. Sometimes people don’t think before buying a soap. Given the industrious process used to produce many of the commonly known soaps, it’s not a surprise that most contain questionable chemicals, dyes, and fragrances… questionable substances that many of us would be better off avoiding. If you want to minimize the use of “casual toxins” you and your family are exposed to, consider using natural soap.”
“All the soaps by Ammara are natural, free from parabens and made with the goodness of Almond oil, Shea Butter, Cocoa Butter and many more. Most conventional soap products contain heavy fragrances, nasty parabens, dyes and other chemicals that don’t belong on our skin. These ingredients can cause endocrine disruption and even be carcinogenic. Also, our skin is our biggest detox organ, so we don’t want to coat or clog it with artificial stuff,” adds Kainaaz.
Journey and response so far
Kainaaz signs off by sharing the journey has been fabulous with lots of new learnings and overcoming various challenges and yet moving in the right direction. She is now looking at establishing a sizeable workshop and creating a space for Ammara as a reputed brand in the market.
To place an order from Ammara, click here.
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Every city has a story to tell, and Kolkata will charm you with a story of her own. On a recent trip to Kolkata, I got an opportunity to explore the city with a fresh new perspective. A one-week trip to Kolkata was seasoned with a myriad of emotions and experiences that may be overwhelming to pen it all down, but I shall try.
It started off with a family reunion after 38 years. What made it special, was that family members from across the globe and the country flew down to be a part of this special event. A retelling of childhood memories was interspersed with warm hugs and tears of joy and melancholy. The last time we met, many of us were children and today when we attended the reunion, we were accompanied by offsprings of our own. Time truly is enigmatic; it heals, it gives you no option but to move ahead and shows how far we’ve come. The catalyst to this reunion was a cousin who was keen on a traditional Bengali wedding in Kolkata. Thank you to the newlyweds who flew down from Canada and the US and brought us all together, once again.
The December trip to Kolkata also included visiting some of the most iconic historical monuments, digging into street food, shopping at New Market and Dakshinapan, visiting the Bawali Rajbari and of course, a wedding to remember! Yes, sometimes, when time is short, you better keep pace, as there’s no time to lose.
If you’re visiting Kolkata for the first time or have visited earlier, sharing with you some ideas for an itinerary to include in your travel plans.
The holiday began with a luncheon at 6 Ballygunge Place, don’t miss their delectable spreads of Gondhoraj Chicken and Maacher Paanturi. We love their food so much that we had our family reunion here.
If you’re traveling with children (great idea), or alone, a trip to the Indian Museum is a must. I was truly impressed with what’s in store for us. It’s a crash course in history, science and culture which will leave you awestruck as to what our country and this world have witnessed so far.
How can we forget a walk into the manicured gardens of Victoria Memorial? The iconic white marble monument stands tall and proud, welcoming us to the city. A must visit with your children. History teaches a lot about what our country has endured and makes us humbler that in spite of all odds, we’re going strong as one of the largest democracies in the world.
Next was a trip to the Jain Temple, nestled cosily between manicured lawns and adorned with shining and colourful mirror work and glass; allow yourself some time walking and just let the beauty and the calm of the temple embrace you.
And if you think it doesn’t get any more romantic, how about a Hoogly River Cruise where you can witness the beauty of the river against the backdrop of the setting sun. As the boat takes you on an unforgettable journey, you are made to witness one of Kolkata’s historic landmarks – the Howrah Bridge that allows the sea of humanity to travel across the city and stay connected. It’s gigantic size and structure is bound to leave you awestruck.
With a halt at Belur Math, take a walk to the temple for a moment of spiritual pause. Do yourself a little favour, gift yourself a few moments to meditate and allow your mind to uncrowd itself.
