Beyond Business, Passionpreneur, Successful Women Entrepreneurs

Divyaa D: An Enthusiastic Shlokapreneur, Founder Gurukulam, a Beautiful Journey of Transforming lives

“If you can make small children smile or laugh…..if you can even catch their attention, you definitely have a special skill, right? On top of it, if you encourage them in a right way where they want to come back to see you and attend your sessions, willingly & happily…. then that’s the true impact on little kids” Divyaa uttered these words with a big smile on her eyes.

The excitement, pride and happiness were so visible, and the energy started spreading positively in the room.

Divyaa D - Shlokapreneur
Divyaa D, Gurukulam, Shlokapreneur – SLN Brand Studio

Our Founder, Suba Lakshminarasimhan, in conversation with Divyaa, the Shlokapreneur who runs GURUKULAM, the first of its kind Online Shloka School. She founded Gurukulam in 2014, aiming at keeping traditional roots in place and supporting the kids abreast of cultural knowledge thereby tapping an area left untouched.

At present GURUKULAM caters to 50 kids across the globe and is on the verge of expansion in the years to come.

Suba: Working in a software company to founding Gurukulam. Divyaa, it must have been an exciting journey, right? Tell me all about how did this happen, the triggering moment.

Divyaa: “Thank you Suba for this conversation, that too, when I have received a ‘Special Recognition’ award from MSME world for the great things happening at Gurukulam. Yes, I would be more than happy to talk about how the journey started.”

Divyaa went into a deep thought and I allowed the time to pause….

After a few seconds, she regained her smile and said,  “I am a spiritually inclined soul Suba, always surrender to reciting shlokas, at ups and downs of life experiences, which kept me grounded. I have always been passionate about shlokas, carnatic music and classical art forms. I don’t have to sit and do any meditation, reciting few shlokas helped me to get into the serene mode quickly.

Prior to starting GURUKULAM, I was a Branch Head with a Software Testing Company, Suba. That was a period when I was undergoing a problematic personal life, and unsatisfactory professional experience.

And, during that challenging time, a thought occurred about changing my passion into profession. We have music schools, dance studios, art classes, a yoga center in every nook and corner of Bangalore, but I didn’t find even a single school or an entity dedicated to teaching shlokas. That’s how I founded GURUKULAM on 20th October 2014.”

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Divyaa D, Gurukulam, Shlokapreneur – ©SLN Brand Studio

Suba: That’s nice to know Divyaa. I come across many women out there with unique ideas, but do not know how and where to start. I support them on their journey.  I am sure your story will inspire many out there.

Tell us about the struggles you faced when Gurukulam was an infant. Was it easy to create awareness?

Divyaa: “I started with six kids in my apartment in 2014. Creating awareness was not easy. Beyond business, I worked very hard in creating awareness on how important it is for the kids to learn shlokas and how it will help them in all ups and downs of life. I spoke to many parents and happy to see kids joyfully joining my classes.

I wanted to serve more and more in our society, keenly advertised and reached out to many parents. Today, we have more than 50 kids and, recently, our curriculum is a part of ‘Little Millennium, Vajarahalli Kanakapura Road’ pre-school. Working with Ms Rittuu Goel is one excellent experience.”

Suba: That’s awesome Divyaa. What do you think you have gained as a Founder of Gurukulam?

Divyaa D - Shlokapreneur 2Divyaa: “Anger management and practicing patience; I acquired these two virtues by interacting with the kids. Their innocence, thirst to learn, determination in practice, everything for the love & care I showcase made me realize many great things in life. They become my ‘Guru’ many times in acquiring various life skills.

Everybody is facing different battles. With little care and love, If I can change lives, how about adopting it as a part of my life. I give my best to everyone around me, try to improve positivity around me. I owe my students a lot and am grateful for bringing in such a transformation.”

Suba: Beautiful indeed Divyaa! Imagine the world full of kindness and love.

Now, tell me about the support system you have built. How do you manage your personal and professional life?

Divyaa: “Universe is indeed great in that perspective Suba, irrespective of various challenges I faced, I get tremendous support from my family who love me for what I am. Even if I am worried or feel helpless, without me telling, someone will show up and encourage me to take the next step.

