Motivational Speakers: Let’s Talk

The competitive climate in Indian cities big and small has led to a crisis of confidence among the youth. Motivational speakers step in with a new world view to address alienation and depression.
Vinayak Garg has been finding navigating in daily life easy ever since his forst stint with meditation in 2008
Vinayak Garg has been finding navigating in daily life easy ever since his forst stint with meditation in 2008

Jillian Haslam slept on pavements, ate leftovers and endured poverty. Born in Kolkata in 1970, she was the fifth of 12 children. Disease and poverty claimed almost half of her siblings before the family fled in the dead of the night with Naxalites on their heel. In 1989, her luck turned when she moved to Delhi and managed to get a secretarial job. Today, this Slumdog Millionaire is a successful entrepreneur, author, speaker and philanthropist. An UK resident now, this fighter who had to scrounge for food at one time, earns approximately Rs 2.5 crore annually from her motivational talks and is the topic of a Hollywood documentary. Filmmaker Jack Sholder, who directed Nightmare on Elm Street 2, and screenwriter Joshua Russell recently spent four days in Kolkata preparing for the film. It is set for a 2020 release.

English classes are common. Motivational speakers help people with mental issues too. A 2018 study by NCMH (National Care Of Medical Health) states that at least 6.5 percent Indians suffer from some form of the serious mental disorder. The average suicide rate in India is 10.9 for every lakh people and the majority of people who commit suicide are below 44 years of age. There is an old saying that goes: “You can’t be your own Prophet.” Life coaches bring a fresh perspective. Says Anshul Pratap, who conducts motivational sessions for corporates, “The sessions help in employee retention and urge workers to perform better. They are stress-busters and relationship building exercises, which in turn create goodwill in a ‘pay it forward’ manner.” Many participants get a richer outlook, perspective and a positive approach. As banker Kavitha M puts it, “My bank had organised a three-day motivational session on wellbeing and mindfulness. After the session, I have learnt to let go of useless chaos and anger that inhabits our minds. It has made a difference in the way I handle my day-to-day work.”

Mention motivational speaking and some think it is just another con game to make money. After all, what’s there in motivational speaking, they ask? “All you need to do is talk nineteen to a dozen.” Well, not really. Yes, one needs to talk, but one also needs to talk sense and most importantly, connect with the audience enough to involve him or her emotionally. In fact, motivational speaking is now being seen as a rewarding career choice by many. Anshul himself had participated in a motivational session while in college, and confesses that it helped him sort out his career path, which he felt was kind of in the dark. Another important thing that Anshul and others like him stress is the need to find the right message to convey. In today’s world where time is money, to convince people to give a day of their precious time to you is indeed difficult.

The fact remains that while people may be articulate, no one really is born as a professional speaker. It is a skill that has to be honed. One needs to sign up for public speaking classes, identify the right coach, and focus on delivery style and nuances that will hold an audience spellbound for a session of at least four hours. Everything boils down to good and original content.

Besides, it is not talking alone that encompasses motivational speaking, says Sudesh R Menon, who focuses on fitness and wellness. “Body language, tonality and understanding your audience are the key to a successful session. You can have great content, but unless you have a positive body language and the right tone suiting the session, or if you fail to read the audience’s interest, your session is as good as worthless. It will help no one,” says he and goes on to add that humour and stories combined with accumulated knowledge make sure that the sessions aren’t boring.

“Reading is of paramount importance. One has to simply keep updating and adding on to the existing knowledge. Weaving in real life stories or sharing a tale through metaphors make the session interesting. No one likes to be lectured. It should be more like give and take. Last but not the least, harnessing humour and emotions are extremely important. The moment you replace statistics with something humourous, the audience will clamour for more,” says he. Most speakers agree to the old adage of “practice makes perfect”. Even when not conducting sessions, the speakers are honing their skills for that pitch-perfect delivery. And, why not? It’s all about the voice.

Vinayak Garg (35)

Digital Mindfulnes

Vinayak’s earliest memory of meditation is of sitting cross-legged at a monastery in McLeodganj. This was as part of a Gurukul fellowship in 2008. Ever since, navigating daily life has become slightly easier for Vinayak. With the advent of smartphones , chaos set in. Vinayak decided to opt out and made a conscious decision to move away from the mindless consumption and chasing an inconsequential online experience. Inspired by the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh, he wanted to share this unique balance of technology and spirituality.

Treasured memory

People may be in front of the best monument or in a concert of their favourite singer, but ironically you would find them whipping out their phone and looking at the event, and the beauty only through screen. Many, after attending his sessions, have come forward to tell him that they have made a change.

Mantra People over notifications. Calls over messages.

Cost per session For schools, colleges or educational institutes, his sessions are free.

Priya Kumar (45)


The business of motivational speaking is akin to good karma for Priya. In her 23-year-long journey, she has worked with over 1,500 multinational corporates across 46 countries and has touched over two million lives. An author, she has won numerous international and national awards. Priya treats life as an adventure, and her love for people and her purpose of empowering them, is her driving force. Someone who ardently believes in the future, it is very difficult to dissuade or discourage her.

Treasured memory

When she was writing the book on OP Munjal, who is one of the founders of the Hero Group, she learned that having great relationships is the surest key to success and that if people genuinely admire and respect you, they will protect your legacy and carry it forward.

Mantra Happiness is now. Happiness is not tomorrow.

Cost per session Varies.

