Rituparna Chakraborty, Co-Founder of TeamLease Services Ltd, is the winner of the 2016 Telstra Business Woman in Asia Award. In a chat with Karma Negi of The Red Mark Rituparna explains why women workforce participation in India has become worse than before, and how education has had an inverse relationship to getting them back to work.
How do you feel on bagging the inaugural Telstra Business Woman in Asia Award?
“Humbled” is all I can say. I have been inspired by some incredible women from Australia and Asia, learnt about creative thinking, hard work and “never give up” attitude. Took back tales about what corporate social responsibility really means in the real – given Telstra’s dedication in all these years to this cause.
Tell us in brief about your professional journey?
I am heading the Staffing Business and India’s first PPP Apprenticeship Program – NETAP, at TeamLease Services Limited. I have an MBA in sales & marketing, and I am responsible for profit centre management for the most part of my career. Aggressive sales and revenue growth without compromising on my personal and organisational value system has been my approach to my work. I have also worked with organisations like Monster.com, a dot-com and an HR services startup since leaving my B-School.
I was recently recognised as one of Global Power 100 & International 50 Women in Staffing Industry for 2015 & 2016. I represented Employers of India in ILO Convention for Private Employment Agencies in Geneva. Apart from spearheading various reform (labour) agenda with the Government of India, and I am also the Founder, Trustee and elected president of Indian Staffing Federation – the representative body for the staffing industry in India.
How difficult it is for professional women to break the glass ceiling?
In India, the problem is of not having adequate women leadership pipeline to break the glass ceiling. Women workforce participation in India has become worse than before and interestingly education has had an inverse relationship to getting them back to work. While safety is an issue, however, it is not the only issue behind the growing inverse relationship between education of women and their workforce participation.
There is a combination of issues around their willingness to make themselves available for work and availability of opportunities for women in line with the kind of education they are pursuing. The former is influenced largely by the growing increase in household income, husband’s education and changing career curve, the stigma associated with educated women doing menial work and falling selectivity of highly educated women. On the latter data suggests employment in sectors appropriate for educated women grew less than the supply of educated workers, leading many women to withdraw from the labour force.
Data clearly shows that while women workforce participation is still quite encouraging at the entry level, it keeps reducing dramatically from the middle level.
How has your experience been as a woman leader?
I am rather fortunate to have had the guidance of the right kind of mentors since early on in my career, that helped me build my confidence and stay on the course. A large part of the credit goes to my parents, as well, who never made me conscious of my gender. While they have taught me right from wrong – they never told me what’s right for me as a woman and what’s not.
How did you get where you are today, and who/what helped you along the way?
It’s my belief that I am yet to reach my destination, however, the journey has been exciting largely because I never went looking for a job. All I focused on was creating my own work – which helps me to remain excited about each day, as I know that I can change, improve, nurture, grow etc. There is never a boring day for me as I give myself permission to be the master of my destiny. This empowerment came from my parents, sister, friends and of course Manish Sabharwal, our Chairman, and Ashok Reddy, our managing director.
How much of hard work and luck do you think is responsible for your success?
I always trust the adage “luck is a residue of hard work”. We usually lose when we give up. Early in my life, I learnt the hard way that no one loses, some of us just quit. Also, I keep telling myself that the secret to success is to never be successful. Kills your hunger.
What advice do you give young women who want to succeed in the workplace?
Stay on the course. While there would be 10 reasons for you to not work or quit, hold on to that one reason inside of you which tells you to keep at it. Also look for mentors, ones who would help you, guide you in those initial years when you need it the most. Mentors can be at work, or outside. They could be women or men. Doesn’t matter.
What holds professional women professionals/entrepreneurs back?
Women are genetically more inhibited and unsure of themselves than the opposite sex. Or rather they look for more perfection inside of them to believe in their suitability for a job. Think it’s important for us to learn that no one is perfect for a job – important to ask whether one has the ability to learn and grow in the role. Whether it’s a new job or a new business that one is out to start – one can’t really wait for all signal to be green before you leave home. Just get started.
Do you think this is the best time for women entrepreneurs? If yes, why?
Best time was 60 years back, the second best is now, as there are organisations like Telstra who recognise a woman’s role in the workplace and also award them be it from the not-for-profit and social enterprises or from corporate or private sectors.
Going forward, what are your plans for the company?
To make TeamLease India’s largest private sector employer, the largest staffing company in the world by headcount, the largest private sector apprenticeship programme.