Rendevous with Rasshmi: THE AGE OF NO RETIREMENT!! Padmaja Kulkarni
Rasshmi Kansupada   Sep-2019   1010 Views   0 Comments
Welcome to RENDEZVOUS WITH RASSHMI . A page dedicated to ordinary people of our community… yes ordinary, but with that Xtra ordinary talent, achievement and that inspiring Xfactor!!

Do you think that life ends at seventy and the fun is over? Do you think that after retirement there are only knitting and soap operas left? It turns out, that once you grow old, you have the spare time to actually do what you love, learn new skills, travel and follow your dreams. Above all, though, it's not age, but attitude that defines us.

My guest Padmaja Kulkarni at 77, is a calendar girl, model, actor, folk singer and dancer, all rolled into one. An epitome of grace and energy, Padmajaji has added many feathers to her cap at this age and she is still raring to go miles ahead. Her maiden name is Lata Damle, daughter of prestigious Damle family from Khanapur near Belgaum. As a youngster, she took part in Samyukta Maharashtra movement. She led a socially repressed life in a traditional joint family for over five decades. Yet she is surprisingly upbeat. You would wonder why till you realize it is precisely because of her suffering that she found a creative outlet and redemption in Bharud, a traditional art form that dramatizes social and familial issues.

Traditionally performed by men, and sung not danced, Bharud is a popular Maharashtrian folk art, which are songs first written by Sant Dnyaneshwar in the 12 th century and were made popular by Sant Eknath in the 16 th century. These songs have two meanings-one materialistic and the other spiritual. Despite opposition from the male bastion, at the age of 50 years, Padmajaji formed her own group of 15 women in 1994 to perform the Bharud folk art after surviving a major spine operation. Om Shri Maa Bhagini Bharud Mandal, as it is called, and which was formed by the encouragement of her Guru, Maltibai Joshi, is the country’s first all woman troupe of its kind and also has a mention in the Limca Book of world Records.

It has not been a cake walk though for Padmajaji behind her success. The idea to include women in society and to give them a status was the prime thought of her being drawn towards this art form. Her family was never keen on her interests and she often faced tussels. But she believed in always flowing against the current. Her initiatives broke several barriers, not only was she the first woman to dare to perform Bharud, but she was also the first one to add dance to the art form. Rather than lose heart because of the opposition, she used it all in her song writing. Her adaptations of the Bharud songs are laced with humor however the underlying pathos is evident, pointing to an era when women did not have a voice. That her performances draws large crowds of women even today is a reminder that our social fabric may have changed but superficially. She feels that things have changed today but women liberation in its complete sense is yet to be achieved. Her songs are also well known for their social messages such as tree conservation and fighting child marriages.

Not one to mince words, she is clear about her ethical stance. She has performed all over India and gone on tours to US and UK. One of her notable performance has been at Pune’s Yerwada jail, where after the performance all the women took a pledge to reform themselves and Padmajaji really felt accomplished that her art had been upheld. She feels that through this folk art, she can bring to light various issues related to women in society. She also composes powada popular Maharashtrian lok geet based on women of today’s generation and on great warriors like Tararani and Jhansi ki Rani. She wishes to spread the message of such brave women through her writings and performances. She has also written mangalashtakas, mantras recited during a wedding which again have a modern day touch. She recites palane which are songs sung to mark the birth on occasions like Ram Navami and Krishna Janmashtami.

Padmajaji has also been a very active social worker. As and when possible, she helps the students who are physically challenged, gives free tuitions to children and spread literacy among women living in the  slums. She has also helped women open bank accounts and take steps towards financial independence. She has received numerous awards for her social inclinations. She has featured in ads for popular brands such as Mc Donalds, Airtel, Dominos Pizza and has had her tryst with Bollywood movies too. She also savours the art of cookery and has featured in popular cookery shows.

Today too she practices for an hour everyday and focuses on teaching other female performers. She has already trained over 500 women in the art and hopes that the legacy will go on. Though unique in her abilities, she lives an austere life. Her youthfulness is showcased in her spontaneous acts in front of the mirror. Padmajaji believes that like Bharunda the mythical two headed bird that is believed to symbolize good luck, her life has been divided into two phases and the second has redeemed the melancholy of the first. Sobriqueted as African Damle, she has not only been a pioneer in safeguarding this age old culture but through it also restored and polished the old skills of social education and enlightenment.

The secret of a genius is to carry the spirit of the child into old age, which means NEVER LOSING YOUR ENTHUSIASM!!

