Friday, January 20, 2012

An Exclusive Talk with Padmashree Lila Poonawalla Mam

 Padmashree Lila Poonawalla, Don't require any introduction. She always encouraged entrepreneurs and she was delighted to know about the efforts LinkedPune is taking to encourage entrepreneurship in Pune. We had a detailed discussion on various aspects and here is her exclusive talk with LinkedPune. Here she talked about  from her wada pav party to secrets of her success.

 Shwetank :  Mam, Your career is an inspiration to many folks, when you started your journey how confident were you that you will achieve this big high.

Lila  : The joy lies in enjoying the journey and not planning for the destination. This has been my Philosophy right through. I always planned only the next step. When I was an apprentice, my sole objective was to work hard and learn the most I can so that I get confirmed in the job. After that my goal was to become an assistant manager, and then a manager and than a general ..
Manager and so on, until the time I become Vice President. It was only than that I dreamt of becoming the President of the Company. SO I have really enjoyed ever small success that I have had as I have gone along and have celebrated the same, be it achieving a small target of selling a few pumps per month when I became a sales engineer. I was happy to have met my goal and so I celebrated with my friend in the company canteen by sharing Wada pav and chai with them. One has to learn to feel the JOY OF SMALL THINGS.

Shwewtank: Mam very few might be knowing that you have written your own S/W program to manage all your hobbies, connections, photographs, gifts etc. What inspires you to explore so many diverse fields?

Lila :  Well it is not entirely correct that I wrote all my software program myself. I of course developed the concepts and then took help from a professional program writer and together we created these unique software programs which helped me to track all my hobbies and remain very organizes. Like package called GOLD. This records all the photographs I have taken, almost 95910 Photographs recording 13259 Events In 1010 albums spread over 52 different categories. Now tracking these photographs manually was impossible. But now I just have to put a couple of words that ring a bell and the search engine works and in a jiffy I know where the photograph is , in which album , which category etc. same is with my other program like my program for books called HAPPY READING. 

I have 2556 Books spread over 69 different categories. So if I want to research a particular topic I can easily use my search engine and find the book very easily. I have many such programs including gifts that I give to friends called GEMS, this helps me to ensure that I never repeat a gift for a friend, also a program for the  gifts I receive from friends called MOMENTO. Imagine the joy of my friends when they come home or when I visit them and I display or use the gift that person had given. These are joys of small things. I have a collection of Music and of course a MELODY package for the same. Since there are over 15000 songs in my collection, it would be impossible to find a song that I would like to play at a particular time and mood. The program makes it possible in a second. I have many more packages to make my life a happy one and an exciting one. Including a program for my passion collection of souvenirs and match boxes.

Shwetank: Recently we saw the launch of FiliVilla, can you please share little more about the project.

Lila : As you can note I am a collector of small things. I always wanted to have a museum where I could display all my collections from my travels, the wonderful times we i.e. Firoz My husband and I have spend together. So we had a discussion with like minded people and the builders with whom we have tied up were equally excited as us to launch this project. We will build an 11 story top end building. 
We will move into one of the apartments in this building also our Foundation office will occupy one floor. Our present home which will be converted into a well organized unique museum will be donated to the Foundation. This way our memories will stay alive even when we are no more and the Foundation will keep it going.

Shweank: "Quality Circle Excellence Center” is your dream project, what made you to come up with this project.

Lila : Both Firoz my husband and I am fanatic about quality, not only product quality but more so people quality. For we believe that it is quality of people that ultimately produces quality of product and quality of life. We both have been involved in this movement for many years. We felt it was essential to have a home of our own. Thus we got together a few like minded people and during one of the Quality convention, made the minster of Industries Mr. Darda, who was the chief guest, commit to give us the land in MIDC. That happened rest is history. We got many organizations to support the building of the center but what is most important is that the grass root workers from many organizations dented their one day wages to make this dream project come alive.

Shwetank : You are involved in various businesses, NGOs, clubs etc, what do you find as closest to your heart.

Lila: Each of them have their own place. I love doing business, it excites me. I find happiness in working with Ngo’s and I find it good for socializing as I am a very people oriented person being connected with clubs. Each one has its own place in my life.

 Shwetank: You have done a lot for girl education, anything you would like to share with like minded people interested in joining this effort.

 Lila : I personally came from a poor family. We had come to India as refugees. Getting funds for basic education for my mother was an uphill task, leave alone getting enough funds for higher education. I had last my father at the age of 3 years. SO my mother really had a tough time bring up 5 children. As I grew up I made it known to my mother that I want to study and become an engineer. Now that was expensive. But I worked hard, got some scholarships and help from friends and finished my engineering. It is at that time that I dreamt that if one day I could afford it I will start a Foundation to support higher education of girls. As it was education which enabled me to change my life. 

Thus my project aims to provide both financial and mentoring support for education of young girls who are academically brilliant but economically challenged largely from rural parts from Pune District. These girls due to lack of funds are not able to pursue higher education which makes them employable and economically independent.  Due to this they are married off at a very young age and then have to suffer from societal pressures of dowry, beating, and hard physical labour including no family planning and health education.  Our project while supporting them financially will also give training on health care, family planning, issues involving child birth as also mentoring them to ensure they go through their graduation and get decent jobs. This will not only change their life but also the life of their near and dear ones, specially their female siblings and parents, and also bring about a change in the communities they live in. Anyone is welcome to join hands in this uphill task.

 Shwetank : You are involved with many startups as advisor, how do you find these new generation startups, any suggestion for them.

Lila: The new generation startups are indeed managed by very enterprising entrepreneurs they are hard working and have many new innovative ideas. However they lack one thing in general is the financial acumen. Also they want to make it big very quickly and think that should be quite an easy task. They have to realize that those who have made it have toiled for many years and gone through many ups and downs before they really have made their breakthroughs. But all along they have been open to learning and accepting failures as next stepping stones.

Shwetank : What next in cards.

Lila: Besides the current scholarships for Post graduation in any faculty, engineering graduation and mentoring including training of soft skills etc.  Next on the horizon is spreading the scholarship programs to many more segments. We have made a beginning with schools selecting over 100 girls from 7th standard and committing to take them through graduation and post graduation. We will add on every year 100 girls in this segment. We also are adding on additional 150 scholarships for graduation in Nursing, Physiotherapy, Diploma in engineering and D-ed. We will keep adding this number every year and also increase to other segments. 
But above all I have now a new dream to set up a wellness Clinic for Lila Poonawalla Foundation. At this clinic every member of the Lila family including their parents and sibling will be given medical support. Health is the Prime need. Without a healthy body you cannot have healthy and brilliant education. Also there will be focus on Hygiene. Starting with the girls at their young age. The schools we are working with we will built new toilet blocks for them. Teach them the importance of good hygiene and health conduct health awareness program for them. OH there is so much on my plate. Difficult to summaries.

Shwetank :  Mam, Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts, I am sure it will definitely benefit our readers.

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