A trip to Kolkata would be incomplete without a visit to New Market. Whether it’s patali gur which is date palm jaggery only available during winters in Bengal, or shoe shopping at Sree Leathers or cake and puffs at Nahoum’s, New Market is a landmark with a historical identity of its own. Stop by for curio and street shopping to feel the pulse of the city. On this very trip, I came across Mignonette, a high-end boutique just for kids (it is a part of the BK Birla Group Initiative) that’s worth checking out. Caution, you can’t pick up one, the handmade clothes for little boys and girls are way too adorable!
If you’re at Dakshinapan, don’t miss Silence, a self-help store with a unique collection of handmade gifts and curios to take back home. Whenever I visit Kolkata, Silence is always on my list to take back some curios for friends and family.
Finally, the icing on the cake, a grand yet elegant destination wedding at the Rajbari Bawali. About an hour and a half drive from Kolkata (depending on the traffic), we witnessed the beauty, serenity and charm of this heritage resort set against the backdrop of the Bengal countryside. Beautiful spacious rooms and the ambience, befitting the zamindars of Bengal; reminded me of my ancestral home back in Bandel. Take a digital detox and sink into a leisurely pace with a book and treat yourself to a snippet of luxury.
From heritage tours to the Hoogly river cruise, a destination wedding and a family reunion, I signed off 2019 on a happy mellow note. Until we meet again, Kolkata, may you keep charming and welcoming people with your beauty.
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What if you had a chance encounter with an Indian monk that would change your perception about life and transform you into a social entrepreneur?
This is what exactly happened way back in 1984, when Dr. Shib Shankar Dasgupta, Executive Director, Shreeja India met a monk inside a tea stall in Kolkata.
During the conversation, the monk shared with him some pearls of wisdom, which he believed could bring about a constructive change in society:
Make sure that nobody dies of hunger
Make sure that nobody dies without proper medical care
Make sure that no child grows up without education
…and this is how the ideology of Shreeja India was conceptualized.
The Lifestyle Portal in conversation with Founders, Dr. Shib Shankar Dasgupta, Executive Director and Country Head, Hari Dasgupta,
Shreeja India. We’re so glad and honored to share their journey of transforming lives of tribal girls in Bengal for a better tomorrow.
Shib Shankar Dasgupta has a Ph.D. from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, New York, USA. He is a New York-based social entrepreneur specializing in alleviating poverty through technology. He has worked as a Consultant with various international NGOs, including ‘Save the Children, USA’. As the Founder and Executive Director of Shreeja India, he is currently engaged in empowering young tribal girls through sports-based education in India.
Hari Dasgupta is a Chartered Accountant and retired from Procter and Gamble as the Head of Accounts after a stint of 25 years with the company. Besides drawing up the India Accounts, he was associated with the various business teams by way of analysis and controls. Systems Implementations and MIS were the other core areas of his expertise.
When did it all begin?
Dr. Dasgupta, motivated by the words of the monk, from then on, tried various social projects to fulfill those words which remained with him since 1984. Finally, Shreeja India was registered on February 3, 2017, based on these three ideas, as shared by the monk. Shreeja India aspires to empower every woman, make her self-reliant through education, sports, and life skills. The organization believes that uplifting and educating women is the only and best way to elevate an entire community.
We had a chance to meet Hari Dasgupta at The Lifestyle Portal’s 2nd Entrepreneurs’ Meetup in Pune that brought to light 20 budding entrepreneurs from varied fields. This is where we learned about Shreeja India, a unique not-for-profit organization that is working to empower and educate the tribal girls of West Bengal through football. Yes, football. Football is not just about FIFA and other Champions League; it is also a powerful tool in bringing about social reforms in a country by empowering our women. And The Lifestyle Portal is here to tell you all about it.
Initial investments made
“Initially we, the two brothers put in Rs. 2 lacs. In the first year (2017-18), we got Rs. 6.50 lacs as donations from friends and acquaintances. In the second year (2018-19), our collections were 7.36 lacs from friends and 7 lacs from Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes Development & Finance Corporation, Govt. of West Bengal,” shares Hari Dasgupta.
