#StoriesbyTWW: Twain Communications

We’ve got a brand new edition of #StoriesbyTWW! With Stories, we wanted to put together a series that inspires our community by sharing stories of women entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs that have taken risks, challenges and unexplored paths to get to where they are today. Whether it’s someone just starting off their career or someone who’s looking to change paths, come back to work after a break, or simply learn, we wanted to share these stories to help our community get more perspective from people who’ve actually done it successfully.

In this edition, we’re featuring Gauri Nayar & Reyna Jagtiani, the managing partners & co-founders of Twain Communications, a full-service communications firm, offering 360-degree marketing, social media and PR solutions to clients in the luxury, hospitality and lifestyle industries in India. Their clients include the Olive Group of Restaurants, Le 15 Patisserie, Cream Centre, Nykaa and more! Here’s their story.

Tell us all about Twain Communications – how it all started, what you do and what your goal was getting into business together?

GN: Twain Communications really began in a serendipitous manner – it was one of those situations where we were in the right place at the right time, and things just clicked. We met years ago and instantaneously hit it off. I was working with the Oberoi Group at the time and Reyna was at Edelman. We stayed in touch, through us both leaving those respective positions, and starting to dabble in the freelance/consulting space for a while. At one point, we decided to work together on a particular freelance project and that experience was so positive that we began working together on projects more frequently. It was at a client meeting in 2012 where the client met us and asked for our business cards – we just knew then that it was time to get started and build our agency.

When we began Twain, our focus was very heavily on traditional PR and content creation, two areas where we both demonstrate great strengths. Over the years, however, we have quickly morphed into a 360-degree communications firm, as we realized that the face of PR is rapidly changing. Today, we offer traditional PR, content creation, brand building, graphic design, marketing, social media strategy, and much more, to enable clients to build a holistic and thoughtful communications strategy, at any stage of their business.

We began Twain through a mutual love for the communications space, and because we were confident that we would make good business partners. It’s so tough to find the right partner – it really is like looking for a spouse!

Being able to get that foundation in place allowed us to then begin focusing on what we wanted to do via Twain, for our clients.

How do you think brands have changed in the last decade in terms of being more receptive to PR and Comms? Why do you think brands need this service more than ever now?

Over the years, we have witnessed so many new brands crop up – it is truly incredible to see how many great ideas are developing in India. This means however that the market has never been more cluttered. Brands are now younger – and therefore savvier in many ways – they understand that they need to have a communications strategy in place in order to stand out.

Also, given the sharp rise of digital, brands realise that remaining relevant is extremely important at all times – today, the customer has multiple ways to either praise or chastise a brand in public forums. Brands, therefore, need to be at the very top of their game, which is why a strategic Communications plan plays such a crucial role in their growth and sometimes survival.

That said, there is always a flip side to every situation – a lot of brands don’t necessarily understand what PR and Communications really mean or entails – the line with sales is eternally blurry, which makes our jobs a bit more challenging as a result.

However, it’s a challenge that we embrace, as it keeps us relevant and on our toes at all times, ensuring that we think a few steps ahead, on creative ways on which to get our clients the best possible buzz and brand recall we can.

What does it take to build a career in PR in India today? What are the challenges of being in PR in India?

Having lived and worked in international markets as well, we would say that at the end of the day, the PR space is the same wherever you are around the world.

Clients will be as demanding, media will be as difficult to crack, and finding creative ways to secure coverage will – and should – always remain at the forefront of a PR pro’s job.

India is already all about connections and networks – this is never truer when it comes to the PR space. The value you bring to your clients is a lot of times directly in proportion to the networks you have, both with media and brands, and finding ways to leverage these connections successfully on behalf of your clients is what a lot of skilled PR professionals are able to do, seamlessly.

What would you tell those that are starting out in this space? How should they equip themselves – is education necessary or does work experience count? What is the starting point and how do they work their way up?

Neither of us had formal training in the PR space – our respective educational backgrounds are in the Arts – Literature, Psychology, Art History, and so on.

We don’t think it’s necessary to have formal training, but an open mind and a willingness to learn are musts.

A lot of people think that PR is a glamourous space – especially the kind of lifestyle PR we do at Twain, where we have the privilege of working with some of the best brands in hospitality, travel, wellness/fitness, F&B, and luxury industries.

