Creative, Confident & Connected – Anusha Ravi, Rinku Mecheri and Sriya Chari
They’re dynamic, bold and have worked hard to get to where they are today. Meet Anusha Ravi, Rinku Mecheri and Sriya Chari, three high-octane ladies who have contributed hugely in redefining the essence of what is expected of a woman
The Humanity Of Education – Anusha Ravi
Education has often been credited as one of the most powerful weapons of change. Though this may be true to a very large extent, Anusha Ravi, CEO of Park Institutions tweaks this axiom a little bit for two additional words, “socially responsible.’ “Education today lacks humanity. And we as an institution have taken it upon ourselves to spread social awareness among our students,” she says. RITZ commends this dedicated educationist for the work she is doing in her field.
What makes Anusha Ravi stand out among many other educationalists is the conviction with which she believes in its transformational power. Asked whether she would pick another line of work given a chance, her answer is a definitive no. “There is nothing more rewarding than seeing lives being transformed. And to know that you have in some way helped them do so, gives you this rush of positivity. I am addicted to that feeling.”
Following her return to India in 2007 after working with Onair communications (an Airbus subsidiary) and Anheuser Busch, USA, Park Institutions has raised the benchmark for students in Coimbatore and Chennai; not only in terms of their education standards but has inculcated in students social and moral values. “When people come in contact with a student from Park, there is an immediate recall of the activities that we as institution engage in and they expect the same level of excellence from the student,”Anusha says.
Passionate about shaping young lives to be more than just ‘skilled labour’, Anusha Ravi and Park Institutions believe in providing holistic education. “There is a huge increase in white collar crime with the increase of literacy; this is because we as educationalists have failed in our duty,” Anusha rues. “Institutions only provide skill training, so where are our youngsters going to learn about empathy and sympathy?”
As part of the curriculum and understanding the need to sensitise this generation, students are taken to local schools, old age homes, orphanages etc. The logic behind these visits? “If we visit an old age home, even if it is just once, students will think a second time before they put their elderly in such homes,” she smiles.
While Anusha Ravi is certainly the champion of social causes, the woman entrepreneur is also gearing up towards innovation and entrepreneurship on a larger scale. Anusha shares, “We have a lot of innovation going on in our campus facilities. About 500 of our students have already created and published apps in the Microsoft App Store. The students are very creative; all they need is a little guidance. Last year we managed to patent two innovations in our campus.” Certainly no mean feat!
On the same lines, Anusha Ravi dreams of providing students with the facilities to pursue innovation. “I am looking to start an Innovation hub that is open to all, not just the students of Park. This would also mean creating a platform and support system to foster entrepreneurship,” she reveals.
A busy woman entrepreneur and educationalist whose calendar is full nearly through the year, Anusha gives a sneak peek of what a day in her shoes would be like. “My day is entirely based on what needs me the most. Priorities vary on a day to day basis. Sometimes it is my children who need my attention, sometimes it is my students or sometimes it maybe my businesses. All I can tell you for a fact is that my day is never routine or boring,” she laughs. As the brand ambassador of Swacch Bharat for the Coimbatore Corporation, Anusha Ravi is also on a mission to build 25,000 toilets in Coimbatore.
So is being a woman entrepreneur, educationalist and philanthropist only hard work and work harder? Smiling through her words, Anusha nods, “I prioritise everybody first and end up with little time for myself. That is something I would like to see change.” But then she gives us a little hope saying, “If I am stressed I listen to a lot of music. Facebook is a good stress buster too. I also love playing golf. But if I am really stressed I love to binge watch movies and forget about the world. I watched almost all releases in March. I loved Zootopia. I watched Dawn of Justice and even Karti’s latest movie Thozha. Sometimes it’s alright to take a break from work.” We completely agree!
Someone who doesn’t blindly follow fashion trends, Anusha Ravi loves to play with whatever she is comfortable in and suits her. The woman behind the name also loves to travel and is a self-confessed adventure enthusiast. Her bucket list includes globe-trotting, bungee jumping and sky diving.
Undaunted And Unstoppable – Sriya Chari
Grease under her fingernails may not be her style and the lack of an engineering degree isn’t a shortcoming for the Executive Director of Rajsriya Automotive Industries. Sriya Chari, the woman, is an art lover, a sports enthusiast and is currently dabbling with organic gardening, while she is not running the company. One of the few women in a largely male dominated field Sriya Chari shrugs off the stereotype and says, “I do what I am good at. I may not be an engineer, but I bring a perspective to the table that an engineer will not possess – the human connect.” RITZ chats with the woman who has made a name for herself in a man’s world.
While most assembly lines in automobile production are automated, the industry still continues to be largely run manually, a fact that Sriya has recognised. “People come here from all walks of life, but if there is a lack of human connect the vision that we have for our company cannot be fulfilled,” she says.
What started out as a 300 square feet dream for Meera Chari, Sriya’s mother, today is Rajsriya Automotive Industries Pvt. Ltd that has production lines spread across Chennai and Hosur. “I have seen this business grow since I was a little girl of 10 or 11,” Sriya says. It would be futile to argue that this non-engineer needs lessons on managing the engineering company.
About 80% of the products manufactured by the company goes to TVS Motor Company, while other customers include Daimler and Wabco. Talking about the 2016 vision for the company and her pet projects, Sriya Chari reveals, “For now CSR is on the top of my list. I’d like to be involved in women empowerment. I am very particular that when I do something, I do it well. Funding a school is also on the cards. We are working out the nitty-gritty; it is important that the money reaches the right hands.”
