She lectures at the Indian Institute of Planning and Management, has written two best-selling books and shares life advice with Bollywood’s leading men. But don’t call her lucky
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The question to ask of Rajita Chaudhuri isn’t what she’s done, but what she hasn’t done. The honorary dean of enterprise management and professor of business communications at The Indian Institute of Planning and Management in New Delhi is also a consulting editor and columnist for 4P’s Business and Marketing Magazine, the bestselling writer of Thorns to Competition and Orangutan As Your Brand Ambassador, and the founder of the Great Indian Dream Foundation, a nonprofit that focuses on health, education and the environment. Oh, and she runs Planman Marcom, an integrated communications, advertising and promotions company.
We talked with the very busy Chaudhuri about the power of teaching, how women lead differently, and how to be lucky.
What does teaching mean to you? What are its challenges and rewards?
Teaching has been an integral part of me for 20 years. There can be no greater pleasure than seeing an enlightened mind, a motivated individual, a student whose perceptions you have been able to change, who now feels more confident and ready to take on the world. I see teaching not just as a process of imparting knowledge; I feel it’s my responsibility to also take care of my students and, when they fall, to pick them up and guide them back to success.
The most challenging job is to remain relevant. As a teacher you need to find new ways to connect with your students. If you are not well-prepared you will be ripped apart in class. They may not say it in words but their actions, expressions and questions will give you a very accurate idea of how you have done. A class for me is a mission. At the end of each class the reaction of the students is most critical for me. It’s a feedback for me to assess if I am doing my job well or not.
Do you believe we need luck to succeed?
There is nothing more important than hard work. Believe in yourself and your dreams and every day before going to bed ask yourself, “what is it that I did today to reach closer to my goal, my dream?” If the answer is “nothing,” well, you will reach nowhere.
I also believe you can create your own luck. It’s a simple trick, always tell yourself you are the best and the best will happen to you. This keeps your outlook positive. Positivity gives you the strength to carry on even when the going gets tough. This simple thought makes you feel happier and optimistic. Happy and optimistic people tend to be luckier than others.
Keep the faith, most importantly in yourself, and keep moving on. That’s the only secret to success and being lucky.
Who are your personal and professional icons? Have you met any of them in person?
My parents and my husband have been the biggest influencers. My parents always told me to go ahead and do what I wanted and never even once to think that being a girl was a disadvantage. My husband has always encouraged me to be myself and live my life my way, and to aim for the highest. Their belief in me is what makes my world go round. My son is now 13 and his opinions have started influencing me too. His appreciation for my work, my writings, even my cooking (I just recently I started experimenting with cooking) makes me want to do better and better.
I have been lucky to work with some of India’s biggest celebrities—Amitabh Bachchan, Shahrukh Khan, and Sachin Tendulkar. Amitabh Bachchan showed me the importance of hard work and punctuality. Always on time for his shoots, he is the man who works the hardest before each scene, practicing and rehearsing until he has perfected it. No other star puts in so much effort, and the difference in the results is out there for all to see.
Shahrukh Khan, a man with a voracious appetite for reading, showed me how readers are leaders. He is a great speaker and when he talks he has everyone in the room mesmerized. He taught me one more lesson: always give more than you promised. No wonder he delights everyone who works with, for he puts in so much effort, he leaves you spellbound.
Why did you found the NGO “The Great Indian Dream Foundation”? What is the organisation’s mission?
A society where no one goes to bed hungry.
My NGO works in many areas, but our primary efforts are in the area of training. We feel knowledge can remove the barriers between haves and have-nots. Our aim is to provide education to as many people as possible so that more opportunities are open to them and they have a chance to change their lives. One educated person can change the course of entire generations to come. Education is the fastest way to remove poverty.
It was started in the memory of my brother-in-law, who at 18 was teaching village youth is his free time so that they could do better for themselves. Unfortunately he passed away in an accident. My husband started this in his memory so it’s very close to my heart.
Do you think women bring something special to management? What is your management philosophy?
Yes, definitely women bring a different dimension with them. They look at things differently from men. So it’s no surprise that organizations with more women in their work force are today doing better than those which are dominated by men.
Women have been slowly but surely making their presence felt. They have proved that when it comes to things once considered male domains, be it cars or technology, they can run them as well as if not better than men. IBM is headed by a woman, GM is headed by a woman, the COO of Facebook is a woman. Women bring in a more nurturing environment and that creates a happy workplace.
What are the set of skills you believe young women should focus on, in order to succeed?
The first lesson I teach in my first session with my students is this: ‘You are a product. If you cannot tell the consumer what good it can do them, you are no use to them. Similarly you are of no use if you cannot tell the world what you are good at.’ So go ahead and find out what you are good at and through your words and actions never leave an opportunity to showcase your strongest assets.