What people starting out in PR should know is that there is a lot of grunt work, and a steep learning curve. They need to learn to be agile, flexible, open to long hours, and develop a thick skin. Clients can be very demanding, and competition is intense – it’s a challenging job, but when done right, the perks are also a lot of fun!

For those looking to start their own agency, it’s important to get a few factors straight before launching into it. First, you have to know if you prefer to fly solo, or would work better with a business partner. For us, we cannot imagine working without the other, and that’s what makes Twain successful. Next, determine the kind of PR you want to do. We knew that our interests – and therefore our strengths – lay in the lifestyle space. We relate most closely to the brands we represent – we dine at these restaurants, stay at these hotels, do these workouts, wear these brands, and so on.

Having an intrinsic understanding of the industry you’re a part of as a PR professional is a key to your success.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to leverage your networks – in the 7 years since we started Twain, we have been fortunate to have had most of our clients come to us through personal referrals, which then extended to professional referrals. People are more than willing to help if they trust you and the value you can bring to those who need it. Work hard to develop this reputation and it will always hold you in good stead.

We know that the two of you are also workwives in addition to being business partners. Tell us what your working relationship is like and how it extends to your personal equation.

What’s great about our working relationship (amongst many other things!) is that we are both very similar and very different. The similarities allow for us to be entirely aligned on the big things – like the vision for the company, our core values, the kinds of clients we want to work with, and how we see Twain growing. We are also very respectful of one another’s personal lives.

We both love a lot of the same things – reading, working out, travel and so on, and we ensure we give one another space to do this on a regular basis, picking up for the other, as needed.

We think that this respect for personal time ends up extending to the way in which we prioritize this for our team members as well – it’s just so important to strike that balance.

GN: Reyna is five years younger than me, so a lot of our relationship also becomes like a younger-older sister bond. We know intimate details about one another’s lives, interact with one another’s families, and always, always have each other’s backs. She is very supportive of my schedule as a working mother, something I will endlessly appreciate.

RJ: Our differences manifest in such a way, that we end up getting affected by very different things, work-wise. There is never usually a time when we are both stressed out by the same thing – our triggers are very different. This is great, because that means that at all times, one of us can remain level-headed, even if the other needs to let off steam. Also, we gravitate towards different things – Gauri looks more at the PR part of the business, and I take care of content and marketing. This allows us to have our space within the company to run things the way each of us wants, while still being entirely aligned with each client.

There can be days where you don’t see eye to eye on things, you don’t always agree on a project or a decision. What do you think is the most important thing to preserve and nurture a relationship with your work-wife to ensure overall harmony?

The most important thing, hands down, is to have a strong foundation of trust. Even if we disagree on certain things, we always know that at the end of the day, we are making decisions that will ultimately benefit the company and one another.

We value the teamwork that comes with a partnership like ours – the kind of perspective we are able to develop by seeing things from the other person’s point of view is truly helpful, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

And that’s a wrap! We are so grateful to Reyna & Gauri for taking the time to share their story and for pretty much giving us a masterclass in the way PR works in India! If you’d like to know more about Twain Communications, check them out on Instagram.

I Learned Yoga On An App – Here’s How It Went

The last couple of weeks have been rather disorienting for me with some drastic changes on the home front as we navigate a move. When routines are thrown out of the window, stress enters the picture. And so, to help me find some kind of centre, I decided to learn Yoga.

Apps vs Virtual Classes

The first question I had to ask myself was if I should go for an app or simply sign up for a virtual class. While the latter would give me a community and friends, my temporary displacement didn’t allow for following or keeping up with certain timings. I needed classes on demand, which led me to two options – YouTube and Asana Rebel.

Why I Chose The Asana Rebel App

With YouTube, I faced the problem of plenty. There were too many channels, too many playlists/programs, too many instructors. And as if on cue, Asana Rebel showed up on my Instagram. Now, this app doesn’t offer trials, but I took a leap of faith and got a subscription. They had an offer where it was Rs. 3,000/- for an annual subscription. I did the math and even if I did Yoga only 3x a week for a year, it would work out to only Rs. 20/- a session, which was I was okay with. And while it was definitely cheaper than a gym membership or a live virtual class, it was still expensive by app standards (I mean, Nike Training and FitOn are both free). I guess one way to explain this was that I was seeking a totally fresh start. I’ve had the app for a month now, and I’ve used it for 21/30 days. Here’s what my experience has been like:

Learning Yoga on Asana Rebel

The app basically asks a bunch of questions about your fitness levels, your goals, your vitals, your diet, etc before it gets to the main screen. And it’s only when the main screen loads do you realize that it’s more of a lifestyle app. There’s meditation, recipes, even focus music for when you want to be more productive and sleep sounds if you have trouble sleeping.

