Entrepreneur and philanthropist Shashi Soni, who is an inspiration to many young working women in India, recently interacted with NewsX as part of its special series NewsX India A-List. As part of the conversation, Shashi Soni not only reflected upon her journey so far but also shared some valuable lessons.
On her journey so far, Ms Shashi said, “I was just a housewife and never thought that I would be able to achieve such a big goal. I thought it is not possible for me. But, my inner voice said that no, I have to work. My brother had a garage so I then thought maybe I can do something in the garage. I started going there, working with the mechanics and giving them spare parts. In the evening, I would make tea for the mechanics. They were very happy working with me and I was very happy working with them. I started like that. Then, I ventured into transport business. That was very good for me and supporting. I had one vehicle, I put money in that and asked my brother what more she can do. To which, he said that we can take it forward as we have petrol pump and a garage. After I started that business, I had 20 vehicles with me in a span of 6-7 months.”
“Post which, I again pondered what we can do more. The garage of our land was very big. So, I approached the government and they said that this is a green belt and we can only make it a public utility place. We can either make it a hall or cinema theatre. I said I would make a cinema theatre. Then, we thought since the children are growing up, what else we can do since theatre line is not good for the children. We thought of putting up a factory and my husband suggested that we can put up an Oxygen plant because they is no problem of raw material in that. I was in Bangalore for that with my son for that for his son’s education. After he went to his engineering college, I took up the challenge and said I would go the offices, pick one person from roadside or from tea stall and ask if they would help me. I started going to industry departments, financial institutions and meeting them. I used to take feedback from them as to what more we can do. It took almost one year to get the clearance. Everybody knew that there is a lady called Shashi Soni and it is her project. We were successful in that but after facing some big hurdles. After my elder son cleared his engineering, he expressed his interest in electronics. Metro people approached us for a project. We took up that and that project involved manufacturing of colour monitors. Moving forward, we ventured into IT business.”
Speaking about venturing into defense production sector, she shared, “When I came to goa to see the factory site, the building was in such a shape that nobody will accept that we can have any kind of unit there, let alone defence. I told my son that give this project to me, I will do this. When he said that it is not so easy, we want this company to be known globally. Now, we are the number one in India to get the license. I took up the challenge, started collecting the contractors in the new environment. The word Atmanirbhar is easy but becoming one is not easy because the rules and regulations of the government aren’t that relaxed.”
When asked about opting for philanthropy along with business, Ms Shashi expressed, “Once I went to my husband’s factory in Mysore, he told me that people are on strike. When I asked how did it happen, he said that he will take the legal route but I warned him against it. Upon reaching Mysore, I saw that people will standing outside. I went and comforted them, spoke to them and they said that now that you have come, everything is all right. They put their faith on me. I told my husband that sometimes you have to sit across the table. You should try to know why they are doing all this. If we fulfill their requirements and their necessities, they will not do this. I am working for the people since 45 years, nobody has ever said no to work.”
On a parting note, Ms Shashi shared one valuable advise for all young women entrepreneurs and said, “Think about the challenge. If a challenge is in front of you, you have to achieve it. If there is no goal, then you wouldn’t be able to think anything. If you want to take this path, don’t think that things will be very easy. You will not be depressed, or think of quitting. You have to do it. I feel so happy to see a woman or a young girl working. I always appreciate it.”