And, the parents of my students are my pillar of strength. It has been five long years; each one of them travel with me with complete trust. Such trust is what keep me going. They are the reason GURUKULAM is growing day by day.”

Suba: Tell us more about your students and their age group. If someone wants to reach out, how can they do so?

Divyaa: “Gurukulam has a structured and well-drafted lesson plan Suba, designed based on in-depth research, experience and learner-centric approach. We have students in varied age groups.

Yes, even though we started with the little ones, we now have students who are C-Suite professionals, awesome Homemakers, Scholars and Professors. The appreciation and accolades we receive from such high profile students encourage us to do more research and keep adding critical elements in our lesson plans.”

Suba: We wish you & students a great journey together Divyaa. Your noble profession is indeed much needed for us all. Can you please share one thing for the Women Aspirants out there?

Divyaa: “Transform your passion into your profession no matter how much you can earn initially. It is not about MONEY all the time, but it is all about being HAPPY, CONTENT and feeling COMPLETE as an individual first. Believe me, rest will follow automatically. Challenges are inevitable. Keep your chin high and  pick yourself up no matter what the circumstances are.”

About the Interview: ‘Words of Wisdom’ Interview with Ms Divyaa D is an initiative for ‘Women Contentment Program,’ a Mentoring program for women.

Ms. Suba Lakshminarasimhan, Founder director, SLN Brand Studio conducted the interview. Women Contentment Program (WCP) focuses on elevating the lives of Women by helping them create a new career, get back to the career after a break, develop Emotional & Social intelligence and build a Personal Brand.

About the Company: SLN Brand Studio offers Consulting, Mentoring, CXO Resume Writing and Corporate training Solutions. Aiming at building the personal branding and career growth opportunities for working professionals, Students and Women with a Career Break, SLN Brand Studio has developed numerous customized solutions such as SPBQ, SVEP and SWCP.

Beyond Business

Ramanan, IT professional turned Environmentalist, a perfect Role Model for Empathy induced Altruism

“My ‘work-life’ started during my college days itself Suba. Looking back, beyond my educational credentials, I have acquired numerous skills through hands-on experience. Even my entrepreneurial journey is the same as well.”

I straightened myself to listen keenly as Ramanan started talking in a measured tone.

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Ramanan, Shudh-Labh

Ramanan is the founder director of Shudh-labh, the fast-growing waste management organisation based in Bangalore, India. The entity aims at decentralising – sorting, collecting and recycling – all types of domestic waste. As the name suggests, the overall goal is to implement innovative recycle options for increasing profit. Thereby, up-cycling dry waste and enhancing the value recovery from waste. Aerobic Digester is their product that recovers the resource by composting the food waste.  

While doing my bachelors in Physics, I also got an opportunity to join the first batch of NIIT in Chennai where I acquired knowledge on software development. I was working in my father’s factory at the same time. After my NIIT course, my life took different turns. As a part of the Software Industry, I travelled across India, Singapore, and the USA. When I landed in Bangalore in 2004, joined a software firm and worked for three years. However, the thirst towards Entrepreneurship flaming up every minute, started a Training & Consulting firm focusing on Project Management/PMO certification.”

Ramanan took a pause here. I realised that he was introspecting and virtually gone back to 2007. I didn’t want to disturb the flow of thoughts and let the silence continue.

 “I tasted the reality behind Entrepreneurship during that period. It was not easy for me to come out comfort zone where I needed to ‘sell a Service.’ Discussing even with my friends and contacts about my company was highly challenging. I also realised the importance of pushing oneself harder, continuously learn, thrive on sustaining and succeeding during that period. Talking about that experience itself look so different now.” Ramanan chuckled and continued “In fact, I wouldn’t call it as ‘Entrepreneurship’ now.”

I looked at him quizzically.

Ramanan continued, “I understand what you want to ask Suba? Everything changed when we started Shudh-Labh. One beautiful morning changed my life drastically. It was, in fact, a normal Bangalore day as I was sipping my morning coffee looking outside from my veranda. A pile of waste on the street and a stink emanating from it, I just turned around and came inside. Sanitary workers were collecting and transporting into a vehicle. It was heartening to see them using bare hands to manage the waste struck me really hard.

