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Breaking Barriers

How participating in the breaking barriers event helped me break barriers

May 2, 2017


Breaking barriers event at Rise Mumbai on April 22, 2017

(Photos used in this blog are from women’s web Facebook page, a few photos taken by me, some from twitter posts)

It was the most inspiring event I had attended in the last ten years. The energy and enthusiasm were contagious. It was not about celebrating success – it was about celebrating women, the spirit of women and the spirit of enterprise, about sharing the learning from success as well as failures.

The sessions were very lively, insightful, inspiring and thought provoking. The interactions with participants were energising.

Before I share the key learning from the event, I must share why I think this event is not to be missed by women – especially since I had almost decided to give it a miss.

I am an ex-banker and trainer.  I have done interesting training programs. I have also written a book and self-published it three years back. I am an author on women’s web. This year on March 31st, when I took stock of what I had achieved at work, I felt I should be doing more.  When the email from women’s web invited me to join their event “Breaking Barriers” at Mumbai, I registered immediately thinking this might be the impetus I needed.

Ten days before the event, the little voice in my head started making me nervous.

“I work from home. I don’t have an office set up. Can I call myself an entrepreneur?  Will I be the odd person out there?

“This program is about marketing mantras for entrepreneurs. Probably it would involve huge ad spends which I cannot afford.”

“I don’t even have a team. I am on my own. Can I call it a business?”

 “I have practically invested nothing in my enterprise except my intellect. There would be people talking about funding, seed capital, investors. This is not for me.”

Four days before the event, the email from women’s web reminding about the “breaking barriers’ event popped up in my mail box.

The little voice started working overtime coming up with more reasons for me to drop out.

 “You don’t look like an entrepreneur. The women out there would all be successful entrepreneurs/celebrities” (who decides how an entrepreneur should look and what is the definition of success?)

 “All the participants would be young women. You are too old.”

 I started wondering whether I should go to the event or not.

That is when I suddenly realised that age was not a barrier; my mindset was. The greatest barrier I needed to break was within myself. This program is for women who want to do something different on their own.  I would go.

I went through the Facebook posts about the breaking barriers event in Bangalore to prepare myself.

One of the panelists Ms. Monica Samuel had written in detail about the event. Reading her post boosted my confidence and enthusiasm.

The night before, I got so excited that I couldn’t sleep. It was like the feeling I used to have during school days on the night before an excursion.

The next morning, on my way to the venue, I received an email from the online learning platform Coursera that I had been chosen as a mentor for the course “Women in Leadership – Inspiring positive change.”   I felt on top of the world as I entered the office of Rise Mumbai.

The networking started at the entrance to the building when I met another woman writing in the register “Rise Mumbai.”

I had reached early, so had some time to look around. Rise Mumbai has a beautiful office with a cheerful ambiance. The event hall was quaint with wooden blocks at the back reminding me of the last bench during college days.  Anju Jayaram from women’s web and her team of volunteers were cordial, made us feel comfortable.

I had time to get myself a cup of coffee and start a conversation with two or three women.

The opening bell


Anju Jayaram started the event with a brief introduction. It was one of the shortest and sweetest opening notes I have heard. She made us feel that we were part of the community, it was our event.

Design thinking


Vidhya Sankaranarayanan, Co-Founder & Partner of Hyperlocl Design Thinking aroused our curiosity by distributing a recipe for a Cheat – Chaat Kosambari. What has that got to do with design thinking?

Vidhya shared how her mom used design thinking to create new recipes that were appealing as well as healthy.

Women are intuitively design-thinkers and hence can make an invaluable contribution to problem-solving and strategy in organisations – the three important aspects of design thinking being empathy, connectio, and evolutionary experimentation.

Content Marketing – contemporary challenges

Niti Jain, Co – Founder of Queen initiated the panel discussion with Minitha Saxena of TCS and Munni Trivedi, Founder of Magenta. There were some interesting insights on how we can use social media to engage with the audience, identify the value that you can add, and leverage on free as well as quality resources to share pictures and words that convey your message effectively.

Redefining Resilience

Ambica Saxena, the managing partner at YSC, energised the group with her story of resilience – “Getting back to work after motherhood being one of the most stressful periods in her life.”  

The session was interactive and all of us felt connected to the topic of stress and resilience.

Some valuable insights from the session:

“Resilience is a muscle that has to be built during times of low stress so that we are prepared when a stressful event occurs.”

The resilience dynamic involves five stages – Building support, adapting to situations, handling issues with confidence, striving to succeed and recovering from failures.

“It is not about bouncing back, but about bouncing higher every time we fall down.”

Women need two different types of support: emotional support and instrumental support.

We found that women were more likely to be givers of emotional support rather than seekers of support.

When Ambica asked “how many of you have got instrumental support – people who can help us get ahead at work?” very few hands were raised.  This is an area women need to focus on.

There was also a question “what do we do if people at home do not understand our venture, we do not get emotional support from family?”

The suggestion – “Don’t give up on your dreams. Look for non-traditional support systems from like-minded men and women”.

I think this is what women’s web has achieved through this “breaking-barriers” event – bring together a community of women who can support, inspire each other.