Describing herself as an extremely organised person, Sriya tells us that she already has a long-term work plan for the company which will majorly focus on new product development. “Eventually, I will need to take over the ropes of the company. I still continue to learn from my father who is my mentor.”
Family is something that Sriya Chari holds close to her heart and has no qualms in reiterating the same. “We are a very close knit family. We all run our own businesses and learn from each other. Much can be learnt through sharing of experiences and understanding a different perspective or take to managing a business.” Words of wisdom for entrepreneurs.
“Incorporating knowledge that you learn from others can be rewarding,” she adds. Sriya Chari credits TVS motors for introducing them to the TPM Excellence Awards. Today Rajsriya automotive is a recipient of this prestigious award.
A national Table Tennis champion while in school, fitness and sports are a daily requisite of Sriya’s routine. “My day has to begin with some sort of fitness regimen. I play tennis almost every day or I go to the gym. After the kids leave for school, I head out to office. I’m usually back by 3.30 pm,” she says. However, Sriya looks forward to spending more time at work.
Besides art, reading and watching movies are her hobbies. Sriya’s favourites include Hollywood legends Meryl Streep and Al Pacino. She, however, confesses that she has not had the time to watch a movie in a while now.
Despite the success that Sriya Chari has had an individual, humility comes naturally to her. “I learnt a lot as a kid. I’ve travelled by second and third class in trains when I would go for TT championships. Hardships build character.” Sriya also reveals that she was a tomboy growing up. “It no longer holds true, but I was. Even as a kid I was very bold; I would play football, volleyball, basketball,” she laughs.
Essentially an active person, we ask Sriya if one should expect the same even after she retires. “There is no such thing as retirement. Life goes on. But I do hope that I continue to have this Bridge group that we have formed. I’m pretty good at the game and I see myself continuing to play even when I am old,” she hopes.
The stellar mother also tells us that her daughters are taking after her. “Ananthi loves playing squash, while Anika is really good at tennis.” Looks like one can expect more strong women role models from this family.
The Call Of Duty – Rinku Mecheri
Life is a rat race, we have been told – a race for the corner office; a race to make it to the top and a race to win over the world. It is easy to get so immersed in running and winning that one loses out on the intricate aspect of balance in life, which keeps one grounded and in touch with reality. Volunteerism is known to play an important role in restoring the delicate balance of priorities in life. However, many would argue that volunteerism is just pacifism, but not Rinku Mecheri, founder of Chennai Volunteers, who says, “People are inherently good! Giving isn’t easy. And when people are willing to set aside time for someone who is less fortunate than they are, it can only come from the goodness within them.” RITZ applauds this beautiful do-gooder who believes in looking for the good in everything around her.
Advertising marked the launch of Rinku Mecheri’s professional career, one that spanned over 10 years before she decided to take the plunge into the social sector in 2011. Interacting with the woman herself gives you an understanding of Rinku’s drive to achieve; while her desire to strike a balance in life makes her a perfect fit to head Chennai Volunteers. “After working 10 years in an industry that was just about numbers, I wanted to be part of something more meaningful, something that would impact lives around me. I was always welcomed by NGOs when I offered to volunteer. But when I would go to these institutions there was no structure, I was asked to do whatever I wanted and eventually the talk about providing monetary support would come up,” Rinku says, describing her journey that led to the creation of Chennai Volunteers.
Having partnered with over 70 NGOs, today, Chennai Volunteers provides only service needs. “The service needs module of CV is based on the amount of time that you that you are willing to set aside,” Rinku says. Besides the one-time volunteers, there are short term and long term volunteers. Short term volunteering entails volunteering for a period of three months and includes various activities based on individual interests that range from being a scribe for the visually challenged, playing with cancer affected children to spending time with the elderly. “Long term volunteers need to commit one hour per week. This one hour has to be taken out from their normal work days,” she adds.
Rinku tells us that her journey with Chennai Volunteers has been a humbling experience and something that has grounded her as an individual. “You cannot remain untouched when you interact with all these people. Transformation is a surety. Yes, you have to earn their trust but once you have, the bond that you share is beautiful.”
However Rinku confesses that starting an NGO was not her own idea, but that of her husband Rajeev Mecheri. “He kept nudging me to be part of Mecheri foundation. And it has turned out for the best.”
Given the fact that the Mecheri foundation and Chennai Volunteers cater to a large number of social causes, which are the ones that demand Rinku Mecheri’s attention the most? “I am a largely optimistic person. But whenever I interact with destitute women and women who suffer mental illness caused by various circumstances, I cannot help but want to do so much more.”
Talking about her initiation into her field of work, Rinku reveals a little known secret. “My son used to be my guinea pig. I took him to an old age home to distribute sweets and at the end of it I could see the joy on his face,” Rinku smiles. Now who wouldn’t want that feeling?
Volunteers at CV are from all walks of life: engineers, students, financial consultants and many more. “We have enthusiastic Wipro employees who turn up for the Run for Fun marathon , students from Stella Maris or Loyola who take up short term volunteerism, Barclays employees who help other not-for-profit organisations to file their returns and make their financial reports and so on.” Chennai Volunteers also boasts of managing to help at least one girl clear the TOEIC test every year. “We have Fullbright scholars who help us with these girls,” Rinku explains.
A deeply spiritual person and someone who needs her daily fitness fix, Rinku assures us that there is more on her plate than just work. “My evenings are with my family and friends,” she says.
As we end our conversation she adds, “It is high time we looked at volunteerism as a duty,” and heads back to her office hoping to make the world a better place.