Further learning on waste management and a discussion with some experts led me to understand the impact such landfill has been creating on our mother earth. Further R&D and embracing technology as the right solution we found Shudh-Labh,”

“That’s quite an exciting start of this journey Ramanan. In a new business and a market, How did you handle the transition as a leader here? 

“Yes, exactly. My earlier entrepreneurial journey taught many lessons by biting me financially and emotionally. But the passion, excitement was totally different this time. Responsibility and accountability somehow excited me instead of scaring. However, I was conscious that mere passion or enthusiasm is not enough to keep it going. This is a high scale initiative, I spent quality time in planning and executing.

Most importantly, my family is my great support system, Suba. If not my wife and daughter, I don’t see a possibility of Shudh-labh in my life. Their constant backing is the primary force here. You will be surprised to know Suba, we are running our family expenses solely on my wife’s salary for the past four years. I have invested all our savings in the business. Our extended family and friends have funded as well. As we are growing now, we are working on getting external funding as well.”

“You know what pushes me ahead amidst challenges…..even so-called educated people do not want to pay for managing their waste effectively but willing to dump it in landfills – a sorry state of affairs and depressing at times. Creating awareness in this space continuously is a task I have taken voluntarily, and, seriously.”

“Can you brief about the product – Aerobic digester?” I asked.

“Yes, definitely.  Food waste comes under ‘Wet Waste’ category where the kitchen waste, vegetable peels, leaves and related ingredients are wet. When the air is used to process this food waste, we get ‘organic compost’ as a final product. This organic compost improves crop yields, reduces the carbon footprints without using any chemical substances. Using air, the Aerobic Digester helps in locking the carbon in the soil, convert the waste into reusable resource as organic compost.”

“Very thoughtful Indeed Ramanan. Now, tell me about your first client acquisition. Any Entrepreneur including me would agree that ‘getting the first customer’ as the toughest of many challenges. How did you convince the buyer to purchase your product?” I asked.

“Oh yes, that’s where my relationship building strength helped. I can connect with people very well. Moreover, Aerobic Digester is a product of many brains and hard work of people who are passionate about Environment. We are a bunch of people who are conscious of leaving greener earth to our future generation. Every household has someone suffering from serious health conditions like cancer, cardiac issues and many modern-day illnesses. People including you and me, knowingly or unknowingly, have already polluted our land and air; we are breathing and eating wrong things. It is hugely our responsibility now to correct it. We, from a business point of view, focused on creating awareness and showcasing the value proposition.”

“We are ever thankful to Sovereign Park in Basavanagudi who believed in Aerobic Digester and us. Later, the product and our continued support in handling the initial hiccups to day-to-day functions spoke on behalf of us. The association members have become our brand ambassadors. Our unique design in the Aerobic Digester now become the defacto standard across Bangalore and Chennai. Compared to our competitors, our design has gained huge acceptance in the market due to its ability to addressing numerous issues related to waste management. Our composters have one of the lowest Opex and Capex, and easy to use process create a competitive edge here. We take complete accountability on the site and, beyond a mere product company, we work as partners with our clients.”

“That’s encouraging information for the budding Entrepreneurs. Appropriate planning, value proposition and customer experience can help to break many barriers.”

I paused and got myself ready to ask the most critical question.

When it comes to running a business, that too, bootstrapped, managing finance is a more significant challenge, right? Since you are scaling up, is there any other major challenge that you face now?” I could sense the concern and curiosity raising in me as well.

Ramanan continued thoughtfully, “Yes, Funds are a greater challenge. We are cutting a big fat now. We are also working on getting the right people and skills on board which is posing a huge challenge. Those who seem to be passionate and interested do not show any inclination when it comes to really play the game. Not only Shudh-Labh, but many waste management start-ups also face skill scarcity. People struggle to make the decisions to join hands here.

We look forward to onboard more talents.”

“I understand and see a considerable gap in creating awareness about the opportunities available in the waste management Industry. Hope and wish things change for good and make our earth greener.