Dr. Shib Dasgupta shares, “Our main challenge in this initiative is to maintain the regular attendance of the girls in our academic and sports classes. All the beneficiary girls are from first-generation learning families. They are slow to realize the value of education in their lives. As a result, we visit their homes and talk to their parents regularly. Our teachers/mentors have to spend a lot of time and energy convincing the parents to allow the girls to attend our classes regularly. Roughly, we have observed that 20% of girls have over 80% attendance; 50% of girls have 60% to 79% attendance and 30% of girls have less than 60% attendance.”
What makes Shreeja India unique?
Shreeja India is aspiring to uplift young girls and women belonging to marginalized and challenged populations and empower them by using football as a tool for overall development.
“The out-of-the-box endeavor undertaken is relatively new in India. The current project by Shreeja India in Birbhum is an innovative and integrated model that conducts special football coaching, out-of-school educational classes, mental health workshops and related activities to foster the overall development of the young beneficiaries of age group (8 -18 years). The endeavor strives to stop school dropout, mainstream first-generation learning girls, end early marriage, prevent human trafficking and impede violence against women,” adds Hari Dasgupta.
Football used as a tool for Social Change
Football is social. Shreeja India’s Football for Development program transcends the field and influences the girls to perform and live better. This approach particularly sets apart Shreeja India from other organizations working in the same thematic areas.
Here are five instances where Shreeja India football coaching helps in enhancing their quality of lives:
- Confidence Building: Tribal girls lack confidence in life. Through their Football for Development program, Shreeja India aspires to make the girls confident in life. Intense practice on the field makes distinct contributions in building their confidence in life as they mature.
- Controlling the Territory: During their Football strategy class, the girls are taught to control individual territories to stop the opponent to pass through. Winning on the field is often translated to the real-life overcoming of daily struggles.
- Awareness of Surroundings: In their skills development class, the girls tend to practice with their heads down. We teach them to continually look up and see the changing positions of their teammates. The idea is to make their passes accurate. This awareness of continually renewed positions of accomplices helps them to judge their own positions in adverse situations envisaged in real life.
- Cooperative living: Football is a team game. Shreeja India encourages constant sharing of glory and fame with teammates that help their girls to adopt a life based on “Sharing and Caring” with friends in real life.
- Off-the-Ball Strategy: In a 90-minute Football match, any girl touches the ball for a few minutes only. The rest of the time, she runs around to find unguarded positions on the field. This ‘Off-The-Ball’ tactic helps them to look for opportune moments to achieve goals in life collectively.
Another factor that sets Shreeja India apart is its simultaneous focus on Research and Development. A separate research cell of the organization is constantly reviewing, mapping and documenting the progress of the program to assure not only its proper implementation but also its further development. The cell identifies social needs, designs initiatives and continuously monitors their impacts.
How football empowers girls
The team of Shreeja India explains, “Football is one of the most popular games in the world. The sheer simplicity of football is what makes it so beautiful and popular. It is very easy to involve someone to play or watch football, hence engaging community becomes easier. All you need is a ball, little space, and something to demarcate the goals and bounds.”
Moreover, it suits the affordability of the target group and the rules are simple. Children anywhere in the world can handle this and hence poverty is no obstacle.
Football, as a sport, also promotes fitness, teamwork and strategizing. It teaches goal setting, perseverance, discipline, time management, handling of success and failure and life skills. Hence, football was a natural choice as a sport to undertake the given endeavor.
“Also, the tribal community we are working with is largely an illiterate populace with the young girls all being first-generation learners (FGLs). They often lag in schools because their parents can hardly help them academically. Parents of FGLs work hard to keep their children in schools, even at the cost of additional debts and hardships. They often find the school environment completely unfriendly to them and this creates a big hurdle for them to build the right network with teachers and other parents. Ultimately, a vacuum is created around the FGLs, which disturbs the smooth functioning of their growth and development and increases the incidence of school dropouts among them. In the given situation and among the populace as mentioned above, it is the girls who suffer more due to the societal constraints putting limitations on them and owing to their vulnerable conditions. While they still do not understand the importance of education, the community is quite inclined towards sport (Football) in general,” Dr. Shib Dasgupta.
