When I was growing up, I spent years shuffling between India, Abu Dhabi and the UK, each phase playing an important role in shaping the woman I am today. When I’m asked about the secret of my success, I have to confess it is the upbringing I was fortunate to have – one in which my parents taught me to be independent and in which the value of education was given primary importance. In spite of having a brother, never once did my parents make my sister and I feel that we were lesser in any way — we never had to struggle for our equality at home. It was our fundamental right.
I didn’t have a cushioned childhood. In a way, my parents threw me into the deep end: they made it very clear to my siblings and I that while they wouldn’t support a fancy lifestyle, they would give us a fantastic education, and that’s exactly what they did.
In retrospect, my teachers at St Clare’s, one of the finest IB schools at Oxford, were important influencers in my life. They taught me to believe in myself and to strive for excellence, and to never settle into a life of mediocrity. It was there that I came into my own and found the confidence to apply, and eventually get accepted into, the Imperial College of Science Technology and Medicine in London.
Life moved on. I worked at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Abu Dhabi, returned to Mumbai to work for the fashion house Ensemble, and went on to eventually find an understanding partner like Rahul – my equal, my soulmate. It was during these years that I started to explore my creativity and foray into restaurant and interior styling — a huge personal step that has today made me the public figure that I am.
My journey hasn’t been one free of challenges. Like most women, I faced the rigour of being both a homemaker and business woman. While I was fortunate to be surrounded by a supportive lot, a lot of my success has to do my being a great delegator. My advice to today’s women: learn to say no, learn to prioritise yourself. Don’t overthink the glass ceiling, trust in your ability. Educate yourself, excel and work hard by focusing on the task at hand. I promise you that success won’t be far behind.
Education (for both sexes) is the key to a wonderful future – that’s what I tell my two beautiful daughters, and that’s what I will tell you. I believe in the power of this generation of women, who have been working so hard at garnering equal rights for all of us, and I just want to tell all of you out there that you have my support in every way possible!
Malini Vachani Akerkar.