Winners Never Quit : Uma DeviReddy in conversation with Rashmi Kansupada
Rasshmi Kansupada   Jun-2019   724 Views   0 Comments

Have you ever wondered why minorities are underrepresented in your favorite Game of thrones show? Similarly, have you ever wondered why there is under representation in your work environment or in the world around you? Or have you ever felt like you are being seen but not heard? If any of these questions resonates with you then my thoughts in this article might garner your interest.  

I have been working for 22 years for companies ranging from nimble startups to fortune 500 firms in entry level to middle management roles. My work experience makes me uniquely qualified for penning my thoughts about diversity and inclusion.  In my most recent experience working with a major financial institution service I was fortune enough to have worked in various teams from technology to business giving me the insight into a diverse perspective of different teams. Through my experience I have learnt that it is not just being represented or the not being represented but, the real question is are we  being heard. I have over years felt like I have had to work extra hard and constantly prove my worth to be accepted. I questioned if my challenges and struggles were due to diversity being looked at as a detriment rather than as a strength. 

As I shared my experiences with others, people started sharing their experiences and it seemed evident that it an epidemic concern that still needed to be addressed. Many felt like there still was an invisible limitation that pulled them down from moving up the corporate ladder or being heard. Although there has been a lot of work that has been done towards Diversity and inclusion, it felt like there still is a lot that can be done.  

According to the annual 2018 diversity report, 66.8% of all jobs are held by men while 33.2% are held by women.  Based on Quantum Impact’s diversity report, one out of every five organizations (20 Percent) do not have a single woman serving on their leadership teams. These number are even worse for women of color. Only 4 percent of the top corporate jobs are held by women of color. As interesting as these numbers are, these numbers totally substantiate my experience.  

Studies have shown that diverse workforce not only brings creative thinking and a fresh perspective but also increases company’s bottom line. A recent Clover Pop research study conducted over a 2-year span with 200 business units showed inclusive teams make better business decisions 87% of the time. While these numbers for average teams were 66%. Decision made and executed by diverse teams were successful over 60% of the times.    

Based on my experience, here are a few things I think absolutely needs to be done for us to be able to see some real change. 

1.       Leaders need to go through a training so that they become aware of their subconscious bias

2.       Organizations should consciously make efforts to hire diverse leaders in executive roles

3.       Leaders should consciously make efforts to interact with diverse team members. Leaders should ask themselves, who do they sit next to when they enter a meeting room? If you are looking for someone to go out and eat lunch with, who are you drawn towards?  Make conscious decisions to be inclusive in your choices

These numbers and facts were call to action for me. I felt compelled to do something about Diversity and Inclusion. While there are many organizations that have started to do great work in this phase of diversity and inclusion, I still feel like a lot of work needs to be done. I am influenced to continue this work not only for me and many like me but also for leaders of tomorrow.

To move these efforts forward, I created a forum for us called Inside the Diverse Mind to address this epidemic concern of diversity and inclusion. Inside the Diverse Mind is a talk show featuring successful leaders in 45-minute episodes that will be telecast bi-weekly on YouTube and Facebook.  Our focus at Inside the Diverse Mind is to educate and encourage leaders to be conscious and intentional about Diversity and inclusion in their hiring and leadership decisions. Our goal is to educate our future leaders and our next generation to learn the skills to be more inclusive.  

Leaders from various organizations have come forward to support and participate in our show already making the right strides towards a better and inclusive diverse world. 

Please like our Facebook page @insidethediversemind to stay updated on our upcoming shows.



RENDEZVOUS WITH RASSHMI: Age is just a number Arti Akila Saran
Rasshmi Kansupada   May-2019   712 Views   0 Comments
Welcome to RENDEZVOUS WITH RASSHMI . A page dedicated to ordinary people of our community…yes ordinary, but with that Xtra ordinary talent, achievement and that inspiring Xfactor!!

Enjoying retired life means different things to different people. Perhaps you’re looking forward to taking up new hobbies or traveling more – or maybe for you this is the perfect time to dive head first into a new startup venture. My guest Arti Akila Saran came to the US, 45 years ago, along with her husband with a ton of youthful obtuseness which helped them see only the possibilities of America and none of the challenges of making it in a new country where they had no family and friends. Her achievements make success stories which are worth reading and sharing.

