Meet the women who started up at the absolutely “wrong” age, and succeeded
Women like the 57-year-old jute baroness Lata Bajoria, 26-year old globally renowned Indian techie Shwetal Shah, 56-year old ecommerce tsarina Falguni Nayyar and 32-year-old pro-patissier Pooja Dhingra are proof that passion sees no age or gender.
After the passing of her husband – Arun Bajoria, the tycoon behind Hooghly Jute Mills in Kolkata, Lata Bajoria had an awakening – at the ripe age of 57. “When your husband is so well-known, you automatically have to be in his shadow. More than half my life was gone before I discovered myself,” she says. Her strides into the mills were first met with resistance from the male labour force, but she stayed resolute, and reminded herself one thing – no one can deny her something that’s already hers.
Banking honcho Falguni Nayar’s plunge to start online marketplace for cosmetics Nykaa.com at the age of 50, was a product of her confidence in her skill, leadership acumen, and vast body of experience. It’s no wonder then, that her calculated risks paid off, and she managed to scale Nykaa to an entity that is valued at over Rs. 3000 crore at last count, as of April this year. “I knew that naysayers are a part of every entrepreneurial journey. People thought I was crazy, but that’s what sets an entrepreneur apart – they can see, rather, foresee, what others can’t even imagine,” she says.
Triguni Food founder, 76-year-old Radha Daga’s second entrepreneurial plunge was a similarly inspired moment. She was clear that she wanted to innovate, but that would require intensive R&D and hence, substantial money – so, she did her waiting. She knew she had amassed enough by the age of 69, and dove head-first into the startup hustle to live out her entrepreneurial fantasy, in 2010. The company counts Indigo Airlines as its largest customer which buys 150,000 cups of upma and biriyani a month. The company produces over 1.6 lakh units of their products monthly.
High-flying techie Shwetal Shah’s is the other end of the spectrum. It’s tedious summarising all that Shah had accomplished by the age of 25, but the culmination of all her efforts is this – she is a regular fixture in the most elite tech-circles of not only India but also UK, and was the Forbes 30 Under 30 list for Asia this year.
But when one looks a certain way that doesn’t fit the stereotypical mould of a ‘techie,’ they do not get taken too seriously initially, Shah informs us. “You seem too young and inexperienced, and people don’t want to give you more challenging tasks. But you have to take on projects which show your leadership style, your problem-solving skills and let your work speak for itself,” she states.
Pooja Dhingra, the founder of ‘Le15,’ was also told she was too young one too many times. “Right from the start, I had been perceived as too young, and not being taken seriously. I would always have to take my father along with me to push my authority. Once, when a government official found out I’m the owner, he went “Kyun? Aapke pati off ho gaye? (Did your husband pass away?) My 23-year-old self just looked at him like – no, I’m not doing this because the man in my life is dead! This is my business,” she recounts.
The lesson is resounding and greatly empowering – when you have the perfect plan, you’re automatically the perfect age.