Keeping the points in mind, Shreeja India realized that the best way to foster overall development and empower girls belonging to marginalized or special populations would be through Football and this would also help to engage their parents into their developmental process.
The integrated model ‘Beyond Football’ is, however, much more than football training. The program includes specialized intense football coaching, out-of-school educational classes (including mainstream school curriculum, general knowledge, social awareness classes, computers for the seniors and life skill classes), and mental health workshops in an entwined manner.
The progress map through Football
Hari Dasgupta further adds, “We have mapped the progress of the girls who are enrolled under the ‘Beyond Football’ Program over six months since their inception into this endeavor. The report is shared below:
An interesting observation has shown that the girls who are doing well on the field are the same ones who are excelling academically as well. There has been a noticeable improvement in their self- esteem, confidence, fitness, communications and motivation to reach short term goals by setting them on their own.
Projects running at Shreeja India
Shreeja India’s journey commenced with a group of tribal girls in the villages under Rajnagar Block in Birbhum. The tribal community is deprived of access to nutrition, education, health and skills development opportunities. Shreeja India introduced its research-based football for development program in this locality. Being ‘First Generation Learners’ (FGLs) these girls often lag in schools because their parents cannot help them academically and often find the school environment unfriendly. This adversely affects their growth. Shreeja India imparts football coaching as well as out-of-school education to ascertain their holistic physical and mental development. Further, this endeavor helps to build social capital and equip the girls to fight social evils, including early marriages, trafficking and violence much prevalent in the community.
There is a significant gap in the healthy and nutritious food intake of the tribal community residing in the remote villages of Birbhum. Their diet generally consists of edible leaves and rice or rice starch as they cannot afford nutritious fruits and vegetables from the market. To counter this problem, Shreeja India has started facilitating nutrition gardening in each of the households, utilizing their home backyard. The initiative is showing encouraging results. Few vegetables grown include Pumpkin, Tomato, Spinach, Bottle Gourd, Bitter Gourd, Lady Finger, Malabar Spinach, Bush Beans, and eggplant.
“‘DAMINI’ has been a partnership between Shreeja India & Kolkata Police to initiate ‘Shreeja Football Plus’ program to train young girls from NABADISHA project in Kolkata. In addition to football training sessions, Shreeja India’s FIFA approved coaches and mentors managed regular motivational talks, psychological training and after-practice refreshments. After a significant journey together when the initiative gained momentum and stability, Shreeja India handed over the program to Kolkata Police. Damini helped empower more than 150 street girls in Kolkata,” add team Shreeja India.
Research and Development Cell
The organization has a separate research cell that conducts various research studies on educating first-generation learning girls at the base of the pyramid. The investigations are currently focusing on advancing their cognitive performance, improve their physical, mental and personality development.
Future plans with Shreeja India
- Working with the tribal population in all districts of West Bengal and across India, replicating the ‘Beyond Football’ program
- Working with special groups of young women (deaf and mute, socio-economically deprived) and replicating the ‘Beyond Football’ program
- A residential academy for Shreeja girls in each intervening remote location with special science laboratories, advanced digital education system and vocational Training cum production centers
- Health Clinics in intervening remote locations deprived of health care
- Special Programs on nutrition gardening with beneficiary population
- Safe drinking water facilities for underprivileged communities residing in water-scarce areas
- Alternative climate-smart agriculture program for the deprived rural communities
- Advancing entrepreneurship of the women from remote rural areas
- Planning and execution of new endeavors based on the studies and social needs identified by Shreeja India’s research and development cell
Volunteering for Shreeja India
Dr. Shib Dasgupta signs off by saying, “Shreeja India prefers to have active participation from various people from different walks of life. For example, many teachers have volunteered to organize special classes for the girls in Birbhum; former footballers have agreed to visit our football coaching. We are developing a new process through exchange programs between city-based and rural-based schools as well.”
