At a time when we are celebrating World Breast Feeding Week from August 1-7, 2019, Aakanksha Bhargava, CEO of PM Relocations Private Limited and a Mompreneur shares her experience of traveling with her eleven month old baby Samaira for various business trips and how she managed to breast feed her child.
We all know the saying “breastfeeding is the best feeding”. However, there are many parents who are unaware of the exact benefits of breastfeeding for the infant. To raise awareness about the importance of Breast Feeding, World celebrates “Breast Feeding Week” from 1st August to 7th August.
According to the 2018 Global Breastfeeding ranking, India ranked 56 out of 76 countries on early initiation of breastfeeding. However, with the change in the lifestyle, Mompreneur has been facing a lot of challenges to provide the proper nourishment to the baby.
Aakanksha has been on the move with her eleven months old baby Samaira for various business trips. Already, the baby had visited six nations, along with her mom. Aakanksha knows the importance of breastfeeding for her baby and it is one of the reasons that she always took Samaira with her to all the trips. In fact, Aakanksha has created a room for her baby in the office so she can be with her while working.
While so many working mothers give up, Aakanksha balanced her work life with her baby. In a free wheeling chat with The Indian News, Aakansha speaks about how she managed to juggle between breastfeeding and attending work and what were the typical challenges she faced to the Editor, Jayashankar Menon. Excerpts:
TIN: Can you talk about the work life balance, especially when you embraced your motherhood?
AB: It is often a tough one for women who are doing things at their pace and in their own way to step back and think of having a baby, because the normal thought that rushes through the mind is of a break in life, life not being the same, having to compromise and eventually having to give up. By god ‘s grace I found my calling very early and have been spearheading PM Relocations (PMR) since many years. I have a job that makes me travel extensively and explore the world. I feel I almost had a perfect set up and was living it up fully my way and happily with my wonderful family. I had often thought of how challenging, difficult it would be when I decide to have a baby. Having PMR by my side, my love, loyalty and passion has always been encapsulated in giving everything to PMR. How would I make a place for the second one or more importantly was it even possible to feel so much love all over again?
TIN: When did the typical challenge you faced?
AB: On January 5, 2018 everything changed for. I knew my life would never be the same again. There was a tiny life within me, whose essence wasn’t yet felt but the impact was. I was told by my doctor to be on the bed for my first trimester and rest as much as I had a high-risk pregnancy. For someone who in the last eleven years had not sat a single day idle at home, this looked like a daunting task, But I told myself it was just few months and then I will be on my toes and enjoy my pregnancy and probably travel again.
Time ticked, I did meet some clients in the middle, went to office for few days here and there and crossed the first leg. During this phase, my father had a stroke and we had to get an angioplasty done for him. But all went by and I was ready to welcome the second trimester with all positivism. I thought the difficult bit was over. But to my surprise I had a severe issue with my cervix, and I could have gone into labour anytime had it not been detected. That led to a surgery during my pregnancy and then I was told to be on a complete bed rest without even sitting for the rest of my pregnancy. I was almost in shock and depression.
TIN: How did you manage those trying times?
AB: Entrepreneurship teaches you to be strong, determined, take risks, fight it out but it doesn’t prepare anyone for motherhood. For the first time, I had to sit back and take a “break from my work/office and yet had to stay all positive. I remember looking at the clock restlessly from morning to evening to see the day through and literally count days. I used to call my teams at home to discuss on cases, issues but I knew this year would not be the same as other years and I will have to let time pass.
Service industry is an unexpected journey that you take every day , some of the challenges are unforeseen and they do affect in long term. However time passed, and I was blessed with a beautiful angel in August. She was a pre-term baby but the fighter that she was she came out all healthy and hearty. I was 32 kilograms plus with several stitches and major health hazards. I had forgotten how it was to walk normally or to eat normally. I had thought I may never be able to go back with the same energy and strength. But to my surprise I think god had different plans and so did Samaira.
TIN: When did you get back to work?
