Motivating others to rise like a Phoenix from Ashes

Shilpa Agarwal, Managing director & CEO – Akash Furniture Group

Shilpa has been conferred with ‘Best woman industrialist of the region award’ by former Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan in 2013. She dreamt of becoming a Doctor but her family got her married off very early before she turned 19. Initial days were very difficult for her to cope up with pressure of being a wife, daughter in law, in a traditional conservative combined family. By the time she realized the vigor of her new life, she delivered a baby and was blessed with a baby angel.

She recalls how she was stressed at coping up with various pressure of her married life & additional responsibility of motherhood without much support. At the age of 22 she decided to end her life and things changed from thereon.

Her husband Akash counselled her to not to run away from the situation and do something creative and excel in life. The episode changed her outlook completely and after that she never looked back. She joined the family business. and with the motivation & guidance of her husband she grew in leaps and bounds as both complemented each other and the business scaled to new heights.

As the managing director and CEO of a furniture manufacturing unit in Central India, Shilpa shares some interesting insights from her life in this interview with Team ABT.

Greatest inspiration
My husband Akash is my greatest strength & he is the one who always try to inspire me to achieve my true potential which he fill is at world level.  I am also fascinated by Indira Gandhi. I am inspired by the way she used to manage country single handedly, the way she through her leadership fought several wars with Pakistan & won specially the Bangla liberation war. I admire her and is inspired by her passion, determination, courage to lead this very complex country single handedly.

Entrepreneurial Journey
My entrepreneurial journey was never easy. The furniture industry was totally male dominated and I was the only Woman around. Also it is highly unorganized and mostly managed by traditional & conservative male entrepreneurs. I often have to deal with unskilled / non professional male subordinates which was at times was very difficult for a Woman to get them to follow instructions.

After few years in business I used to devote 4 to 5 hrs and I felt that I am doing enough as a Woman, but my perspective changed entirely when I visited China, Malaysia, Singapore & Thailand to study furniture industries & visit furniture exhibitions there.  The visit furthered my horizon towards managing business more professionally and become one of the top lady industrialist of India. I decided to become a role model for other women & also inspire them to come into industry & contribute towards India becoming a business & industrial superpower.

What led you to Beauty Pageants?
It all started in 2004 when Akash saw an advertisement in newspaper & motivated me to participate in Mrs. Nagpur contest! I won the Mrs. Nagpur title & then also won Mr. and Mrs. Nagpur contest along with Akash.

I feel participating in beauty pageants is not just about winning the title, name & fame but much more.  It is about meeting talented, interesting people, making friends with them, learning from them! Also, this serves as a great learning experience for I get to know information’s about a various place and their traditions and their customs. It also helps to enrich my knowledge. It is a win – win situation for all. It is about the grooming you get, exposure you get, confidence you develop & much more!

Managing Personal & Professional life
I believe God has given every woman enough talent in the form of multitasking, empathy, patience etc. to overcome this challenge. They only need some support & motivation which I received from my husband. If women’s are well supported by their family, managing personal & professional life is not a big deal for them.

Your Philosophy
My philosophy in life is that people can guide you, motivate you but it is up to you who want to rise like a Phoenix from Ashes in order to be somebody in this world!

Advice to other Women
I believe all women are born to excel, spread love & happiness, empathy, friendship.  Indian & Asian women have a strong upbringing because of their exposure manage home & family, making them expert at multitasking and above all, hold patience. These qualities puts us on a strong pedal and I would urge more women to take the lead in business, politics, and leadership.  With our contribution, the world will be more prosperous, livable, peaceful, and happy place.