The app offers independent workouts apart from “challenges” which have a set of workouts that are to be completed in a certain order. It also suggests a workout every day, in case you don’t know what to pick. The workouts are categorized broadly based on what they offer – mobility, strength, balance, breath focused, and toning.

You can also choose workouts based on the time you have and the intensity you’re seeking (high/low). You don’t need any special equipment to do these workouts, apart from a mat.

While I was reasonably fit, I had never really learned Yoga formally. So my knowledge of Yoga was very basic and at some level, limited to the Surya Namaskar.

But Asana Rebel covers this really well because all their workouts come with voiceovers that are as detailed as they are calming. There is no motivational yelling, just calm and precise instruction. Even the more intense workouts have only calm instructions. Every workout comes with a warm-up, cool down, and a final couple of minutes in Shavasana, which is always the highlight for me.

The workouts do go quite quickly, so if you’re new to fitness (vs being new to Yoga), Asana Rebel might be too advanced for you. If you’re not used to working out with an app, following the workout might be challenging. And to reiterate, it is among the more expensive options out there in terms of apps. I dislike the fact that you can’t download workouts either. For me, FitOn continues to be the best option for all-around fitness. However, if you’re in the mood for something new and challenging, Asana Rebel is worth a try.

Creating Sustainable Habits & Gaining Mobility

I personally found a great deal of improvement in my flexibility, especially around my knees. I had sciatica when I was pregnant, which resulted in really tight hamstrings – to the point where touching my toes was an issue. But with regular practice on Asana Rebel, my mobility has improved greatly. I can now bend beyond my toes, which in itself is a huge achievement. This is an outcome of Yoga as a form of exercise, of course, but the app did make it really easy to build a good habit in a pressure-free manner. I’ve tried a couple of smoothie recipes as well and they turned out great too!

Verdict: Is Asana Rebel Worth It?

When it comes to exercise, Yoga is always going to be a winner, whether or not you use Asana Rebel. But the app certainly makes learning and practicing Yoga very engaging. I also like the holistic “lifestyle” approach of the app with recipes, meditation and even sleep & focus music thrown in. Overall, I’d highly, highly recommend Asana Rebel for people with intermediate fitness levels who’re looking for something new. If you’re a beginner though, there are better and cheaper options.

Have you tried Asana Rebel? What are your favourite fitness apps? Let us know in the comments!

#StoriesbyTWW: Swetha Kochar

We’ve got a brand new edition of #StoriesbyTWW! With Stories, we wanted to put together a series that inspires our community by sharing stories of women entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs that have taken risks, challenges and unexplored paths to get to where they are today. Whether it’s someone just starting off their career or someone who’s looking to change paths, come back to work after a break, or simply learn, we wanted to share these stories to help our community get more perspective from people who’ve actually done it successfully. 

In this edition, we are featuring Swetha Kochar, a management consulting superstar from Chennai. Swetha, who is a CA Rankholder, worked in McKinsey where she worked with the top tier leadership of companies like SBI, Sun Pharma, Mahindra Finance and more. She then set up PKC, with the objective of bringing quality consulting to mid-sized and family-owned businesses in India so that they could run their businesses more efficiently. Since then she’s only gone from strength to strength, winning numerous awards on the way. Here’s her story! 

Talk to us about your journey to entrepreneurship. You were a star at McKinsey. What made you make the move to your own business?

McKinsey was a home to me in every sense. My colleagues were amazing; the projects were exciting; the lifestyle was great, exit opportunities were lucrative, growth was quick – everything I could’ve asked for. More than anything, I looked forward to working there each day no matter how intense it got. 

But deep inside I knew that I belonged to another purpose. It had always been my dream and passion to assist small and mid-sized entrepreneurs to reach their potential and achieve exponential growth. It was just a matter of time before I got to it. I took the plunge and voila, that’s the story of how I met the entrepreneur in me. 

The world of an entrepreneur is filled with uncertainties. Mine has been no different. It has been consuming, confusing, challenging, scary, thrilling, exciting, irrational and a lot more!

Running a business is so much more than what meets the eye. In many ways, you are your own trinity – the maker, the doer and the executioner. 