Born and brought up in Nagpur Maharashtra, Akilaji came to America at a time when India was widely regarded as the very epitome of what the term “Third World” meant – decrepit, destitute and pitiable. Americans were inclined to the view that India was pretty jammed with poor people and cows wandering around streets, witch doctors and people sitting on hot coals and bathing in the Ganges. She joined Nursing School in Palo Alto California, and after training for 4 years she became a registered Nurse. Her nursing experience was extremely good and rewarding. She also completed her surgical technology course and assisted her husband in his practice as an eye specialist.

Akilaji always wanted to work independently. Being an entrepreneur can be an exciting and liberating endeavor. Many people have ideas for a business or product, but only a few take the leap and open a new business. She bought her friend’s shop in Trader’s village and began her business of selling jewellery, toys and general merchandise. She stayed there for a couple of years and then decided to start her own wholesale business in 1982 in Arlington Texas. She used to sell various items including leather products and knives and tools. She dared to migrate to entrepreneurship at a time when global exposure was scarce and the understanding of consumer behaviour in the US was limited. Women of color faced additional and unique obstacles in almost every area of society, including business. Women from minority backgrounds who wanted to start their own businesses were up against more hurdles. These entrepreneurs typically didn’t have a network of professional mentors to support them. They had more family responsibilities to balance and they had a much more difficult time accessing money, which is obviously key to a business’s future success.

Most of the goods were not available locally and had to be imported which involved a lot of struggle but Akilaji was determined to become a very successful business woman. She used to have customers asking for different tools and hardware. Her enterprising outlook motivated her to expand her horizon and she attended shows in Las Vegas, Los Angeles and various other cities in the US. She was receptive to new ideas, did her research and bought goods from as far as China and India. She then moved to Harry Hines in Dallas, TX in 2005. She has been doing her business successfully from past two decades.

She believes that one should embrace the failures and the mistakes as they all serve as an opportunity to learn. We should be courageous and chase our dreams through perseverance. Persistence really pays off, and everything takes time. That is why it’s so important for one to believe in and feel passionately about what one is creating or offering.

Running a business isn’t easy -- it takes hard work and discipline to reach success. Being an entrepreneur is the ultimate test of independence. You are the only person responsible for your successes or failures. Akilaji has used the power of business to make a positive change to society. She has taught us not to count ourself out, no matter what our age. Success can come to anyone at any time. She really believes that age is just a number. If one is healthy physically and mentally, your age should not be a barrier to starting anything new or pursuing your passion.

"Entrepreneurship has no age or time limits...it thrives on hope and inspiration. Those who choose to participate can only make the world a better place."

Bringing Nature Back To Beauty!!
Rasshmi Kansupada   Feb-2019   1122 Views   1 Comments
Welcome to RENDEZVOUS WITH RASSHMI . A page dedicated to ordinary people of our community…yes ordinary, but with that Xtra ordinary talent, achievement and that inspiring Xfactor!!

If you were the kind of kid who sat in the yard mixing potions with water, flowers, plants and fruits(what we now call naturally-sourced materials) and imagining all of the uses for your concoctions, then you would be able to relate to my guest Mukta Ghoshal, the founder of No.1 Natural Beauty.

Did you know you can absorb more toxins from personal, skincare and hair-care products than from food? Your skin is the largest organ in your body — and also the thinnest. Less than one-tenth of an inch separates your body from potential toxins. Worse yet, your skin is highly permeable. Just about anything you put on your skin will end up in your bloodstream and will be distributed throughout your body. There are so many key phrases we’re told to look for when shopping for our makeup and skincare: natural, organic, chemical-free, cruelty-free, and eco-friendly. If only all of them were easier to decipher, skincare shopping would be a lot easier. 

Well, lets meet Mukta our green environment crusader who firmly believes in the very old tradition, proven over years, of treating skin and hair with fresh and natural formulations. Right from childhood she was always interested in taking care of her skin and hair and was known in her family for always digging into natural ingredients and mixing and applying them day and night. Her curiosity & creativity in fashion, particularly in skin and hair kept growing and led her to try out freshly formulated facial masks and henna applications on family members and friends in the neighborhood eventually earning her some pocket money which surely meant a lot to her at that time. She would be showered by compliments in parties for her lustrous hair and even had incidents when people would actually come and pull her hair to make sure it was really thick and shiny. This made her feel more confident to stand out in the crowd and slowly started participating in local fashion shows and college events where she earned few titles like & Ms Crown & Glory”, Ms. Gorgeous Hair and was even offered modelling assignments.

