Smita Tharoor is the founder of Tharoor Associates – a training, coaching and organisational development company. Based in London, she is a motivational keynote speaker and trainer, and her passion is the unconscious bias and how it impacts on all aspects of leadership development. Backed by a rich experience of working in the UK, India, Europe, Asia and US she has an edge with her unique understanding of the expectations and needs of different cultures. Catch her in a conversation with Shree Lahiri as she opens up on her entry into the world of entrepreneurship, the challenges faced, the future and more…

1. How did the idea of becoming an entrepreneur enter your mind? How has the journey been and where has this reached today?

It was entirely by chance. My boss at the time told me he was retiring and would mentor me so that when the time came, I could apply for his job. That was an epiphany. Rather than being thrilled, I realised I didn’t want his job. Coincidentally, a friend of a friend was owning a company that was failing. He knew of my expertise in cultural & behavioural change and organisational development. He offered me the project and there was no looking back.

I work across the globe, Europe, US, India and the UK.

2. What were the challenges faced by you?

In the early days the challenges were the travel as my youngest son was only 11. We live in London and I have no immediate family in the city. It was up to my husband and I to manage our time to be around for the children. Both of us were travelling on work, so those early years were a bit of a rollercoaster. 

3. What are some strengths that a woman entrepreneur should possess?

All entrepreneurs should possess drive, focus, ambition, humility and the knowledge that we don’t know everything, but we can get advice and support from others if we need to. Women often fall into stereotypical female roles at home, and find managing a developing business quite a challenge as they have to be very different people in different environments. It is up to us to empower ourselves by giving ourselves permission to pursue our dreams AND be mothers, partners, homemakers or anything else as well. It is about managing our own unconscious bias and challenging ourselves. 

4. Do you think the current business scenario encourages women entrepreneurship?

That is too broad a question. Business scenarios in different parts of the world and in different areas of work may have different responses. Certainly, working in the organisational behaviour area in the UK, India, US has been totally encouraging and supportive. I really don’t see it as the “business scenario” encouraging/not encouraging us. It’s about how we manage ourselves and empower ourselves. It is easy to blame something or someone if we are not successful. How about taking ownership, learning from it and working on it?

5. What are your future plans?

I’ve just started collaborating as a key partner with e2ePeople Practices in Bangalore. e2e is a culture audit firm, specialising in Merger and Acquisitions. They are experts in People Behaviour Analytics and have been consulting across industries and countries for the last 8 years. Tharoor Associates’ expertise is cultural and behavioural change and we have also worked across many countries around the globe. I’m very excited about this new venture.

6. What advice would you have for someone starting out new? 

Have faith and belief in yourself. We are often our own worst enemy. No road travelled is easy or doesn’t have pitfalls. Keep at it. And go down this road only if you really truly want to be an entrepreneur. As the American poet and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “The best lightning rod for your protection is your own spine.”

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