Businesswoman and philanthropist Padma Rajgopal has zeroed in on the perfect formula of packing in a lot in a day’s work. In a free-flowing conversation with RITZ, the dynamic entrepreneur speaks about her work, charity and family.
When Padma Rajgopal, successful businesswoman and the Chair Person of FICCI Ladies Organisation (FLO) says, “I believe in the virtues of humility, hard work and compassion. I am a sensitive, dependent woman who can be a good friend with no expectations,” you tend to believe her because of her track record. Daughter of former Union Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, Information and Broadcasting, P. Upendra and wife of well-known industrialist and politician Lagadapati Rajgopal, Padma has carved a niche for herself as the owner of AT Par Interiors, a design company and a philanthropist.
Her current position as the head of FLO is the result of several years of work. “I got involved with FLO years ago when the Chennai chapter had started. I was chosen to be the Vice Chairperson two years ago and to be the Chairperson for 2016 – 2017. FLO is the only women’s organisation with the size of 4700 members, pan-India. My aim is to make it a benchmark with good sessions and interactions for the members and empower underprivileged women,” says Padma who has already launched women drivers for cabs that exclusively serve women passengers as a part of her endeavour. “We have also adopted villages this year with an emphasis on education for girl children in our adopted schools,” she holds forth.
“There is always pressure on me to enter politics. But I won’t unless I have no choice”
Padma discovered her business acumen way back in 1985 when she started working with her brother in their maiden business venture, a furniture showroom. “Creative Living was one of the first furniture and interiors’ enterprise that dealt with customised designing,” she says. Over the years she has honed her skills as a businesswoman as well as an effective orator. The latter comes in handy whenever she has to address public gatherings. “My first public speaking experience was during the election campaign for my father when he contested from Vijayawada. I had to speak in Telugu but I think I did a good job. Over the years, I have evolved to the level that if a topic is given, I can pull off a speech extempore,” she says confidently. Little wonder that her sessions at FLO touch a chord every time she picks up the microphone.
Interestingly, Padma was a quiet girl during her growing up years. A journalism graduate, she believes that a girl’s inner strength comes to the fore whenever a situation calls for it. “I got married very young as was the trend then,” she recollects speaking of her personal life, “After the birth of my sons, life revolved around them. I started focussing on myself after they left to the US for their graduation.” Her elder son Pranay, a graduate from the University of Michigan in industrial engineering and entrepreneurship is pursuing his MBA in the Ross Business School and the younger son Aashrith works for their family-owned company LANCO. “My dream for my boys is to see them as good, compassionate human beings first and I would want them to work hard to achieve their goals and take the company to another level. I always tell them to not take anything for granted and to not let anything go to their head. Everything in life is transient,” says the responsible mother.
“My first public speaking experience was during the election campaign for my father when he contested from Vijayawada. I had to speak in Telugu but I think I did a good job”
Though her father and husband are both renowned in the political world, Padma is not in a hurry to jump into the fray. “There is always pressure on me to enter politics,” says Padma, “But I won’t unless I have no choice.” She draws inspiration from her mother in the areas of patience and humility. “My brothers, Mohan, Sarat and Vivek are epitomes of hard working achievers,” she says speaking of her siblings and moves on to another important facet, “My philosophy in life is to be grateful to God for what he has given us and try to give back to the less privileged in any small way possible.” And a step towards that is her, NGO called `HELP’ which she has established with three other like minded friends. As a part of our social responsibility, we take up 2 projects every year and provide health equipment for a clinic, undertake construction of classrooms and toilets in govt schools, dining halls in blind schools, water plants in villages etc. Another personal NGO of mine is called “Aiikhyata ” which I started for the Dilshuknagar blast victims. We have helped them with funds and put them as fixed deposits for the families who lost their dear ones,” she says speaking of the causes that are close to her heart.
When she says, “Most importantly we should thank and respect our parents who chose to have us, respect elders, work hard without making any excuses and not let pride take over us,” you can tell that her heart is in the right place.