She moved to Dallas TX in 2013 from Shenzhen where she was an English language teacher and had proved her mettle and also earned the title of one of the topmost English Corporate Trainer in the daily newspaper. She also acquired fluency in the Chinese language. The move was not easy for her especially to accept a career breakdown from being an independent woman to having to start afresh. She soon realized that each situation comes with a challenge and with a smile she began to recollect her childhood passion of love for nature and she decided to do something different with a combination of passion and her knowledge of being a Botanist(Bachelors in Plant Study). She did online research, some self learning courses and educated herself on natural formulations. She soon began processing in her small kitchen, turning it into a mini lab, making face masks, serums and hair oil and tested on herself and also invited friends to try them. Initially it wasn’t that easy to convince anyone to try it out but she always keep it transparent to all and took them to her kitchen and formulated right there after testing their skin and hair type.

In 2016, she began her Green customised beauty line No.1 Natural Beauty Organic Skin and Hair after many word of mouth recommendations. She printed simple flyers, knocked every store and attended events to reach out and bring about awareness about her products and services. Managing an all-natural skincare line involves a lot of hard work and creative thinking. All her products are customized as per skin and hair type. They are freshly made of pure botanical extracts and world exotic herbs in fresh or dried form, are free from any preservatives, artificial fragrance or additives and are completely chemical free. With regular use of No.1 Natural Beauty products, one is assured of high purity but over time would be benefited with overall wellness as her products focus towards holistic approach by which not only one gets the freshness but overall more focus and feels more energetic and relaxed. She works in hand with each client with regular follow ups. Her focus is not to generate revenue rather count on each clients benefited result which is an achievable target. With no frill and fancy packaging, she tries to minimize her cost and provide quality service and product to fit into every budget. She has a well equipped mobile vehicle and offers her services in the comfort of one’s home and within flexible hours. She is a perfect model for her products as her skin surely defies her age. She aims to create a brand that involves discovery, learning and sharing.

We are all born with great skin and gorgeous hair but as we age we start loosing elasticity or rather say cell degeneration. Hence avoiding any harsh chemicals would be the first step to go Natural. The call of the hour is to be environmentally responsible. Nature has abundance in the most purest form, so there should not be any room for any chemically processed products. Natural beauty is the best make up one can have. Accepting the fact that we all are aging each day, in Mukta’s words “Lets age gracefully with fine lines on a radiant skin and gorgeous grey lustrous hair”.

Kanan Shah : Women of many hats
Rasshmi Kansupada   Jan-2019   2299 Views   0 Comments


A page dedicated to ordinary people of our community… yes ordinary, but with that Xtra ordinary talent, achievement and that inspiring Xfactor!!

As a woman, do you wear a lot of hats? Sometimes these hats are stacked so high that trying to balance them all on our competent-but-anxious-and-exhausted heads sends us toppling over completely!

Let’s meet Kanan Shah, from Coppell TX, who dons many hats and yet maintains such an amiable   disposition. She is a teacher and runs her own customized tutoring academy called Ottimmo, is a true Mumbaikar at heart who loves to host great parties, make new friends, always ready to help others. ….and if that is not all she is a passionate cook and also runs a catering business!!

She spent her formative years in a joint family in Mumbai which inculcated the habit of sharing and caring right from childhood. It made her understand that living with aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents did not restrict her education to academics and school only but it had a much wider horizon. She considers these years as her best as they were full of growing up fun with friends, most of whom she has still maintained contacts with, inspite of the distances.

She had her stint with Corporate America and worked with Deutsche Bank and Chase in New Jersey and then moved to Dallas in 2003, due to her job at Lockheed Martin. When her son, Kavi Shah started high school in Coppell, he expressed his desire to join KD classes for SAT preparation.  Since Kanan had earlier worked in Kumon and had evaluated the different coaching classes, she decided to hire private tutors under her own company and have her son tutored at home. Thus was born Ottimmo, meaning “Excellence” in Italian, reinstating the proverb that Necessity is the Mother of Invention!!

Kavi Shah scored a perfect 2400 on his SAT, completed his graduation with 3 majors and 2 degrees from UT Austin and is currently working with McKinsey, the #1 consulting company in the world with global acceptance rate of 1%-lower than admission rate of Harvard!!

Kanan did not want Ottimmo to be a run-of-the mill academy. She focuses on strategy based learning, has been an advocate for her students, and customizes tutoring as per their needs. She not only teaches the child but also educates the parent and has also taken some to task for imposing their dreams on their child. She firmly believes that each child is different and their uniqueness is what sets them apart. Children learn in different ways depending on their developmental stages. They love to learn new things by exploring and discovering.

