Success Stories:
Her Story Her Way

“Competence and learning: Be the best at what you are going to do, mediocrity is not going to take you very far… this is an absolute no compromise trait we have to develop".

Pooja Rao a career-oriented women and a go-getter, she started working in 1998 straight out of the college and got a good job in the HR department of an IT company, she continued to pursue her career in the same field and worked till she got busy prioritizing her motherhood. After a while she started working again with a gap of two years and blissfully got a dream comeback job where she didn’t had to make any compromises on salary or role, even after taking a maternity break. After working for three more years she suddenly realized that she wanted to start something of her own rather than continuing with a on desk corporate job. She mentioned “Transform Pilates was something that fell into place at the correct time, it was almost like it was destined to happen!” Transform Pilates is the name of her Pilates studio. It is currently a well-known fitness brand with a niche space where people exercise and learn Pilates, an intelligent way of exercising. The atmosphere there is non-competitive, personal and encouraging.  

What ignited the spark in you to take the leap of faith and have a startup of your own?
After I quit my corporate job I decided that I want to do something that was close to my heart and fitness has always been something that I’m passionate about. Pilates is a great form of exercise that unfortunately is not very well known in India (although that is slowly changing). I got certified to teach Pilates and spent a few years teaching in various health clubs and studios however in the meanwhile, I felt I wanted to create my own space where people especially those who were intimidated by a typical gym environment would feel uninhibited and could become fit without being injured. The Transform Pilates Studio was born out of this need to create a comfortable, personal environment where people were fully engaged in what they are doing. I particularly like to encourage older women or women who have never exercised to get fit. Talking to such women I realize that the gym can be a very intimidating place for a novice. I also see that there are many myths and misconceptions regarding exercise that women continue to believe in with regard to nutrition, strength training or working out during menstrual cycle etc. I try to break down those barriers in my classes by having an ongoing conversation about these things.  

How has been your journey been so far? Also, please share your future goals?
Needless to say the journey so far has been a huge learning experience for me. From setting up the studio to marketing and running classes I have done it almost singlehandedly. Pilates being a new form of exercise in India I have had to not only market it but primarily educate people on what Pilates is and how it would benefit them. Hiring instructors so far has been an uphill task since there are very few certified professionals and very few places that an instructor could get certified in India. My future goals would be to make Transform Pilates a place where fitness professionals can certify themselves and become a hub for not only clients wanting to take Pilates classes but also for professionals who want to become certified instructors.  

Please mention your challenges and your strategies to overcome them?
Mentioned above. The main challenge has been to hire certified instructors. I plan to establish a training hub for Pilates and related movement sciences.

What are your views on the thought, that as compared to male counterparts, it’s harder and more struggling for females to make a mark professionally?
I believe that it is slightly harder for women as entrepreneurs mostly because as much as things are slowly changing in India women still have to bear the lions share of domestic responsibilities in terms of managing family life, children taking care of parents etc. This becomes doubly difficult if there is very little support at home from family members. Beyond this it is more of a mental barrier in terms of confidence in oneself. The question of “can I really do this by myself?” I have learned to delegate work over time. As women we sometimes try and do everything ourselves either because we want things done “our way” or because we may not be able to spend the additional money on domestic help. In the case of the latter problem I would ask women to look at the bigger picture; if the additional help is going to free up your time to do your work more efficiently than one should opt for it.  

A piece of advice would you like to give to the aspiring youth who wish to pursue their dream of becoming an entrepreneur.
I would say think positively and think big! India has a just moved into a generation where the middle class is finally thinking beyond a salaried job and looking at entrepreneurship as a viable option. The time is right now! There are so many opportunities for making your dreams come true. Be prepared to do some hard work ask for help when you need it and things will fall into place.  

According to you, what are the top three essential skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
A big heart, you are going to have to take a risk at some point, that leap of faith. Hard work- there’s no escaping this! Competence and learning: Be the best at what you are going to do, mediocrity is not going to take you very far… this is an absolute no compromise trait we have to develop. Learning and keeping ahead of the rest in your core area of business is a must.  

How has being an entrepreneur affected your family life? Has the family always been supportive?
My family life has actually become much better! I can manage my own time and I am growing my business slowly without compromising on the work life balance. This was one of the prime reasons I left my corporate job. My family has been beyond supportive. My husband has helped me set up my studio and even develop my website, he helps out at home in any way he can. My parents and son are proud of what I do. My in-laws are the best, my MIL is a very fit person herself and is always there to lend a helping hand whenever I need it and is very encouraging.  

What are your views and opinions towards the ambiguous need to promote women entrepreneurship and women empowerment in India?
In India I see that while there is finally talk of empowering women to be financially independent it is largely a theoretical talk. On the ground I still see women struggling to get information on how to go about getting a loan or any other information on how to manage and run a business. Maybe a dedicated one stop shop for women entrepreneurs where one could get information and hand on help to set up a business venture would help. A place where legal and financial help could be sought.