What does a typical day in your life look like?

Ask my friends or family this question and they’d answer with the lyrics of Rihanna’s song “Work”, while trying to maintain a straight face. My typical day usually involves investing close to 15-16 hours to, well, work! 

This has changed since I had my baby – they’re too cute to be away from! 

Now, in the mornings, I spend 30-45 minutes working out or reading philosophy (which I’ve done for years and totally love), post which I keep an hour or two dedicated to my baby. It’s after this that the hustle begins. I manage to scratch off quick work calls or speak to people that I mentor while driving to work. My calendar contains my entire day’s schedule.

Meetings are usually of a few types: (a) problem-solving sessions with clients/teams working on production improvement or process automation or cost reduction engagements in diff industries (b) statutory audit or internal audit reviews or tax opinions for clients or tax litigation cases or (c) growth meetings with our BD team, senior leadership at the office, Partner meetings or external agencies So I go from one meeting after another – or one video call after another – interspersed with responding to emails which no matter what I do is always flooded. If only bank accounts worked that way!

There’s something I’ve learnt in the last 6 months that’s been invaluable. I make sure to take some time out to focus on things that aren’t urgent but are important, things that require me to step back and look at the big picture. It could be rethinking & reassessing firm strategy, branding, the emotional alignment of employees, helping employees build meaningful careers at the firm and so on.

I no longer measure my day by hours but by the importance of things that I got done. 

But getting into this flow has required me to go “M.I.A (Missing in action)” from all modes of communication. I pretty much shut myself off from calls and emails for that brief period. As a result, work usually spills over late into the night and prolonged lockdowns have meant working till midnight or even after.

At PKC, you work with a number of small & mid-sized businesses. What are the biggest challenges of working in this space?

As much as there’s potential for these companies to grow, there are also many challenges that come along with it, such as:

  • Consulting as a service expense is unknown to many small companies – we’re almost creating this market. The immediate challenge is changing mindsets and making clients comfortable with the idea of paying for professionals looking after operations and finances
  • Employee skills can be a concern in some of these companies which means that we’ll have to drive change & upskilling from grassroot levels
  • Most companies are not adequately digitized and are less technologically inclined.
  • Scaling a low ticket, services business such as ours can be very challenging. Each client has a unique set of problems and that’s what keeps work exciting for me everyday!

What drives PKC is its vision to create disproportionate value and growth in these small & mid sized companies.

– To combat these challenges, we have successfully curated the right systems and processes to keep a constant check on our quality at scale.

– We have modularized solutions so clients can pay for just what they need.

– We breathe tech into everything which has helped us scale. We have automated most of our solutions – this has been game-changing! We have 3 home-grown B2B SaaS (Business-to-Business Software-As-A-Service) products. We’re India’s only CA firm to have a fully automated audit system – something we built through the lockdown and are happy to launch soon! Crafting this has impacted our overall pricing positively which benefits clients and has helped us grow the client base.

Conservative fields like finance & management consulting have very less female representation, especially in senior management. Why do you think this happens? And how do you think this can be tackled?

Talking about helping fellow women is my favorite part of any interview! In my view, many factors contribute to this.

For one, the work-life balance gets grossly disturbed owing to the long working hours, continuous travel and intense working environments. This heavily discourages women as we’ve been conditioned to the thought process of placing our families above everything else. 

Another key factor is that women are often self-critical and doubtful of themselves and their work in general. This may become unfavourable to them because in fields like consulting, the output of the work is very much influenced by how the client perceives it to be, and hence the consultant who displays lower confidence gets valued less. I’ve myself painfully witnessed on multiple occasions ordinary men outperform extraordinary women simply because of this reason. 

Moreover, the workplace policies aren’t accommodative to the needs of women as the top positions and decisions are predominantly taken by men.

I would love to see a change and for this many things around us need to change. First, women need to understand and accept their own dreams and ambitions. Thereafter, we need to set expectations and boundaries at home and the workplace, because without family and workplace support, balancing everything is a huge struggle.

Simple things like talking to family and colleagues about your timings, things that are important to you and understanding what’s important to them, finding women mentors & reaching out to them at crucial points – they’re all super important to practice early on!

In my view, having tough conversations with both our family and our bosses about ambitions, timings, support on child care, etc. is always better than living a life of regret in wistful longing. The second factor on women being more critical about their own work can be addressed by simply being more cognizant of this each time we’re judging our own work. 

