Fuelled by challenges
As president of FICCI's Ladies Organisation, Surekha Kothari has lined up some interesting programmes for aspiring women entrepreneurs.
There's an air of hushed sobriety about the house. Much like its owner Surekha Kothari. Looking a lot younger than her 52 years, she radiates friendly vibes and can-do optimism. Quite naturally, for as the newly elected national president of FICCI's Ladies Organisation (FLO), she has lined up some sure-fire schemes to support women and gear them up for the riddles of the new century.
Hailing from a background of corporate honchos, Surekha was not the type to surrender to a life of domestic bliss and watch the world swirl by. Moving forward on her own steam, this singer, lyricist, painter, garment designer and director of Kothari Industrial Corporation, is determined to take challenges head-on and contribute significantly to society.
A fine opportunity to realise her dream came when she was recently elected president of FLO, an apex organisation that functions as a wing of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry. "We want more women to join the fiercely competitive world of business and become economically independent. FLO is not a frivolous social organisation. We mean serious work and as far as our cause is concerned, we are focussed and committed," asserts Surekha.
What was initially an outfit comprising wives of FICCI members in 1983, has today blossomed into an organisation with women from all walks of life. Though headquartered in New Delhi, it actively supports women's causes in Chennai, Kolkata, Coimbatore, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Mumbai and Ranchi. "FLO will not be confined to the metros alone. There are plans to fan out to rural areas as well."
When asked to elaborate on FLO's work, Surekha explains, "Our objective is the empowerment of women. This is done at three levels grass root, middle and senior through entrepreneurship development programmes. Our thrust is to facilitate income generation among women. So we organise vocational training programmes, workshops, talks by experts, panel discussions and other related activities. A majority of our activities are supported by the German-based Hanns Seidel Foundation."
As the newly elected president, what plans has she lined up for the year? "Well... FLO will certainly expand its activities. Besides launching chapters in six cities, we also plan to inaugurate more Business Consultation Cells to help aspiring women entrepreneurs and offer them support in problem areas. We also propose to take delegations abroad to meet women's organisations and explore the possibilities of setting up joint ventures. FLO will soon have an honorary panel of top women achievers to assist those seeking help."
Talking passionately about FLO's cause, Surekha goes on... "The potential of women is yet to be tapped effectively. Even in small hamlets, there are scores of women with immense talent. Though FLO has been in existence for almost two decades, there is not much awareness of the work undertaken by this apex organisation. We want the right women to approach us and benefit from our programmes. Our workshops cover a wide range of topics, from taxation to investment planning."
There is an air of potent energy as Surekha explains FLO's objective and strategy for this year. Balancing personal strengths with deep commitment, she is all out to provide women stability in the face of change. "FLO presidentship is a full time job. That's why I waited till I became relatively free. And now, it's going to be a year of sabbatical for my music career too."
Music being her abiding passion, the topic instantly brings a soft glow to her eyes. Surekha's oeuvre includes khayal, thumri, ghazal, bhajan, geet and Carnatic vocal. A performer and teacher of Hindustani classical (vocal) music, Surekha has been constantly reinventing herself over the years. Besides penning her own lyrics for some of her albums, she has also rendered songs in languages as diverse as Assamese and Tamil. Her only regret is that Chennai "is not the place for Hindustani music."
Talking about her tryst with garment designing, she admits, "It was a coincidence. When I came to Chennai, I used to design my own clothes. Enquiries followed and it naturally led to my opening a boutique in Nungambakkam."
About the balancing act necessitated by such overlapping of roles, this mother of three says with simmering intensity, "I am a workaholic. I just can't sit idle. As a serious student of Vedanta, I was exposed to a life of high thinking. My mother was a very spiritual person. So naturally, I too became spiritually inclined. Even at a young age, I realised that desires were man's worst enemies. And when it came to adapting to different circumstances, the Vedanta has stood me in great stead. As someone who has taken so much from society, I think it is my duty to pay back. I firmly believe that every woman must engage herself in something substantial... and do justice to life."
For information regarding FLO's Chennai chapter, contact its chairperson Zainab A. Kachwalla, No.5, Shafi Mohammed Road, Nungambakkam, ph: 8290268.
T. KRITHIKA REDDY
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