I am sure, after reading the Shreeja India story, we’re going to be motivated to do our bit in terms of volunteering and contributions. And who knows, soon there could be a film made on the work being done by the Shreeja India team, as this is a unique story that needs to be shared with the world.
Signing off with the words of Dr. Shib Dasgupta – Executive Director, Shreeja India – “Life is like a football match; you don’t get to dribble past a defender and score a goal every few minutes. At Shreeja India, we teach our girls the physical and emotional resiliency to last a 90-minute game and to apply that same mentality to every challenge they face in real life.”
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The Lifestyle Portal’s 2nd Entrepreneurs’ Meetup in Pune proved to be an eye-opener. This time, I got to meet some fantastic entrepreneurs who are venturing out for the first time in fields that were either as hobbies or completely unknown to them.
During the meetup, I met Reema, a Gardener from Pune. Yes, a gardener. I was so fascinated when I heard her talk about gardening as a profession and I thought it was so ‘refreshingly brave’ in this digital age. I am personally very fond of gardening and have been looking to brush up my gardening skills and the universe brought me to Reema’s Garden.
A couple of weeks after our entrepreneurs’ meetup, I attended her Gardening Workshop along with my 7-year-old daughter and I found it to be one of the most fascinating experiences.
It was as if my brain received a fresh boost of oxygen, because in this digital age, here is one woman who is teaching you how to plant a sapling and nurture it. The learnings are profound and so deep-rooted that you realise that it is connected to you as well.
The Lifestyle Portal is extremely proud to introduce 30-year-old Pune-based Gardener, Reema Gopalan, the Founder of Reema’s Garden. We’re elated to be the first ones to share her entrepreneurial journey on our platform.
How did it all begin?
Reema had started gardening in September 2015 and by August 2016 she was so much in love with it that she wanted to share it with the world. “I did what anybody else would do; I started blogging about it! For more than a year I was just happy blogging. Back then I was working with an MNC and blogging, and gardening were just “hobbies and passion”. Then in November 2017 I conducted my first workshop, in Mulund, Mumbai and there was no looking back,” smiles Reema.
“Initially I was conducting workshops only in Mumbai because I had a very good network there. Once I got married I relocated to Pune and then it came to a point that I could no longer do the Mumbai-Pune travelling. I also realised that not having my own space was one of the biggest hurdles because I was not able to conduct the workshops as frequently as I would like to because I was relying on other venues. Finally, in October 2019 I got my own studio in Dhayari, Pune and things started taking shape,” adds Reema.
Was gardening a long-harboured dream?
“Oh No! Not at all,” says Reema. “Initially it was just a hobby. When I started blogging about it, I got a very good response which kept me going. I tried new things, I grew all sorts of vegetables, made tons of mistakes, experimented a lot, sought solutions to all major and minor gardening and gardening related problems and it just kept going on,” she adds.
Reema’s initial investments were negligible. As she explained, she incurred an expense only from workshop to workshop for inventory and venue. Hence, there was no investment as such. However, she adds, “But over the years, I realised the importance of having a formal business set up and I have now invested in the setting up a business place.”
Reema explains that one of the BIGGEST challenges of gardening (especially Kitchen Gardening) is that, you can never predict the results. You can do everything right and yet not have the desired result and you have to be absolutely fine with it. There are so many variables involved like plant nutrition, season, pest, pollination, and many more.
The second biggest challenge is assessing and reviewing the result. When you don’t get the desired result, how do assess what went wrong? Was it the lack of nutrition or inadequate pollination?
Was it soil texture or the grow bag? Of course, there are some definite parameters by which you can tell what went wrong but that’s very limited. Trial and error are the only way.
Hence, the challenge is to make people enjoy the process more than the result!