Apart from this, having a dependable community of women at the workplace who freely communicate and voice out the need for change can go a long way in making a better work environment. These actions can lead to a big impact overall.

What would be the advice you’d give to young women in the space of management/finance who are just starting out? 
  • Work hard. Work smart. Repeat! This mantra never goes out of fashion
  • Share your dreams with your family & bring them along for the ride! As women, We’ve been conditioned to believe that child care and home care is largely for the women to do. Family is important, but having them understand that your career is very important to you is essential, whether it’s the family you’re born into or the family you’re marrying into. The earlier you have those tough conversations, the better.
  • Be the master of your craft – spend your initial years mastering what you do while also learning other critical skillsets – networking, leadership, marketing, digital, etc.
  • Among other things, focus on building your personal brand and be confident while sharing your story.

From my experience, you don’t have to sacrifice work to live your life or live a life that sacrifices work. It’s mutually inclusive!

What are some of the things you practice when the going gets tough? 

As individuals and more so as entrepreneurs, we are constantly tested and faced with innumerable challenges. There have been many instances in the past where I’ve questioned everything around me, including my decision to walk away from large salary packages to embark on an unknown path, especially when things got overwhelming! 

However, during such times, I take solace and warmth in the fact that I pursued something that I believed in. I know that no matter how many times I’m given the same choice, I will choose my dream over a glamorous career. I also find strength when I replay the years since I started and see the notable difference which I have made to numerous other businesses through my company. Also, in my view, it’s a balance between maintaining a degree of consistency in what I do irrespective of the external situation and reinventing myself and my business. If something isn’t working, understanding what the market needs and redefining what we offer – we’ve gone through this cycle so many times.

Entrepreneurship can be incredibly lonely at times. Talk to us about your support system – the people who help you maintain your sanity, encourage you everyday and empathise with your venting. How important is it for other women entrepreneurs to have a support system in place?

Entrepreneurship is indeed a lonesome journey, and I can’t empathize enough with others doing the same. At times the madness is so consuming that I wish I had superpowers to be present at multiple places requiring my attention. Thankfully, I’m blessed with encouraging and supportive people around me who help me during the lows – my husband, my parents, my in-laws and my long-time friends. 

Each person’s journey is theirs alone to walk but the charm of having people who radiate the right vibes is something else altogether. For me, my husband Prashant is an incredible human being and my biggest cheerleader. He rescues me from the “what will people say?” syndrome and “the guilt” that comes along with it and continues to remind me that I’m doing more than enough. In fact, he’s proud that I prioritize my dreams and everything we’ve achieved through this. 

Having said this, I would love to become a part of a community where women entrepreneurs share, learn and have profound conversations. This is something I miss and haven’t been able to figure out.

Finally, let’s talk about what it means to be a working mom. How do you balance your time with your fast paced career and your baby? 

Being a working mom has by far been one of the most fulfilling experiences. 

It bothers me when I see how working moms are portrayed in general – unkempt hair, baggy eyes, always exhausted and unable to make time for themselves. This is, however, just one side of the story and the side that scares other women when they decide to have a child. My experience has been quite different and I truly hope that people, other women, in particular, would be just as supportive to their women friends who are considering children. 

Raising a child, no doubt takes a village! Hence, even before I conceived, I set my expectations and came to an understanding with my family regarding their support in raising the baby. So, together, we initiated our own little “Baby Project” where we defined every family member’s roles and responsibilities. I know it’s geeky but it’s also fun and it works! So when the newest member of the family arrived, all of us made small changes in our routine along with the bonus of being able to spend quality time with her and showering her with lots of love. For instance, mornings were solely dedicated to an uninterrupted mother-daughter duo time. And then the rest of the family and support system takes over. The point is – take help! You shouldn’t have to do this alone.

For me, as a mother, to ask for help without the fear of being judged came through practice. To have my child grow in such a positive environment is a joyous feeling and I never fail to show my gratitude to my family for making this happen.

Thank you so much, Swetha for all the wisdom & insight on what it takes to be an entrepreneur in this space! We’re truly grateful. If you’d like to know more about the work Swetha is doing, check out www.pkcindia.com.  

#StoriesbyTWW: Twice Treasured

We’ve got a brand new edition of #StoriesbyTWW! With Stories, we wanted to put together a series that inspires our community by sharing stories of women entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs that have taken risks, challenges and unexplored paths to get to where they are today. Whether it’s someone just starting off their career or someone who’s looking to change paths, come back to work after a break, or simply learn, we wanted to share these stories to help our community get more perspective from people who’ve actually done it successfully. 