Now, tell me. If I ask you about one personality change you had to implement in ‘yourself’ to sustain and succeed as an Entrepreneur, what will be your answer?” I posted a question and got myself ready to listen to the answer.

Ramanan continued with a confident smile, “Oh, yes, the attribute seems as strength might pose a threat at times. I was a bit on the ‘Naive’ side when it comes to managing People. I have always been Empathetic and try my best to help others to grow. But, I realised that this attitude could work against the growth of my company. Beyond extending support, motivating and training, some people cannot change or perform as expected due to various reasons. ‘Letting them go’ still gives me a nightmare. However, I am changing, and I could see how such decisions help the company to grow. Every day becomes beautiful with such learning and consistent implementation of actions” The determination in his words showcased a more robust transmission that had happened from within.

Your ‘Single’ advice for the upcoming Entrepreneurs/Millennial/Corporate Sanyasis?

Perseverance and passion, but with a stable & practical action plan backed by data, is critical for success.

About the Interview‘Words of Wisdom’ Interview with Mr. Ramanan Natarajan is an initiative for bringing gems out to the limelight as a part of ‘Beyond Business’ series from SLN Brand Studio.

Ms. Suba Lakshminarasimhan, Founder director, SLN Brand Studio conducted the interview. Women Contentment Program (WCP) focuses on elevating the lives of Women by helping them create a new career, get back to the career after a break, develop Emotional & Social intelligence and build a Personal Brand.

About the Company: SLN Brand Studio offers Consulting, Mentoring, CXO Resume Writing and Corporate training Solutions. Aiming at building the personal branding and career growth opportunities for working professionals, Students and Women with a Career Break, SLN Brand Studio has developed numerous customized solutions such as SPBQ, SVEP and SWCP.

“Breaking inner glass-ceiling is the continuous process for human to grow” – Suba Lakshminarasimhan, Founder, SLN Brand Studio

Mompreneurs, Passionpreneur, Successful Women Entrepreneurs

Vijayalakshmi Prakaash, Hobby Clusters: The Passionpreneur Changing the Lives of Classical Art Aspirants

“Entrepreneurship has been there in my thoughts since my childhood. However, life took me on a different route. After completing MBA in HRM, I got wonderful opportunities to work as the HR professional in the leading MNCs like ‘Accenture.’

Yet, the feeling of ‘missing something’ always lingering in my mind, one beautiful day, I took the plunge. I chose to do something which is very close to my heart. Yes, as a passionate Bharatanatyam dancer, I decided to start my journey in the field of the classical art form. The first thing that I did was quitting my day job.”

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Suba Lakshminarasimhan, SLN Brand Studio Interviewing Vijayalakshmi, Hobby Clusters

The words from Vijayalakshmi with such calmness and measured tone amazed me. The interaction with her began when I joined ‘Kathak’ in Hobby Clusters; all fresher learners. Within 3 months, our team of enthusiastic dancers got an opportunity to perform on stage as a part of Hobby Cluster’s annual program two months back. That is when I met Vijayalakshmi for the first time. I was infact stunned to see her carrying a small baby in hand. Yes, a new mom organizing such a grand event collaborating with numerous teachers and students, I was genuinely impressed.

We met another day again at my place for this interview.

“Tell me more about your Journey Vijayalakshmi,” I prepared myself to learn more.

“Everything started with Dance Suba. My mother & my first guru, Smt. Thangam Srinivasan is the great inspiration in my life. She is a singer and a dancer who got an opportunity to learn from the esteemed Guru Paramparas; She learnt music from Smt. Neela Ramamurthy, the daughter of Papanasam Sivan and dance from the descendants of Vazhuvuraar.

Later, I learned the intricacies and sharpened my dancing skill from the renowned Guru Shri. Narayanan. I am one blessed person to have had my Arangetram at the famous Nataraja Swamy Temple in Chidambaram when I was 14 years old.”

She paused and went into deep thought; I felt as if I was standing in Chidambaram temple watching her performance.

I never stopped learning; beyond winning or losing the competitions, I focused on in-depth learning, assiduous practicing, and completed graduation in Bharatanatyam as well. When I wanted to take up an Entrepreneur journey, my gurus only flashed in my thoughts. Whatever I am today is because of each one of them, their timely guidance and passion.

