Dr. Tarita Shankar’s name doesn’t need any introduction, especially for the people in the education sector, but for the larger audience here’s a brief about her. Dr. Tarita is the founder and Chairperson of Indira Group of Institutions (www.indiraedu.com) in Pune, India which she established in 1995 at a very young age and is celebrating 20 years of its inception this year. Today she heads the group which has 14 institutions offering higher education in the fields of Business, Pharmacy, Mass communication, Science and many more to even a national school and early year children playgroup schools.
Dr. Tarita Shankar - Chairperson and Founder of Indira Institutions
Tarita’s meteoric rise from a young family oriented girl to a leader in educational field is unprecedented, however, has been paved with several hurdles, personal and professional challenges. She overcame those all and today she is proudly shaping the careers of several young men and women through her schools and colleges. She is a real source of inspiration to many women out there who had faced setbacks early in their life but stood against all odds and make a mark for themselves. On the eve of Mother-'sDay we take pride in presenting a small conversation we had with the lady herself who is the mother of 2 lovely sons, is devoted to family and runs 14 schools and colleges, employing 1000+ people and imparting education to 8000+ students !!!!
Tell us about yourself, your family, background as an educationalist: education and experience.
It was never my intention to be an educationalist or any entrepreneur, but just to be a housewife. I was married at an early age of 20 years and all I wanted was a home with kids and a happy family. But some unfortunate turn of events, my marriage didn’t last long and divorce happened. Completely distraught I got some wholesome advice from my parents – that if you want to stand up to a world that is out to harass you being a woman, you must learn to stand on your own two feet financially. I appeared for the Civil Services Exam and was even selected for the IRS, but my dad was of the view that I should either take up the IAS or IFS. So I gave up the hunt for the Services and took up employment, which took me to three jobs and the last one I did was with Enron. I gave my best to the job although my main interest was to settle down in a happy marriage.
At that time, the Energy and Education portfolios were under the same Minister in Maharashtra, to whom I was reporting being in Enron. When discussing the education scenario then, which was privatized at that time, we discussed the idea of launching an Educational Trust with my parents, the Minister and I on the Board. We just got going in a small rented place with 60 students and I still want to pinch myself to confirm that the huge Organisation that we spawn today is a reality and can hardly believe how we have grown in these 20 years!!
The most important thing that I take pride in is the fact that - entrepreneurship has not robbed me of my commitment to my family and my children have always come first irrespective of the circumstances.
I believe I am endowed with a deep understanding of people, and relationship skills and that empathy gets me to contribute to the well being of those I come in contact with, as much as it gives me the satisfaction of being a positive individual in society.
Why did you choose this career in the education sector?
As mentioned earlier, education was a career that fell into my lap after I decided to take charge of my life and it was providential that the Energy and Education Ministry were under the same Minister, and the SCES (Shree Chanakya Education Society) became an idea that took shape at a meeting with him, 20 years ago.
Indira Institutions (www.indiraedu.com)
What are you goals in life or for your institute?
We have made plans to start the Indira College of Architecture and Design in the near future, maybe by 2015-16, for which all necessary applications for affiliation, approvals etc. are submitted. This will be a signature institute with cutting edge curriculum to prepare the future- builders of a modern India. Also, we propose to double our capacity at Indira National School beginning in the next 2-3 years, besides expanding our Indira Kids footprints in more areas of Pune, because we strongly believe that the right foundation at early age is pivotal to any person’s growth in future.
With Mr. Chetan Wakalkar (The Trustee of Shree Chanakya Education Society
We also plan to start a truly path-breaking undergraduate College to impart skill based knowledge to prepare students with unquestionable skills for employment in the corporates, and a residential-school where every Friday the child will go back and return by Monday. This is the result of my conviction that the family is at the centre of a child’s growth and so, the family should be available to the child atleast for 2-3 days in the week to ensure a well rounded growth.
How do you handle workload stress and emergency situations?
I am prone to face stress situations like every other individual. But each individual responds to stress in his own way. I believe that I have been able to tackle stress without allowing it to get the better of me. Stress takes a toll through increased blood pressure, heart problems, weight loss/increase etc. I have evolved my own system to check stress. I am a dedicated Yoga practitioner, never missing my daily Yoga sessions as I believe that Yoga is the panacea for most of our mental and physical ills. I also try and keep fit by resorting to a disciplined regimen of exercises at the gym. These are a couple of ways I maintain my equanimity when faced with stressful situations.
Describe your day to day activities, priorities and tasks.
When people ask me what could be the one quality responsible for my success; I have no hesitation in mentioning Discipline as the one. Therefore, I make sure I never stray from my laid down priorities and practices. Thus, I am up and about before dawn and as mentioned, am a Yoga freak, after which I make time for my children and family. Attending to important office communications and meetings in the office ensures I am available to give decisions and participate in the growth process of SCES. My evenings are exclusively for my family and close friends with whom I love spending time as I believe they are my lungs and help me breathe fresh air and keep healthy!
An Evening with family and close friends
Many ask me how I keep a balance between home and work; between the family and office commitments. This indirectly distinguishes the role of the male and female in the household
Any hurdles/obstacles you faced in pursuing your dream and how you overcame some of those?
For any woman, it is the fact of her setting out on her dream, becomes a challenge for her. That is because in our society even today, some people believe that a woman cannot take up a tough career like being self-employed. Attitudes like this, have been built over generations. And so it was, with me when I decided to chase my dream. Many in Government and some of my own acquaintances discouraged me from taking up something which might prove too tough to handle. That is when I realized that I needed to be more determined in my chosen path. Never give up is my motto, and I did not. I worked at my chosen project and magically, I collected friends on the way who were impressed with the fire in my belly and helped me along.
Describe your most successful accomplishments.
Describing my most successful accomplishments would be like choosing my favorite child. Because every new project I took up I gave my everything and the team was there with their full cooperation; it seemed like we were all chasing a common dream – to put Indira in the national domain to shine like a star on a dark night. But if you ask about my most important project, I would rate the completion of the Indira College of Engineering and Management in a record time of six months, because it involved getting the campus built, the labs fully equipped, the campus and hostels ready and I must acknowledge the hard work my team put in to achieve this. We were all amazed at the end of it all; and realized that when all the five fingers unite it becomes a fist!
What are the key challenges in this field for women? What are your personal challenges?
I believe the challenges are common for both men and women; although women do have a certain disadvantage considering the feudal attitude of some people in positions of power who can discourage and thwart your march forward. This was a challenge that I overcame with my grit and determination and found the same powers admiring my effort after it was a success!
How do you manage a balance between personal and professional life or as a working mother.
I have answered this partially earlier. But let me reiterate that family has always occupied prime place in my scheme of things. My children get all the attention they need from their mother and this is evident in the success that I see in their careers already. I have always maintained the belief that women have to sacrifice their family if they want to build a career is only an alibi for not trying to make it big. I am glad I have disproved this.
Dr. Tarita as a doting mother
Lastly, what is one advice that you would like to give young women out there who are thinking of taking any profession?
I believe that each individual has to chart his/her own course in life. Having said that I would like to mention that successful people act as a lighthouse guiding you to your goal. And if you consider me successful I would like to mention that the qualities of Self-belief, Discipline, Honesty, Integrity, Commitment and Determination are what have contributed to my reaching the position where I am. And I think it would not be a bad idea for any woman who wants to reach for the stars to try and follow in these principles apart from customizing your own path to success. I do not see any reason why it should fail.
Thank you Dr. Tarita for sharing your wonderful experience and we believe your success will inspire many people.