AB: Samaira and me both were ready to go to work on Day 32. It’s incredible how motherhood has given me double the strength to go for my dreams and live my life un-apologetically as I feel I owe this to my baby and my husband who believe in me abundantly and are supporting me so much. Since then she is six months old now. Today, she has already accompanied me on twelve trips with me, two conferences, sixteen meetings and many more wonderful days at office where we work and play. I always knew this was the way I would have wanted, and I am glad it worked out.
TIN: What is the message that you want to give to the working mothers?
AB: I am not sure why women are asked to make a choice between their passions and a child. There cannot be a choice, why can’t a woman have it all if she is prepared for it and really wants it. The society around us stereotypes a lot of things but thank god for my family who just let me be. Thank god for Samaira who is today the biggest inspiration of my life and everything revolves around her but she knows it already that she would always be my second baby and PMR will always be my first one.
TIN: Would you mind telling a little about yourself?
AB: Kolkata is the place of my birth and I belong to a family, who are into business. When I was around seven, my family relocated to Delhi where I graduated from the Hindu College. There, I held three prestigious positions – President of Placement society, President of Choreography society and the Cultural Head for the College fest Mecca. Moving ahead to gain deeper knowledge on managing a business, I pursued and successfully completed my MBA from the SP Jain School of Management (Singapore and Dubai). From here began my jet set journey to become one of India’s most successful women CEOs.
TIN: When did you join PMR?
AB: I joined PMR at the age 21 as Manager – International Sales. To my good fortune, I began quickly changing things around and the effects were beginning to show. I handled the firm’s corporate sales, marketing and operations, amongst other departments. The first thing I began working on, in all these capacities, was to organise a largely unorganised sector. So, my focus was on introducing systems, procedures and planning. Small steps had surprisingly large effects. PMR, which was already a successfully company by then, reached unconquered peaks under my helm.
TIN: What were the steps you undertook to ensure positive outcome?
AB: From the beginning, I had clarity and vision as to how to steer the company forward. Apparently, I brought in more efficiency, transparency and productivity to PMR’s already smooth functioning. In just nine years, we made sure that PMR expanded its base to 14 offices pan India, including Mumbai, Chennai, Pune, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad and Bangalore. The bottom line grew manifold as well. From a turnover of Rs.2 crore in 2010 PMR scaled Rs. 40 crore in 2015 and it is a humongous and impressive jump by any standard.
TIN: How did you tackle the gender issues, especially with the male-dominated industry you are in as a CEO and President of PMR?
AB: Right now, I am leading one of the most exciting and fast-growing businesses in India. I took cue from my father and idol, Shri Rajeev Bhargava (MD – PMR), I didn’t let the male-dominated industry’s rigid ways bog me down. By persevering and subsequently producing outstanding results and leadership, I became the face of the young, emerging India that is fearless, original and versatile. To honour my achievements at such young age, the Business Today SME Award was conferred to me in 2015 as the Best Woman Leader Award.
TIN: What next?
AB: We at PMR, as a team are trying to put my vision into practice. In fact, PMR is well on its way in executing its ambitious grown plans. New offices are underway in Tier-II cities such as Lucknow and Kanpur. The bottom-line is expected to grow manifold. Unchartered waters such as art movement are already being explored and new, exciting avenues are soon to open up. PMR is spearheading the organised relocation business in India.
TIN: What will you do when you squeeze time?
AB: In my spare time, I unwind with casual coffee dates with my husband Sumit. We love to explore new places. Work and leisure has taken me to over 32 countries and I am contemplating on exploring more countries. Bollywood films and music help me de-clutter my head. I do closely follow cricket, a game I fell in love since my childhood.
TIN: What are your other passion areas? Heard that you have passion for dance and sports…also heard that you are a voracious reader as well…can you shed some light on those aspects?
AB: Dancing to me is like meditating. I am a trained Kathak dancer and wannabe golfer as well. Now, I am trying to devote as much time to these pursuits as and when my hectic schedule allow. Yes, I am a compulsive reader. Despite my hectic shedule, I make sure that I will catch up with my reading, before I retired to bed.
TIN: What are your favourite books? Also tell us, where does the true joy lie?
AB: My favourite books are The Fountainhead and Atas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand, Letters to my Daughter, Steve Jobs and The Lean Startup. Answering your second question, my true joy lies in balancing my work and personal life with panache, because in both of these, I find my peace.