Reading books, learning online have been my source of support but I realised that face to face interaction creates a different level of magic.

Growth Hacking

Kunda Jadhav from Barclays bank shared some interesting initiatives that she was taking to empower women getting back to work – “Dynamic working for both men and women, buddies from women cell, mentors, and sponsors for young leaders.”

Questions we need to ask ourselves “Am I being heard?” “Am I able to influence decisions?”

The solution - Inspire to be inspired, collaborate with others to get things done.

“The door of opportunity exists – you just need to push.”

Networking over lunch


Anju Jayaram gave us a gentle nudge when she announced the lunch break. “Meet as many people as you can, network, tweet and make the most of this break.”  Lunch was light on the stomach while the conversation was food for the soul. I went about it slowly, getting to know one participant at a time and then slowly moving on to include another connection. I was amazed at the spirit of one of the young ladies who quickly went around the room, introduced herself, exchanged visiting cards and talked about her business.  She won the networking award for collecting the most number of visiting cards and walked away with the women’s web cup.

Building a personal brand – an entrepreneur’s playbook


The post lunch session was delightful, useful and inspiring. Naveen Bachwani, CEO of shared what it means to be an entrepreneur. He had the audience smiling, nodding, cheering.

His comments resonated with us, made us sit up and say “yes, that is me. I am not alone in this.”

Here are my favourites.

“Some days you are invincible, other days you are fragile.”

“You can become your own obstacle.” 

“To do lists are not meant to be completed.”

“Zero inbox need not be your goal.”

You belong here as an entrepreneur whichever way you call yourself – Solo preneur, mom preneur, freelancer, consultant, tech preneur etc.


Five points for start-up success:

  1. Tell a great story
  2. Look for 80/20 in all that you do
  3. Ask “why” like a child.
  4. “Do” rather than plan
  5. Automate repeat tasks – figure out what you can outsource.


Discussions/insights on personal branding

What does your brand convey?  Does it convey trust, aspiration, connect?

How to manage your online presence, social media posts, marketing, and sales.

How to use LinkedIn effectively to reflect your brand and network.

Advanced toolkits for staying updated with market trends, customer preferences.

The final message. “Fail seven times, stand up eight”


Success has taught me but failure even more. – Panel discussion

Suman Kher, founder of Soft skills studio moderated the discussion. Meeta Sabnis of Talent Terrain and Dr. Bhavi Modi of Health and Wellness shared their personal stories of failures and success and learning from failure.

Anju Jayaram summarised the learning and gave a short and sweet vote of thanks.

The networking and bonding continued with a final round of tea and coffee. It was wonderful interacting with women pursuing various interests – a solo traveller who has seen 29 states before her 29th birthday, a young girl who pursues freelance writing in addition to a full-time job, a young mother of two venturing into home décor, another girl offering social media training sessions, so many women into web designing, digital marketing, content writing, a budding author.

This is me, with Anuya of June Digital - she is the first friend I made at the event.

I was so excited - my mind was full of ideas and possibilities.

The following quote is so true. 

“One's mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions. – Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.”

That evening I had a wonderful intellectual discussion with my daughter about my experiences and my learning. This was the first time that I paid attention to each visiting card that I had collected at an event – the branding, the message, the connect.

I had exhausted my visiting cards at the event and needed to get the next set printed. I remembered Naveen’s message – It was important to “do” rather than plan.

I started with redesigning my visiting card to reflect my brand, my values.  I found an online website where I could design my own visiting card. I had the card delivered the next day. I felt so proud of myself. (There are so many online websites that make designing visiting cards so easy. I stumbled on Vistaprint – the process was smooth.)

I have started revamping my website and I have started posting blogs regularly. Five blog posts in ten days, not so bad, isn’t it? My mentoring work in the online course on Coursera “Women in Leadership – Inspiring positive change” is exciting.

There is so much more to do like connecting again with some of the participants, probably organise a mini meet in our locality. Writing this post was a priority for three reasons:

  1. To express my gratitude and appreciation to women’s web, Aparna Vedapuri Singh and Anju Jayaram for organising the breaking barriers event. 
  2. To remember and reinforce the learning points from the interactions and sessions and thank all the speakers and participants for making it a wonderful experience.
  3. To share this story with women especially in Gurgaon so that they don’t miss this event coming up on May 6th.

My message to all those women enterpreneurs, solopreneurs, authors, freelancers, consultants, aspiring enterpreneurs in Gurgoan:

"Don’t miss the opportunity of participating in the breaking barriers event. It is inspiring, transformational, amazing. It is an experience you cannot afford to miss. Inspire and be inspired by interacting with other women.

And don't forget to carry your visiting cards. If you don't have enough cards or haven't yet made one - do it now online. It is so easy. If I could do it, any of you can do it. "

Dear readers, I hope you enjoyed reading this post as much as I enjoyed writing it. 

Please do share your views, feedbacks and subscribe to this blog to continue our conversation on topics of interest to women.






Read my book Hello Banker

Great event and good description,way to go women and women's web....

Excellently written. Your enthusiasm and positive attitude is so contagious. This is awesome!