BENGALURU: Pinky Lilani, a celebrated author, motivational speaker and one of the 100 most powerful women in the UK (BBC Radio 4 woman’s hour power list) was in Bengaluru recently, addressing the women entrepreneurs from Ficci Flo in the club house of Phoenix Kessaku. She tells City Express about her journey from India to visiting the Buckingham Palace with a car full of rubbish.
Your achievements are all about breaking stereotypes. Was your family conservative?
Yes, they were. They were quite conservative actually. Of course they wanted me to be educated but nobody except my aunt had actually worked in my family when it came to women.
Was your husband supportive?
Yes, he was very supportive. He is a free spirit himself (laughs). I don't think you can be yourself if there is someone holding you back. If I stayed in India, my mom would keep telling me, 'Don't do that'. In England, there was no one to tell me that.
We all have had some stereotypes that we never knew existed within us. During your journey, what stereotypes did you realise you had?
There are a lot of Indian women you would meet in England and there will be many types. But they will always ask, 'What car do you drive?' or they will check if I'm wearing Jimmy Choo. They always kept asking me 'What does your husband do?' So I replied to one, 'Oh! he plays Black Jack.' But then she replied that she was asking to check if she could do business with him. Now I've made many good friends there.
Another instance, in this school I went to, there were Bangladesh girls wearing hijabs but you should hear these girls speak, Oh my God! They could put you to shame. So for me, I had all those stereotypes. And you break them inch by inch.
How can one reach out to as many people as possible for women empowerment?
You need to have credibility. When I wanted someone to sponsor me, they asked me if I'm famous or if I've had success before. Yet if you don't get that first sponsor, you don't know where to start. So, you need network-- and that will happen only when you go out there. There is this saying I believe in, 'If I can see further, it is because I stand on the shoulders of giants.' All my works, everyone has played their part. The more people you know, the more powerful a network you have. It is all about collaboration and kindness.
Any funny story to share?
I was invited to the Buckingham Palace and in this instance, we were allowed to take our cars in. On Friday, I filled my car with all kinds of rubbish. I asked my son to throw all of that away, but he didn't. So I land up in the palace and they ask me to open the trunk-- and there was all my rubbish. They started scanning it. I was holding my breath and I had three other people in the car with me and there were people clicking pictures of my car. It was quite embarrassing then, but today when I look back, it's very funny.
Arshiya Ladak, Phoenix spokesperson says, “We are fortunate to have collaborated with Pinky Lilani today to talk about the power of kindness and collaboration in business and personal success”.