Gardening Workshops offered at Reema’s Garden
Currently, Reema conducts three primary workshops:
- Beginners – Here you learn the basics of gardening like getting your soil right, how to pot your plant, dealing with pests and more.
- Advanced – In the advanced workshop, you learn how to grow your own herbs, leafy vegetables and all-season vegetables.
- Expert – This workshop teaches you about climbers, creepers, building trellis, pollination, and underground vegetables.
- Kids – Reema is coming up with a Kids’ Workshop too.
- Customised – Other than the above, Reema can also customise and curate workshops and Seminars for corporates as well.
How are these workshops designed
For Reema, these workshops have a dynamic and versatile design. “I keep redoing the curriculum, the method of presentation based on the feedback. For instance, I have so far tried a purely theoretical class, to a demonstration-based workshop to full-fledged theory and hands-on practical workshops. Feedback is the main source of knowing whether or not people like it,” she mentions.
Reema conducted her first workshop on 19th November 2017 in Mumbai. Reema shares, since she did not have her own studio, she was hugely relying on other locations to conduct my workshops and hence was not very consistent with her workshops.
She further adds, “Then around February 2018, I had pivoted to create my own NGO for an agricultural project, which didn’t take off because of lack of funds and other resources. I spent more than a year pursuing the agro-project before finally putting it to a halt. Then finally I mustered all the courage I could, to start afresh. I got a space in Dhayari, Pune in October 2019 and started conducting gardening workshops!”
Response from clients attending the gardening workshops
Reema’s Beginner’s workshop became a huge hit and she’s hopeful that once she launches the kid’s workshop it will also become popular.
So far, her major clients have been gardening enthusiasts who have tried gardening but couldn’t do it very successfully and need some guidance on how to go about it. Clients connect with her through social media mainly Facebook and Instagram.
What makes Reema’s Garden so unique
According to Reema, there are three aspects that make Reema’s Garden unique:
- I am always available for my participants. I am still in touch with the participants from my 2017 workshop. Even when I had pivoted to work on my Agro-Project, I was always available for them. I am just a call away.
- I now have a dedicated studio, where workshops keep happening on a regular basis.
- I believe in empowering. So tomorrow if anyone approaches me saying, Reema I want to start conducting Gardening Workshops, I’ll help them with all the resources I can and also help them in setting up their business. I believe in collaboration and not in competition.
Awareness about gardening
Reema and I further discussed whether there is a healthy awareness about gardening, and she shares, “No, not at all. In fact, gardening even today is construed just as another hobby. I believe, gardening has a solution for all major urban problems – may it be stress, pollution, urban waste management, sensitizing children towards nature and sustainability. Gardening has the power to transform people, communities and societies.”
She further explains, “Take the example of Mumbai, due to awareness about waste management, many people/housing societies are taking the efforts to convert their waste into compost, which is commendable. But due to lack of awareness about gardening, they are struggling as to what to do with the compost. Gardening is the only way to put compost to good use!”
Reema also adds, “For instance in Delhi, look at the pollution levels! Now just imagine, each family deciding to have their own garden with just three plants. It looks so small, isn’t it? But collectively Delhi will have millions of plants. Don’t you think that will help? The good thing about gardening is we all can do our bit. Collectively it looks great, but even on a minuscule/individual level it’s equally good.”
Why should we all learn gardening?
Reema shares, “Gardening helps us become better individuals. We develop an objective view that we never had before. It’s such a beautiful process, happening on a subconscious level. To add to it, we become aware of our surroundings, environment and farming. Sustainability, minimalism and intentional living that is now introduced as a “lifestyle concepts” become your lifestyle naturally and effortlessly.”
Should gardening be a part of the school curriculum?
As a mother, I firmly believe that education is not limited to a classroom. When my daughter plays in the mud in the park, along with her friends, there is no bigger learning than that. They are using all their five senses to understand the soil, the mud and all its parts, without the pressure of exams or marks. I think that is such a fabulous way to learn and I wish schools and colleges would adopt gardening and agriculture as the future desperately depends on going green.
