Are you independent? Here's what powerful Indian women feel

As India celebrates its 72nd year of Independence, we at Yahoo India reached out to women entrepreneurs and professionals, to ask them what freedom means to them.

Given the fact that Indian women still struggle with gender stereotypes, social stigma, patriarchal mindset, sexual harassment, increasing rapes and domestic violence, this seemed an apt query.

Here are the opinions of some of the powerful women working at top levels in diverse fields:

Sabina Chopra has over 16 years of work experience, has thorough knowledge of all facets of the travel BPO industry and an extensive network within the Indian travel community.

Sabina Chopra: Sabina Chopra, Managing Director, Indian subcontinent, RCI, which is the worldwide leader in vacation exchange with over 4,300 affiliated resorts in nearly 110 countries. Sabina is responsible for driving business growth and delivering on-going value to RCI members and affiliates in India. She is also a Co-founder of Yatra.com, an online travel agency, and has served as Chief Operating Officer for the travel search engine.

1. What does independence mean to you? 

To me, independence means freedom to make informed independent decisions. It is an opportunity to influence young and able women to take responsible roles in corporates.

2. Being a powerful woman and a co-founder of a company, do you feel you are independent?

I am grateful for the independence with which I choose to live and do what I want. To me, independence and freedom are relative terms defined differently by different people and can be
very situational. In the last 10 years, we have witnessed a great change in the way women are becoming a part of boardroom decision-making.

In today’s day and age, women leaders are not defined by gender but by the ability to lead successful projects and enterprises that prioritise profit, drive employee welfare and generate a positive impact on society.

Fighting against the norms, today’s women leaders are not only an inspiration to their teams, but also to all the young girls who aspire to dream and be like them. However, as a nation, we still have a long way to go. We need to motivate more young women to be part of this change which will help in having a more prominent effect in the corporate world and on the society.

Shutapa Paul is leading two startups including NewCrop. She has worked across the various mediums of newspapers, magazines, television, and online media and continues to do so.

Shutapa Paul: Shutapa Paul, Founder & Editor at NewCrop, a digital platform dedicated to coverage of the startup ecosystem. She is also a Founder of a media consultancy called Dharma Media Consultants. She has been a journalist for over 12 years and has embarked on her entrepreneurial journey. As a journalist, she worked with well-known brands such as Forbes India, India Today, The Week, NDTV, among others. 

  1. What does independence mean to you?

Independence to me means the ability and freedom to make one’s own choices in life. What should I wear, what should I eat, which political party should I vote for, which decisions can I reject. It is the freedom to move from place to place without fearing for my safety. More importantly, independence to me is freedom in one’s professional and personal life.

2. Being a powerful woman and a founder of a company, do you feel that you are independent?     

I do feel independent on most days. But honestly, there are days when I too feel shackled. Such days are faced by most other Indian women, too. In a country that still fails to assure the safety of its women, there are days when I don’t feel all that independent.

But I work on myself and my surroundings to ensure that I can take care of my needs without depending on others. Staying financially independent and strong should be a prerequisite for all women. It’s high on my priority list, and yes, it does make me feel independent.

Ritu Harish Goyal is currently reinventing herself as a travelpreneur.

Ritu Harish Goyal: Ritu Harish Goyal, Founder at Ease India Travel, a company that offers holidays that are more than just sightseeing — that encompass adventure, new friendships, new cultures, cuisine and new learnings. After being a journalist for 17 years and serving a two-year stint as a member of a bench at a consumer court in Delhi, Ritu is currently reinventing herself as a travelpreneur.

  1. What does independence mean to you?

To me, independence means very much the same as it does to others — the freedom to pursue my dreams, the freedom to raise my kids in a free environment, the freedom to travel and the freedom to reach my highest potential. But, perhaps, I may differ in one way — I believe that freedom comes with responsibility and I never lose sight of that. In my freedom, I must continue to be responsible towards my country, to the environment, to fellow humans and to the countries I visit as a traveller.

