Entrepreneurship has no gender bias
Says Suchitra Ella, co-founder and Joint Managing Director of Bharat Biotech International Limited. She feels that entrepreneurship yields to those willing to give it their best shot L Sailaja Kumar Suchitra is Director, Ella Foundation, Hyderabad, Clintrac International Ltd., Bangalore, Century BiologicalsPvt. Ltd. Bangalore and InnovaAgri Bio-Park Ltd., Bangalore. An absolutely down-to-earth woman, she leaves one totally zapped with her pragmatism and sensitivity, which is a rare combination! How would you define the term 'woman entrepreneur?', and why the fuss when a woman enters any new field? Personally speaking, I do not distinguish anything based on gender, especially a skill. I attribute this to the way I've been brought up. Since I've been taught and trained to look at anything especially entrepreneurship as it is, it doesn't matter to me who is doing it, man or a woman. We go through all challenges and set of situations that our male counterparts would, in this field. Especially in business, everything is real time. I've never felt impaired because of my womanhood, in fact it always gave a 'special edge' and privilege! So you haven't seen male chauvinism perse? Me! Most of the times it is positive. If at all there is a challenge it must be from the opposite sex only. It irks me when I am not looked at like a professional but someone who took up the reigns as a pastime. This happens often when you meet someone for the first time and he is looking at you as the 'insignificant' other or the 'significant other'! It is only when someone re-introduces me does the orientation changes. But, I would say at the outset some men blatantly think you are almost a namesake! Is it just in India that the general (mis) conception that a woman is not professional enough exists? Predominantly yes. I have seen that most of the countries we have travelled, leaving some parts in the Middle East, it's predominantly women who are the bread winners and heading key/top posts in the work force. If you look at many economies across the world, there is equal contribution of women. It could be because of our culture and upbringing that we tend to think that women need not be the bread winners. This was always looked at as a male's job. We are poles apart as a society. We have a long way to go to become homogenous. The economic differences, the levels of education and disparities in society cripple us. We need to be cognizant of that, I think all developing economies face this but in India it is slightly more because we stem from the belief that the 'custodian of a woman is a man'. This is because we are patriarchal society. But I see women becoming more independent and 1500 years down the line the scenario will change as we are moving away from agrarian to industrial economy. What is expected of a woman? It's a part and parcel of nature that we are bundled up like this, but we always have additional responsibilities on our shoulders. The very quality of being feminine means to care and nurture, this is not so with just humans but any other species. Since we are the most evolved I think we come with additional responsibilities which is a privilege! But in a society like ours we need a change in the mind-set, to see that we cannot pin everything on her shoulder and say it's her 'duty'. We need support, which is sparsely seen. Could this be a reason behind the crimes committed on women? As a society, are we able to provide her with the basic security she needs? I think somewhere down the road we missed the bus. We need to sensitise our own children, family members about these things. I would like to reiterate that male-dominance could be one of the reasons. Our population is so huge that the system has failed, our demographics are huge and too many issues are suddenly out at a time, to be handled. In such situations socially related issues will naturally grow. We have education, health and economy issues bothering us. Hence whatever is being down is just trickling down and disappearing. Hence we are not able to see the benefits. What do you think can save us here? Human values re-instilled can help us. There would be an in-built check if we have every child or youngster grow with right values. Experts say that children come from poor homes, they've had a difficult childhood hence they indulge in heinous acts. But my question is poverty is there all over the world, why should that affect morality? Why are we going into such barbaric levels, not even telling our kids what is right and what is wrong? Irrespective of one's economic status we need to have strong system in place where there is an automatic check on crimes. Even as parents we need to understand that it is 'our' child first and what we teach in the initial 5-10 years will determine what they become. So this is primarily the responsibility of the mother/ women folk again. Poverty should not be an excuse to teach your child to steal or cheat. In the same breath as sense of protectiveness towards girls and women should be instilled and nurtured right from the beginning. What about your own childhood? We are four siblings, three sisters and a brother, but we were all treated the same in every field, at home or even otherwise. My dad never felt or said even once that 'why did I give this to girls?' This is still an issue in many Indian households where they think the boy must get the best share always. Work was same for us and our brothers; we never got any leeway just because we were the fairer sex! It was fairness in all aspects and we grew up imbibing that. We were always taught to get things for ourselves, fine if we get help, but even otherwise we could do what was needed. How your family prepares you for life is very important. What's the difference between a woman as an entrepreneur and a woman as an employee? I would say a lady employee always has the liberty to say 'I gave my best but it didn't work', you can find fault with system and crib! But a woman entrepreneur does not have that privilege! She has to own up to everything that happens around her! An entrepreneur cannot afford to crib, though upheavals throw you off the balance and often makes you distraught, it makes you tough as well. But it is this uncertainty which keeps you alert and aware. The fire fighting is always on and it is a live show where we don't have a pause button to break! But this is how we develop a system. Could you recall any unforgettable experience? The way I started Bharat Biotech right from the scratch in 1996, is a classic example of what we spoke just now. It was almost a one-woman show!I had to wear multiple hats to do various works.In fact it is my third child. How would you define entrepreneur? I would say they are impatient people, seething with a positive pique to get to their goal fast. I have also seen that nature fuels as well as tempers this impatience in the right way to enable things happen in their pace! Entrepreneurs are those who are thinking out of the box and always in the mode of 'go and get that', not waiting for things to come and fall in their lap! Patience is naturally acquired by them contradictory to the fast-track thoughts mode they are in! My husband is one such entrepreneur who feels I still lack the required pace! If mundane things are taken off from their hands they can do much more! Where was Suchitra Ella, the mother in this journey? Well, she was very much intact! Though I was struggling through the relocation phase, motherhood was something which did not take a back seat. Thanks to the strong unit called family! What about your association with CII? I am honoured to move to the CII's (Confederation of Indian Industry) Chairperson's designation after my long association with them. I used to look into the CSR activities too. It's a two-year commitment and huge responsibility, but since Bharat Biotech has evolved I can afford to look at other things. Now the time has come to give back to the society, which has nurtured us. How do you unwind? I like to unwind with light-reading i.e. non-fiction (I have enough fiction and drama going on around me) listening to music and spirituality. With that note I bid goodbye to this 'woman of substance' who for sure seems to live up to the quote 'Women are the real architects of society'.And suddenly I realise quotes are born out of living inspirations like these!