When sharing my sentiments with Reema, she agreed too. “Yes indeed. Firstly, introducing gardening in schools will sensitize our children towards nature. Rather than just theoretical knowledge, having a practical insight always helps. Secondly, it’s our duty to introduce them to this new hobby, just like art and craft. Whether they pursue it or not, is their choice. Making them aware of it, is our duty.” And we second that, Reema!
Future plans with Reema’s Garden
Reema is keen to open more Gardening Hubs through a franchise model. She also wants to start a ‘train the trainer’ course in gardening as well. On a personal level, she is currently writing a book on Gardening and also soon going to launch a digital course on gardening.
The response so far…
It’s been just over two months and Reema is elated with the response she’s been getting. “Even people who have just read about my workshops on social media have called me up, enquired about it and said that I am doing a great job. As an entrepreneur, every day I learn something new. I also learnt a lot of things in the transition from being a homepreneur to an entrepreneur. I entered an altogether new market i.e. Pune, where nobody knew me, and I am setting up everything from scratch. I also learnt that whatever you do, you will fall short, but it’s your duty to keep pushing your limits. It’s been very challenging and satisfying at the same time,” adds Reema with a twinkle in her eyes.
To book a workshop at Reema’s Garden, click here.
~”If you want to be happy for a lifetime be a gardener.” Unknown ~
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I won’t lie, but it does feel good to be appreciated for a work well done. After I wrapped up the event and went back home, over the next few days, these were the messages that poured in.
Gratitude is a powerful tool, use it at work, at home and with yourself and watch the magic unfold. Here’s the gratitude I received from everyone who attended the meetup on 23rd November 2019.
Kainaaz Mehta, Founder, Ammara
It was a pleasure attending the 2nd Entrepreneur’s Meetup in Pune on 23rd November. The speakers were a pleasure to hear and gave useful insights which I felt were beneficial as I am quite a novice in my venture still… yes it’s drilled into my head – LEARN FROM OTHERS MISTAKES. We don’t have so much time to make all of them on our own. The event was very well organised. Thank you Tanya for the experience. Read more about Kainaaz.
Adv. Nishant K. Makasare
I understand how challenging putting up an event of this caliber could be. I appreciate the efforts that you & your team have put to make this event a success. I have attended the first module last year and found a visible transformation. This one was one of its kind. The participants were amazing and so was the management of this event. Since some of the participants wanted notes, I have posted the link for the same on the TLP group. I extend a heartfelt congratulations to you & your team for the same. And wish you luck for your future endeavours. Link to Nishant’s post: 11 Typical Mistakes Start Ups Should Avoid. Read more about Nishant.
Dushyant Bhatia, Founder, Eating Cultures
I attended the Lifestyle Portal’s 2nd Entrepreneurs’ Meetup on Saturday. Had gone there with no expectations but to my pleasant surprise, I saw a lot of serious entrepreneurs doing excellent work in their fields. The aura of confidence had filled the room. Open experience sharing and ideas across the board. Will surely recommend lifestyle portal for the networking opportunities provided. Thanks to Tanya and team for such lovely work. Read more about Dushyant.
Sonali Brahma, Independent Brand Strategist
The TLP Meet was a professionally organized event. The team also hosted it and it was a great experience to be the Keynote Speaker there. While the audience went away with key learnings, I went back with a great entrepreneurs network and some solid insights, myself. Thank you for having me as the Keynote Speaker at the TLP Pune Meet 2019. It was a great session I had and going by the audience response, they had quite a few takeaways. So did I, from the diverse talks we had that day. You and your team did a wonderful job of organizing and conducting the Meet. The pleasure was all mine. Thank you TLP Team and Tanya Munshi for the Meet. Read more about Sonali.