Her observation of kids brings a sad truth to light. Some parents are unaware of the needs of their child. Some knowingly ignore their child’s needs, due to social stigma, perceptions, culture etc. Some are unaware of the amazing education system of this country. This is the tragedy of a mega proportion. It is really unfortunate that, with the unhealthy life style and diet, unlimited social media exposure, stress etc. there are more children with special/extra needs than ever before.

On several occasions, Kanan has accompanied parents to school and talked to the authorities about the child’s needs, either special needs or the extra care and attention that is required in certain areas. She does the same when tutoring her children. She also understands the importance of self-initiative, down time and developing skills inherently rather than just memorizing. This has worked wonders for so many of her students. They have gone from failing students to star students, skipping grades and being admitted in the Gifted and Talented programs.

Where others see impenetrable barriers, Kanan sees challenges to embrace and obstacles to overcome. She has always taken the hurdles along her journey as opportunities to grow. Teaching the kids for long hours not only brings her joy but she also derives her energy from them. She has a child-like inquisitiveness and is ever willing to learning new skills and avail new opportunities. She plans to take her passion to cook to another level and diversify into health food catering. Her mantra is “Don’t depend on others to write your destiny. We have to create our own destiny”. The pen that writes your life story must be held in your own hand. She has a very inspiring message to share with us and that is not to underestimate the power of our own strength and to focus on what we can do to help others. Gaining success for yourself, celebrating the achievement in others and feeling and giving empowerment through every little action is going to make you happier, others happier. Everyone is thus more likely to push a little bit harder, or have that little bit more confidence in themselves, the next time!!


Rasshmi Kansupada   Sep-2018   1120 Views   0 Comments

SHAMA RAJANI, the hidden face behind the brand India Bazaar.

A page dedicated to ordinary people of our community… yes ordinary, but with that Xtra ordinary talent, achievement and that inspiring Xfactor!!

My first interview in these series is with a woman who true to her Company's tag line gives us India here in the US, like nobody does. A woman who started at the grass root level as a cashier and in less than a decade has risen to become the Franchise and Marketing Director of her Company. SHAMA RAJANI, the hidden face behind the brand India Bazaar. Ms. Rajani is originally from Hyderabad in Southern India and moved to the United States nearly eight years ago. She currently resides in Plano, TX with her loving husband who according to her is no less than a child .

She holds 2 Bachelor degrees from India, one in Commerce and the other in Education. Her thirst for knowledge led her to obtain her Masters in Education from SMU, Dallas TX whilst pursuing her full time job. Her family also consists of her father whom she considers her guiding force and her two siblings. Quite contrary to the saying that behind every successful man there is a woman, she proudly proclaims that her father is her support pillar. According to her, it doesn't matter what jobyou're doing, having someone believe in you can make all the difference between success and failure. Her hobbies include reading and travelling along with exploring new avenues.

Because she has been with the Company from the time they were two stores old, and served from the front desk all the way to the executive table, she is able to relate with her employees, no matter what their position. Getting to where she is today wasn't an easy feat, but Shama, proved with hard work and dedication that no goal is out of reach as long as you're willing to work towards it consistently. As she has grown with the organization, or better still in her words, as the organization grown with her, she has transitioned from building a performance brand to building a performance culture. She inspires and motivates others to be the best they can be. One of the biggest traits that has gotten her to where she is today is having the kind of passion and drive that is contagious with other employees and helps them see the business as their own. She is proud of her journey that started off more than six years ago and has now grown into displaying multi-folds of her leadership capabilities including but not limited to opening different locations of India Bazaar and marketing for overall brand existence of Rajula's Kitchen, Grain Market etc. Together with the owners, Shama, has the experience from opening a location, all the way to managing all aspects of it. She was awarded the Employee of the Year in 2014 and Executive of the Year award in 2017.

She thinks of herself as a Go-Getter, a person who doesn't believe in giving up. She believes in making impossible possible for its worth. She tries to achieve excellence in everything she does, as life is a survival of fittest and she means to be fit for a long time! To quote her, "In a male dominated society, women have a really stronger role to play and I leverage on my strength that no one can be ‘ME’. Shama Rajani is a true example that there's opportunity everywhere-even at the bottom of the totem pole & recognizing those opportunities and not being afraid to work hard and take on unfamiliar duties can lead to amazing things!!