2. Being a powerful woman and a founder of a company, do you feel that you are independent?     

Yes, I believe I am independent. Being an entrepreneur has taught me a lot. Lessons in resilience, patience, and doggedness have been learned the hard way and that makes me value my independence, my freedom a lot more.

Radhika Batra is celebrated as ‘Tea Sommelier’ who first introduced the idea of fine teas in India in 2006.

Radhika Batra Shah: Radhika Batra Shah is the founder of Radhikas Fine Teas & Whatnots,  which is India’s signature line of premium organic teas and tisanes. Radhika is celebrated as ‘Tea Sommelier’ who first introduced the idea of fine teas in India in 2006. From being an entrepreneur to a marketing professional to a mom, Radhika’s ‘Tea Story’ is a fine blend of warmth and originality. She works directly with tea growers across India, China, Greece, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Turkey to source the best tea leaves straight from the gardens.

1. What does independence mean to you?

Independence for me is the freedom to be and do what I want to without being judged. It is the freedom to live safely.

2. Being a powerful woman and a founder of a company, do you feel that you are independent?

Well, I have been very lucky being in Mumbai, in a cultural environment that aids us to thrive and fulfill dreams. I got great support from my parents and now my husband. I was encouraged to become an entrepreneur despite being in a great organisation and a very successful manager at a very young age. So yes, I am very independent and that makes me enjoy every new innovation as I am inspired each day by like-minded women and men to keep moving ahead.

Prriti Narain is the Country Director- HR at AkzoNobel, a Dutch multinational company which creates paints and performance coatings for both industry and consumers worldwide.

Prriti Narain: Prriti Narain, Country Director-HR at Akzo Nobel, which is a Dutch multinational company that creates paints and performance coatings for industry and consumers worldwide. Prriti is responsible for end-to-end HR management in the subcontinent in all AkzoNobel businesses and GBS center.

  1. What does independence mean to you?

Independence to me means freedoms of choice. Freedom to make decisions where they matter, it also means respecting the independence of those around me- I go by the motto — my independence ends where your’s begins.

In whatever sphere of life we are in whatever our situation — the ability to be independent of biases and prejudices is real independence to me. I would like to add that true freedom comes when a woman professional can speak about her work, share her opinion and ‘lean in’ without being reminded that she is a woman or being questioned about her choices.

2. Being a powerful woman and a senior working professional, do you feel that you are independent?     

As a professional independent woman, I feel independent and feel blessed to have the opportunity to live life on my own terms. As a society we have a long way to go as many women across sections of society are still trapped within biases of the environment and unconscious biases that surround. True independence will come the day we let go of these.

Kanchana TK has worked across the spectrum of businesses related to healthcare consulting and delivery, healthcare access and pharmaceuticals. She is p assionate about gender diversity and associated with various forums.

Kanchana TK: Kanchana TK, Director General, Organisation of Pharmaceutical Producers of India, which represents research-based pharmaceutical companies in India. Her professional experience of over two decades has been recognized with many awards: Women Worth Watching 2017; the ‘Top 50 Impactful Women in Healthcare’ (global listing), ‘Bloomberg-UTV Women in Leadership Award’, ‘WILL Choice Awards’ to name a few.

  1. What does independence mean to you?

To quote poet Faiz “Bol, ke lab azaad hain tere; Bol, zabaan ab tak teri hai” to me, independence is free thought and free speech. This translates to free action for myself and an independence to decide what is good for me. I take those decisions.

2. Being a powerful woman and a senior working professional, do you feel that you are independent?

Financial independence is often underrated. But as an independent career woman, I place great emphasis on earning money and most importantly finding an equal place in society. In India, where the society is still largely patriarchal it’s not as easy as a woman to take independent decisions, but I have very quietly but very firmly established my independent choices.

Do you as a citizen feel free and independent in India? What does independence mean to you? Share your views and experiences with us by posting your comments below: