The Green Entrepreneur : Harpreet Ahluwalia
1: Harpreet, what do you do now? Was your goal your call to fame?
Yes, I was confident from the very start that I had to excel in whatever I do and thus prepared myself to make things happen, rather than wait for things to happen. It all started with me entering the education space, excelling as a faculty with leading institutes across NCR, then dabbled into paintings that were inspired by energy cycles, the first of the very kind across spectrum, then moved into gardening to become an apex grower of chrysanthemums, and presently into creating exquisite creations for transforming the garden and gifting into a way of art.
Fame and calling are subsets of your commitment. You need to have a clear focus, adhere to discipline of execution, have a thick stomach line of persistence and patience. And above all think about contributing more than being focused on your take homes only.
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2: What was your childhood ambition, and how did you share it with family and friends... e.g. did you pay doc, play teacher, sang to any audience you could gather?
Enriching, inspiring, absorbing, my mother was a stickler of imbibing perfection and we fondly named her as Hitler. She ensured that apart from the education I learnt cooking, stitching, singing, dancing- I am trained in Kathak, painting, and more. She brought out the latent capabilities in me, for which I owe her credit.
3: Was your schooling, college steering you towards what you hoped to be... did you become what you 'studied' to be, or did you change course and chart a different path?
Not exactly, I wanted to be a financially independent contributing professional and excel in whatever I do. Never thought that I would be an entrepreneur. Opportunity arrived; I was there to capitalize it. I never said no to whatever I was exposed to. May be experimentation and creating success stories was my innate driver.
4: How and when did you chose to move to your mission?
Nature and circumstances play an important role. I believe firmly that circumstances don’t make a man; they simply reveal him to himself. I was straddled with an Everest of personal challenge, where each step further was enveloped in darkness. It was tough and also inspiring. I was tested to my stretch. Most would give up not me. I went on with what I ought to do, use to make my notes for marketing from the ICU waiting room to deliver my lectures. This commitment and perseverance encouraged me that I was destined to move yonder and not give up.
I assure you it was tough, very thought, on one hand my personal life was in disarray, had to fight the well oiled inward coiled medical system, powerful people with connects, a silent judiciary and yet I managed to rewrite the consumer law for medical negligence. I was confident that the turmoil I was subjected to, no one else would go through it. And yes we did that and created history.
Interestingly I was fired from the institute, as they thought I will give up. This propelled me to be more resolute and I affirmed to myself I will be back with a bang. Your personal grief's need to be channeled into something bigger than yourself, got to create a big picture and make things happen.
I am confident that I am a woman with substance. If it has to be done, thy will be done
5: How did family and friends react? What were the personal hurdles you had to cross?
Family stood by me, yet firstly with skepticism, then my single minded vision of making things happen, touched, moved and inspired them. Then there was no looking back.
Friends were interesting, they simply vanished when I was down, wrote me off, permanently. And that time I resolved that I will not be a ' becahri' as they intended but I committed to myself that one day they would be back, and feel privileged to be connected with me. Hence I persistently strode from being a nobody to being somebody.
I moved on from teaching, as going out from my home, wasn’t feasible now, due to change in the scenario. And then I discovered that I could paint too.
My first exhibition of my paintings was at a community centre, Yamuna Apartments, Delhi where I sold some of my paintings. Not a great venue, yet I made a start, then Habitat, IIC, and other most sought places, showcased my work, media lapped what I created and I knew now I am there now.
Then into growing of Chrysanthemums, and then transforming garden as a piece of beauty, I moved into creating gardening pots, created a socio economic venture wherein today we are instrumental in generating sustainable, meaningful life for over 40 woman potters families, pan India.
Satisfied to witness their transformation, from existing in BPL to now looking forward and working towards a contributing life. A small step, yet a definite step in skilling India, Made in India, Made for India and nation building.
The greatest hurdle isn't money, it's when your very own people instead of supporting you, start questioning you. Yet that’s part of the game. Hence don’t lose heart. Trudge on. It's now or never.
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6: As an urban, educated woman, were you at an advantage, or disadvantage in the entrepreneurial world? How did you overcome hurdles at work?
Being a management graduate helped me to understand better the ways of doing business yet challenges come as avalanches every day. Starting from product designing, ensuring quality, adhering to timely delivery, getting the desired and required manpower, finances, all stretch you.
And then I had the unique advantage of creating a paradigm shift, to transform a mundane market, where gardening was driven by “Mails' to inspiring people to personally contribute in enhancing their garden space, it still is an awesome journey. It's easy to swim with the tide; it’s a great learning experience to change the course of tide. And I am happy that I and my team effected it.
7: Do women make better entrepreneurs?
Genders don’t matter, what matters is your commitment to yourself and immersion of your dream. You need to have a passion for excellence, and have the ability to thrive on chaos, coupled with the uncanny persistence of scaling of excellence.
8: What do you see changing for women professionals in India? How would you encourage young women to consider business as a viable profession/ vocation?
By all means, create your institutes of excellence cause entrepreneurship is here to stay. Be there now.
9: What inspires you, and what is your long term goal?
Don’t sweat the small stuff, as all stuff is small. My vision is creating an institute of excellence, which is a confluence of all traditional art in India, and also helping 100 families of potters by creating opportunities for them to lead a life of fulfillment and contribution. For me a thought is more important than a person, cause focused thinking coupled with a discipline of execution, can move mountains too.
10: How do you manage a work life balance? What are your tips for others to try and achieve the balance?
Prioritizing, organizing and adherence to timelines helped me to be here and I suppose we all need to relook the way we work, from what we are doing presently to what we ought to do.
You can reach Harpreet here -
Harpreet Ahluwalia- Earthly Creations
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