This International Women’s Day (March 8), Team Shubh Yatra talks to five women from iconic families, who are not only carrying forward their legacies, but also diversifying and taking them to greater heights
A niche of her own At an age when young girls pore over glossy fashion magazines or try to emulate their favourite movie star, Ananya Birla set up an enterprise to financially support rural women. The 23-year-old daughter of business tycoon Kumar Mangalam Birla was only 17 when she founded a microfinance organisation to provide loans to low-income, rural women to help them grow their businesses. “I have always been very conscious of the huge income gap in India and wanted to develop a vehicle to give back to society in a sustainable way,” says the young entrepreneur, who is also at the helm of another business that curates rare, high-quality handicrafts from across the globe and makes them accessible on an e-commerce platform. While her father provided her with great encouragement when she set up her own enterprises, her vision was clear – to develop her own ideas, make her own mistakes and learn as much as possible along her journey. “My father is brilliant and what he has achieved is commendable. He has always been there for me, but I have never really wanted him to take an active part in my businesses as I wanted to learn from my own mistakes. I have a lot of respect for him, and will always appreciate how supportive he was of me starting my own business at such a young age,” she says.
A budding businesswoman apart, Ananya is also a talented songstress and recently collaborated with popular Dutch DJ Afrojack in the remix version of one of her songs. “My musical journey has brought me closer to myself, and has given me a much better understanding of myself. There is no better feeling than that of being able to connect with people through music,” says Ananya, who is awaiting the release of her next single, Hold on.
The world’s a stage Sanjna Kapoor is carrying forward the ideologies and passion of her father Shashi Kapoor, mother Jennifer Kendal and grandfather Prithviraj Kapoor. With an undying love for theatre and a desire to take it to the masses, she has, for nearly two decades, carried forward her family’s legacy. “I feel fortunate to have two generations before me, from both my parents’ sides, who loved and worked in theatre. This love and passion is my legacy,” she says. She helmed Prithvi Theatre (set up by Prithviraj Kapoor) from 1991 to 2011, maintaining its identity as a cultural hub. “I had to learn on the job, and realised soon enough that Prithvi Theatre was a microcosm of a greater world that one wanted to build – a world filled with imagination, where theatre and the arts were valued as an intrinsic part of our lives,” she shares. She set up Junoon, her own theatre company, in 2012. “It is an organisation that dreams of an India that stands on the foundations of its rich artistic and cultural practices,” she explains, and adds, “I am lucky to work in the field I love, and believe that it is essential to create environments for theatre and our arts that are nurturing, fostering and enabling. Only then shall artistic engagement truly thrive in India.”
Music in her heart
Music is not a choice for Meeta Pandit, it is a way of life. She is the granddaughter of legendary vocalist Krishnarao Shankar Pandit and the daughter of Laxman Krishnarao Pandit (image on left), both exponents of the Gwalior gharana of Indian classical music, and she does not believe in taking her family lineage for granted. “Art is not a property that can be taken over. As far as creativity is concerned, you need to first understand the roots of an art form, learn it and then make it your own,” says Meeta, a sixthgeneration musician, who also holds the distinction of being the first woman vocalist in the family. She realised at an early age that she had to create a niche of her own within the gharana. “For the longest time, the Gwalior gharana had seen only male practitioners. As a mahila sadhika [practitioner], I had to make sure my singing reflected my vocal personality and my taleem [training],” she explains. Her first music lesson was from her father, who, she recalls, “inculcated in me the patience and discipline to learn and practise the art”.
Matters of art
“Women can achieve anything they wish to, if they set their heart on it,” says Richa Agarwal, CEO, Emami Art, part of the Emami Group of Companies. Indeed they can, as Richa has herself proven, having elevated Emami Art to make it one of the largest art galleries in India. While she was married into a traditional Marwari family, her father-inlaw, encouraged by her keen sense of business and eye for art, handed over the charge of Emami Art to the young Commerce graduate in 2007, and there has been no looking back ever since. “When my father-in-law, RS Agarwal, asked me to take over Emami Art, it was a challenge. From that point on, it has been a journey of discovery for me. I believe one must continue to learn every day and adapt to achieve one’s goal. When I came on board, we mostly had Indian masters in our collection. My aim has been to bring younger, more contemporary artists into our fold since then,” she says.
Mightier than the sword
Even as a young girl, Pooja Jain had wanted to work with her father, DK Jain, founder of the Luxor Group. In high school, she began the practice of spending a few hours in the office every day after school. “I loved the mad chaos of the place,” Pooja tells us, adding, “Mine was not a formal work regime, but it allowed me to get the feel of the business and helped me realise that I was indeed interested in being a part of it.” She points out that, at the time, the demand for pens was much higher than the supply: “I still remember how well my nana (maternal grandfather) used to manage the business.” Even though she manages her father’s business now, Pooja had to make her way up within the company like any other employee. “My father wanted me and my siblings to get trained on the job, and start at the bottom. In fact, my first job as a full-time employee of the company was in 1996, in the foreign trade department!” she reveals.