Chanda Rajat Sahu, Principal.& Founder, Wiz Kids International
What a phenomenal event conducted by Tanya! Never ever have I been to a meet up which has been so insightful and engaging! Though I met everyone for the first time… I felt a sense of belonging! It was truly amazing! Thank You, Tanya, once again for this wonderful event! The Lifestyle Portal provided a wonderful platform for seasoned and new entrepreneurs to exchange experiences, feelings of being successful or failures and above all wisdom gained in the journey. Thanks a lot, Tanya Munshi and The Lifestyle Portal for the amazing session in Pune. Wishing you the best of luck in all future sessions. 👍👍😊 Read more about Chanda.
Hari S. Dasgupta, Country Head, Shreeja India
I am glad I made a special effort to attend the day-long session fully. All the presentations were serious, genuine and very down to earth. I am sure all the participants gained from the others’ real-life experiences -successes and failures taken together. At the end of the day, I made about 15 new friends. Shreeja India became known to 15 new entrepreneurs which are a big plus for all of us in Shreeja. I felt that all the participants at the meet were impressed by the Shreeja India story I unfolded. We can look forward to some collaborative interactions be it mushroom cultivation, tribal handicrafts or any other form of skill-building activities. A meaningful relationship has been made with Tanya Munshi’s – The Lifestyle Portal – eat. travel. laugh. share. live. Now it is: eat, travel, laugh, share, live WITH OTHERS LESS FORTUNATE THAN US. Let us sustain it. Read more about Hari Dasgupta.
Reema Gopalan, Founder Reema’s Garden
It was an amazing experience to be a part of the TLP Meetup in Pune. I was a part of some great conversations and met some wonderful people. Tanya is a lovely host and I look forward to being a part of more such meet-ups in the future. Thank you, Tanya and The Lifestyle Portal. Read more about Reema.
Iskshita Tewari, Co-Founder Nutriplate India
It was an amazing experience to be a part of the TLP Meetup in Pune. I was a part of some great conversations and met some wonderful people. Tanya is a lovely host and I look forward to being a part of more such meet-ups in the future. Thank you, Tanya and The Lifestyle Portal. Read more about Nutriplate India.
Shalini Singh, Founder, Galvanise PR and andwemet.com
I would highly recommend The Lifestyle Portal’s members to attend its annual meetup. I am glad I did and hope to attend it year on year. Besides meeting other entrepreneurs and specialists in their field, I enjoyed sitting through all the presentations taking away some learnings from each. Looking forward to attending the 2020 meetup. Read more about Shalini.
Shweta Menon, Founder, Truly Tribal
Attended TLP Pune Meet. Very productive session and had very real networking in the session. Having a small group of participants really helps in building the connect. It was orgniazed well, with lots of followup/ promotions and things like that. My next on agenda is to have the profiling done 🙂 Read more about Shweta.
Jasmine Patel, Founder, Crimson Bluez
Fortunate to attend the 2nd Entrepreneurs Meet up -Pune Edition. It was beautifully organized by Tanya Munshi. We met excellent speakers who took us through their journeys. Explaining the importance of legalities, process, media importance and other strategies to follow for this second innings. All in all a fantabulous Entrepreneur meet. Read more about Jasmine Patel.
Sujata Rane, Founder, Sujata Creations
Thank you Taniya Munshi and lifestyle portal to give such a good opportunity and platform to me and my venture Sujata Creations. This 2nd enterpreneur meet up teach a lot about do’s and don’t about business. Happy to meet all of you. looking forward to the next meet up. Read more about Sujata.
Naazima Shaikh Bahule, Founder, Naaz Caterers
Tanya, Thank you very much for letting me be a part of the entrepreneurs’ meet. The Lifestyle Portal recognised me as an Entrepreneur. A speaker did say about a few things that an Entrepreneur “has to do to” to and to my relief I’m practicing them in my business since day one, so I felt very positive about myself. I also learned a few things that were new to me from other participants as the nature of their business was different. The best thing that appealed to me was said by Nishant sir that “ you have to learn from other mistakes don’t repeat the same mistake”. I also learned the importance of future financial planning as well. Read more about Naazima.
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