It is imperative that the ambitious students get the right guru for accomplishing their aspirations. Moreover, I have always cherished moments working with kids. With a vision to connect the students with the right teachers, founded Hobby Clusters in 2012.”

“Fascinating journey indeed Vijayalakshmi. That must be one brave decision to leave the full-time job, right?” I asked.

“Yes Suba, it definitely was a hard decision. Financial independence is significant to me. When you start to do something, it may take a while before you see any money in return. However, I was very confident about my passion, ability and, as I told you earlier, I have always been thirsty about continuous learning.

The most important aspect in Entrepreneurship is ‘the investment.’ I had two investment choices; one is to invest money, build an entity by hiring people to support me. The second option is to dedicate and invest ‘time,’ learn and do things without any hesitation. I chose the second path.”

I let her pause for few seconds without interfering her thoughts. Listening without filling the silence moments is one skill I acquired in recent times as I interact more nowadays.

Vijayalakshmi continued with a warm smile, “I defined my strategy first. Introducing the syllabus-based quality teaching where the students become the qualified performers is my mission. I started connecting with the aspiring students. Establishing the connection with the students’ & parents and gaining their faith was very challenging initially. I spent my time getting to know more about the market, students and their exact requirements.

Similarly, I spent quality hours searching for the talented teachers who can match with the student’ requirements. All these teachers and the students are the pillars and the reason behind where we are today. Now I have amazing teachers for vocal Carnatic & Hindustani, Music Instruments, Various classical dance forms, and sports who are spread all over Bangalore. I am very proud to say that we will soon be UNESCO certified too.”

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Hobby Cluster’s Annual Day 2018 at MLR Convention Hall, Bangalore

“That’s fantastic. Congratulations Vijayalakshmi.” I was equally pleased, continued my questioning, “What kind of challenges you are facing nowadays? How do you manage such challenges?” 

“When this digitized world is moving fast, people expecting quick results without realizing the importance of learning the basics well is posing a lot of challenges for us the teachers. I work closely with the parents and make them understand the intricacies the students must learn. Fortunately, many parents are very cooperative, they know the importance of time one must give for the learning curve and hours one must dedicate for the practice.

And, personally, as you know, my daughter is 5 months old. There is learning every day. She is my priority. I must mention here about the support I get from my husband. Prakaash extends his support and backing in all possible ways; right from taking care of the baby completely when I am working. My ‘go to’ person whenever I am facing challenges in the business.

When it comes to my capability to manage challenges, I must give credit to my ability to organize my time appropriately and balance things well so far. Spending more time in planning helps in executing things well.”

“Do you have anything specific to share with the fellow Women Aspirants who are struggling to manage family and work?”

Focus and priority are the two sides of the coin. If you look at people struggling to balance life, both their focus and priority is work. Then starts the ‘guilt trip’ leading to living life where there is no ‘contentment.’

Keep the primary focus on the family, prioritize activities based on the situation. Set a goal that benefits your long-term growth, and learn how to manage your time well. Little compromises here and there will help in balancing work and family well. Infact, not only women, this can apply to men too.

Isn’t life all about ‘Give’ and ‘Take’?

It was one satisfying interaction as I wished Vijayalakshmi and Hobby Clusters team!

“Living ‘just’ a life or Celebrating Life amidst ‘odds’; Choice is yours” – Suba Lakshminarasimhan, Founder, SLN Brand Studio

About the Interview‘Words of Wisdom’ Interview with Ms Vijayalakshmi Prakash is an initiative for ‘Women Contentment Program,’ a Mentoring program for women.

Ms. Suba Lakshminarasimhan, Founder director, SLN Brand Studio conducted the interview. Women Contentment Program (WCP) focuses on elevating the lives of Women by helping them create a new career, get back to the career after a break, develop Emotional & Social intelligence and build a Personal Brand.

About the Company: SLN Brand Studio offers Consulting, Mentoring, CXO Resume Writing and Corporate training Solutions. Aiming at building the personal branding and career growth opportunities for working professionals, Students and Women with a Career Break, SLN Brand Studio has developed numerous customized solutions such as SPBQ, SVEP and SWCP.

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