In this edition, we are featuring Twice Treasured, a resale platform run by three mums who wanted to make shopping for children easier – and more sustainable. Divya, Vaibhavi and Tripti haven’t just succeeded in building a resale platform, but also in creating a wonderful community of mums. Here’s their story!

Tripti, Divya & Vaibhavi

Talk to us about the story behind twice treasured. How did the idea come about? And what do you offer as part of your business?

We (Divya & Vaibhavi) met in a prenatal class, but it wasn’t until our babies were born that we really bonded. The shared experience of cluelessness really brought us together!

Being mothers of young babies/children, we experienced a fair amount of pressure to buy many things for our children, just in case

This resulted in a lot of wastage, of packing, resources and ultimately, several times, the products themselves. Particularly given how fast kids grow and outgrow their games, toys, clothes etc. fairly quickly in the first few years, there’s a LOT of products that could be used for years longer but aren’t enjoyed the our kids anymore.

We thought to ourselves, this couldn’t just be an “us” problem, it’s obviously more common than we thought. Sustainability and creating a community was always something that was close to our hearts and something we were keen on exploring together.
That is when Divya came up with the idea of preloved products and Vaibhavi combined it with the creation of a close knit community and safe space for moms. We were quick to rope in Tripti, a “veteran” mom of 2 and we established this venture as a means to empower parents with a platform for sustainable usage of children’s products.

What does a typical day at Twice Treasured look like?

It’s typically madness, to be honest. All 3 partners have “day-jobs” so there’s a lot of plates in the air so to speak.

Everybody has complementing skill sets, so their silos are quite well defined.

Our team is the secret sauce, it’s a good one that works well together to keep the machine running smoothly! Before anything big we take a call together on how it should go, assign work to each person and team and we execute the pieces we’re responsible for.

What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve encountered so far in your entrepreneurial journey?

The biggest challenge was lockdown, not once but twice over! The logistics aspect during lockdown was the most challenging since we are an e-commerce platform, it was also the key element to our business!

But we did what we had to do to keep things going.

The thing we’ve learnt is that it’s most important to be dynamic and to adapt based on the feedback we received.

The delivery model pre-lockdown was simply not going to work during lockdown, so we had to adapt on the fly and refine it further based on the feedback we got.

When you’re running a business for new mothers & as new mothers yourselves, things can get intense! Talk to us about how you balance it all & the things you practice when things get tough.

We definitely encourage each other to take time for ourselves. It’s gotta be a balance of work + family time. We rely on each other and our partners to be a good judge of “is this too much”, we aren’t afraid to take a day, if we need one.

The good thing is there’s a shared ethos within the team when it comes to family and drive.

We’re all equally driven to make Twice Treasured succeed but also understanding that family and health are a priority.

We’re not afraid to jump in and help each other out if someone needs a break.

What have been the most rewarding moments in this journey?

The most rewarding moments are when we know we’ve made an impact in someone’s life.

We’ve helped new mothers who have babies with illnesses or are premies and need certain products delivered immediately.

The feedback we receive after pulling something like that off really keeps us going!

We know how tough the experience of motherhood can be, especially in the initial months. So to be able to make a difference in a parent and child’s life, really puts a smile on our faces!

Some of the cute things you can pick up at Twice Treasured! They do stringent quality checks and take all the photos themselves so you know exactly what you’re getting.

What is the advice you’d give to new entrepreneurs?

There’s a couple of things we’ve taken from this experience-

There’s no “right time”. If you have an idea, start fleshing it out and try!

Waiting for the stars to align will only bring disappointment to your door.

The other is, you have to be open to changing based on feedback. Stay within your structures, don’t go wild with your changes, but also remember that you have to adapt based on the feedback you’re given.

In the first year, the 3 of us touched base every quarter, stepping back to having a birds eye view, to make sure we were on track with what we wanted to achieve and if we felt it was slipping somewhere, we’d realign to make our goals happen.

Talk to us about your relationship as partners & being each other’s workwife! What are the pros & cons (if any) of working together? 

Given the children we’re parenting are at similar ages and that our professional journey is joined in this space, the support and safety net of having someone else at your side is unparalleled.

 There’s nobody else who understands your journey quite like your workwife!