Bharat Thakur (47)


While in college, Bharat bagged second prize in a public speaking competition. It made him realise that he could connect with people. It made him want to reach out. Also a self-taught artist, Bharat is decidedly multi-dimensional. He believes his art brings him closer to his yoga practice and spirituality. Motivated by his own search towards why he is here, Bharat’s unique upbringing defines who he is. At the age of four, he was taken to the caves around Gomukh in the higher reaches of the Himalayas and his master took him to the deeper levels of spirituality.

Treasured memory

A 42-year-old woman was practicing yoga for three years when she was diagnosed with a three-inch cyst. He put her on a 40-minute routine of certain asanas. Fifteen days later she had some bleeding and an ultrasound showed that the cyst was gone.

Mantra At any point in life just ask yourself: Are you happy?

Cost per session Depends from case to case.

Nikhil Chandwani (26)

Entrepreneurship, History

Reaching out to people and speaking about his life journey was a catalyst in helping him out of loneliness and Nikhil simply wanted his story to be heard. An author at 18, his love for teaching helped him reach out to over one lakh students. Motivated by India’s glorious past, he along with his team is researching to bring to the fore the lost history from the ancient era, with an aim to bring India to the world stage as the capital of arts, religion, and science.

Treasured memory

Once after a session at the VIT University in Vellore, a guy approached me at 11 pm at the guest house I was staying in. He was visibly broken and wanted to drop out of college. I spoke to him and asked him to come to my city, Nagpur, which he did. I started mentoring him and today he’s a published author, and no more an escapist.

Mantra Life is a blessing when passion stands tall.

Cost per session Rs 35,000 to Rs 70,000

Vikramjit Singh Rooprai (36)

Education, Heritage Awareness

People talk about heritage, but never care to delve deeper into the scientific aspects. After a successful IT career, that started when he was still in school, Vikramjit turned into a Teacher Trainer and established ‘Heritageshaala’, where his team sets up Heritage Labs in schools. Inspired by Sufi saints and people such as Baba Bulleh Shah, Guru Nanak, Baba Farid and Waris Shah, he trains teachers on inclusiveness, sustainability, multiple intelligences and interdisciplinary project-based learning.

Treasured memory

At a media college after he had interacted with the students, they were keen on opting for ‘heritage beat’ during their internship. Many of them are now known journalists who write about heritage.

Mantra ISR: Individual Social Responsibility. Do not wait for others to come and bring a change. Be the change you want to see.  

Cost per session Depends on case to case.

Shikha Tripathi (34)

ACTIVE Travel, Local culture, Sustainability

Inspired by everyday women who do not realise their true potential and make her want to change the narrative, Shikha considers herself an ‘informal’ motivational speaker. A traveller at heart, she is born with a love for adventure. When not managing her resort in Uttarakhand’s Binsar, this child of the mountains can be found skiing or trekking, or simply enjoying a rendezvous with nature. She brings all this and more in her talks and hopes to encourage others to give back to nature in countless ways.

Treasured memory

A young girl was part of the informal talk she did as a college alumna in Bengaluru. Shikha was sharing with the attendees the power of dreams and how one can follow an unconventional career. A few years later the girl actually showed up in the mountains, wanting to orient herself and to volunteer with a project Shikha was working on.

Mantra Keep rising; only dust settles.

Cost per session Varies.

S Venkatesh (45)

Mindfulness, Business

Over a 22-year corporate career in senior roles, Venkatesh has helped people scale up businesses, create value and grow. At the same time, he went through a parallel inner journey of overcoming roadblocks and discovering his passion. This alumnus of IIT Delhi and IIM Calcutta wanted to share his learning with others too. Inspired by the courage and compassion displayed by ordinary men and women who perform extraordinary acts of bravery or kindness he talks on innovation, handling disruption, unleashing creativity, strategic thinking, business acumen, entrepreneurial mindset, mindfulness and personal transformation.

Treasured memory

Some time back, he had conducted a workshop on ‘creating a culture of innovation’ for the top management of an infrastructure company. A few weeks later, he got a call from them asking if he wanted to advise them on major game-changing initiatives. Today, the company has gone on to
achieve great heights.

Mantra “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”, from the ancient Chinese text, Tao Te Ching.

Cost per session Varies widely.

Neera Maini Srivastav (45)

Brand communications & Content, Wellbeing

Knowing oneself is the precursor to any success. It was her own spiritual journey that led Neera to believe in the need for more education. A writer of several books, Neera has worked in advertising, production and media. She has recently forayed into screenwriting for both television and cinema. Motivated by people who have gratitude for each moment/person/circumstance, she turned to motivational speaking thanks to her avid interest in new age spirituality and metaphysics. The thought that she could facilitate this knowledge in someone else, egged her on.

Treasured memory

Someone undergoing deep depression, bordering on suicide, connected with her on Facebook. She allowed her to pour her heart out to me and then she shared her views on life. After a few months she wrote to Neera saying how grateful she was for that one interaction that helped her tide over her crisis.

Mantra The more you wait, the less you create. The power/magic is being in the present moment and giving it your all.

Cost per session She prefers individual one-on-one sessions, and the fee is as per the case.

Sonia Narang (44)

Nutrition, Fitness, Wellbeing

If you ask Sonia why she chose this field, she has a simple answer: “My parents spent time building me up and now, I am paying it forward.” A prominent dietician and nutritionist, she helps her clients with transformation of mind, body and soul. She believes it is her family that keeps her going, not to mention the strength she finds in cases that seem too difficult to handle.  

Treasured memory

A 68-year-old Army veteran, an osteoarthritis patient, who lost his wife to cancer, regularly comes to her for consultations on his health and fitness. His enthusiasm and positivity to stay fit always inspires her.

Mantra Think differently. Everyone has a calling.

Cost per session Rs 1,500

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