Is It Wrong To Celebrate Men Who Support Women?
I’ve always shied away from the word ‘Feminist’ till I realised that it only meant asking for equal rights – for inclusion, for pay and for employment. But it also means asking for an equal opportunity and herein lies the conundrum.
According to the UN, women are oft engaged in low-paying vulnerable jobs, under-represented in labour force or economically dependent on their male counterparts. Women entrepreneurs are few and venture funded ones even less.
Similarly, there are a handful of global women in positions of power who can create more opportunities for the same sex. So while we have agendas of women economic inclusion and equality for all by 2030, who are the people creating these opportunities? It will have to be men.
Lessons From Family
I’m often commended for being the sole founder of one of India’s largest boutique resorts in the country, but let me tell you the story as I see it.
With one parent in business and the other a sought-after horticulturist, we were never brought up to recognize that women could have a different opportunity set.
In fact, it was quite the opposite – economic independence was stressed upon. And so the decision to strive for the best in education and later in employment was almost a given.
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While my vision is to help the Indian traveller experience the local charms of a destination, it was my father who played a major role in helping me understand the value of travelling that way.
Being a very curious child, I would look forward to those six-week-long vacations every year. During these vacations, my father would ensure that we immersed ourselves into the local culture of a country.
For instance, when we visited Japan, I wasn't allowed to have my meal at McDonald's and try the local cuisine instead. Since we were travelling on a shoestring budget, the metro would be a preferred choice of transport—which helped us travel exactly the way locals do. I remember, in spite of the language barrier, my mother would figure out all the metro routes. And people were so helpful they would stop where they were going and guide us to where we wanted to go. These travel experiences have actually come in handy in shaping V Resorts the way it is today.
Not to forget, it is a daily battle to reach your goals without stable family support. It is especially true for women. Behind a successful woman working towards her dreams, is definitely her family.
My parents, husband and even son are the oxygen to my life. They take on many roles, hear me crib, stand by, and are always ready to catch me when I feel like I am falling. They cheer me up, humble me, and listen to me, even about mundane office updates, and most importantly, they never let me quit.
From Being A Student To An Entrepreneur
Looking back to the days of education, I remember enough men who gave me and my fellow counterparts the right amount of support, one way or the other.
Institutions led by important men never missed a chance to celebrate us when we achieved results. Without the umbrella of an IIM/IIT degree, the founder of what is now India’s largest private equity fund decided to offer me my very first job.
He said the only thing he cared about was the hard work I had put in to get the first position in college. The platform was so enormous that it is still perhaps the most favoured part of my resume.
The second half of MBA from ISB Hyderabad took me to Duke University in the US, where my experiences were also memorable. The Ivy leagues were actually a little biased (towards the women) and I had the most wonderful mentors there, who offered me all the help I required.
When I came back to India, it was a man who wanted me as his partner while he set up a venture fund in India. And when I founded the company, his faith translated into an investment.
In 2014 when we got the first large funding from a VC, I was uneasy as I had heard stories of how investors take over, how they demand unrealistic things from entrepreneurs etc.
However, the man who later represented the fund on our Board was anything but that. It’s been a journey – scaling the company to a different height, driving revenues and focusing on quality. And he’s been a part of it every step of the way. From helping us with next round of funding to identifying key members in the team to acquiring companies, it’s been a hell of a joyride for us.
Even though I had to leave behind a decade-long career in finance with leading brands like McKinsey and Baring Equity in order to come up with an innovative micro-tourism product for travellers, I realise that it was a risk worth taking. And thanks to the men in my life who support me constantly, I am able to maintain the right amount of balance between my professional routine and my hobbies.
As a mentor of promising young women, and being on the panel of Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network and the Cherie Blair Foundation, I often get the opportunity of interacting with future leaders. Although each one of them is capable of scaling the great highs of success, there’s no denying that they have always had some men supporting them along the way.
Be it in the form of a father, a husband, a son, a teacher and a mentor, men need to keep coming forward to offer their help and support to the women in their lives—only to tap into the limitless potential and talent that the other gender possesses.
We have so much to achieve together – and we are starting from pledging ourselves to the 2030 agenda within our own company.
Even now, over 200 women from remote villages work with us in our resorts across India. And we want to increase this number to 20,000 over the next 5 years. So while we celebrate women on this one-day, while we spread our message to those less fortunate, let us not forget the men who supported us. The men who empower us.
Aditi Balbir, Founder & CEO, V Resorts, India’s largest hospitality chain focused on micro-level eco-tourism, is a trendsetter for eco-tourism in India. She has brought in and strictly adheres to the concepts of 100% local procurement, maximum employment to local staff, and empowerment to local communities, especially women. She is the one who enjoys mentoring promising women. Born and bred in New Delhi, Aditi is a quintessential Delhi girl with a penchant for art. If not an entrepreneur, Aditi would have been an art critic or perhaps even a writer.