And that’s a wrap!

We’re so grateful to Divya, Vaibhavi and Tripti for taking the time out to talk to us about their journey! We hope their story inspired you. If you’d like for us to cover someone for #StoriesbyTWW, don’t hesitate to get in touch! Please email: theworkwife[dot]in[at]gmail[dot]com

#StoriesbyTWW: The Style Salad

We’ve got a brand new edition of #StoriesbyTWW! With Stories, we wanted to put together a series that inspires our community by sharing stories of women entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs that have taken risks, challenges and unexplored paths to get to where they are today. Whether it’s someone just starting off their career or someone who’s looking to change paths, come back to work after a break, or simply learn, we wanted to share these stories to help our community get more perspective from people who’ve actually done it successfully. 

In today’s edition, we’re featuring The Style Salad, a gifting company based out of Chennai which was founded by two very enterprising women. Here’s their story.

How did the idea of The Style Salad come about? 

The Style Salad was born out of our mutual love for fashion and styling. We were two best friends from school with similar interests who had always dreamt of starting our own business together someday. It helped that we both had a fashion and retail background, too.

We originally wanted to be fashion stylists who curate looks in a box and have them delivered to your doorstep, but after realising that this might not be a lucrative business model in the long run we thought why not curate looks in a box with products instead! India has so many unique and beautiful small brands and businesses that are unheard of and unexplored, so we wanted to be a platform that houses established as well as upcoming brands from across the country.

So we started paying attention to everything that we were receiving to find inspiration. One of the things about living in India is that we are constantly celebrating – weddings, festivals and a number of other events. But the gifts that were a part of these festivities were more or less the same irrespective of the person or organization giving them. That was when we realized that we wanted to be in the gifting space because we could help people bring their own personality and style into their gifts.

Today we put our styling skills to curate and style the perfect gift boxes that people would be thrilled to receive. The Style Salad today is a one stop online gifting boutique that caters to all kinds of gifting needs and occasions.  Birthdays, Weddings & Anniversaries, Corporate, Birth announcements, Bridal Showers, or gifting just because! 

 We call ourselves Style Salad because Style refers to our presentation and packaging and salad refers to our mix of products! We offer a mix of products across beauty, gourmet food, home decor, stationery, fashion & lifestyle.

India has so many unique and beautiful small brands and businesses that are unheard of and unexplored, so we wanted to be a platform that houses established as well as upcoming brands from across the country.

Shweta & Saloni, The Style Salad

Take us through what your everyday entails.

The first half of the day is mainly processing and fulfilling all of our website & offline orders. We personally oversee each order our packaging team is processing, to ensure packaging standards have been met before dispatching. We also do coordinating and quality checks for new products that come in, apart from everyday inventory checks and replenishment. 

The second half of the day is mostly calls with our suppliers, new vendors and clients. We also do the planning & curating our content for social media, scheduling photoshoots, prepping for the upcoming special days / occasions, brainstorming new marketing ideas/ business plans, working with our corporate clients to bring their requirements to life, and attending to custom offline queries. 

To be honest there is no “typical day”. We both wear various hats through the day and everyday there is something new and interesting to look forward to. With constant gifting queries coming in all through the day we have to get our creative juices flowing with every corporate/custom query which is a fun and challenging activity for our entire team. 

We personally oversee each order our packaging team is processing, to ensure packaging standards have been met before dispatching. 

Shweta & Saloni, The Style Salad

What sets The Style Salad apart? How do you curate boxes and what do you think is your biggest differentiator? 

At The Style Salad, we believe that the power of a gift should never be underestimated. Gifts are a way of building relationships, showing gratitude, boosting one’s morale and a “pick me up” on the not so great days and saying that you are there for someone or thinking about them even when you can’t physically be there. So for us what goes inside the box is always important, because what we curate and put out there is what you ultimately buy to gift yourself or a loved one and we are indirectly touching another person’s life and putting smiles on their faces.

The Style Salad is not only known for its visually pleasing and beautiful curations but also appreciated by our customers and corporate clients nationwide for our very prompt & on point customer service. Since we pride ourselves to be a one stop gifting solution we make sure there’s something for everyone and every occasion. What sets us apart is that every curation and collaboration is thoughtful and thought through.

Our Pre Packed Gift Box section comprises boxes that we have pre curated around popular themes – But First Coffee, Good Energies, Morning Sunshine, Beach Please ( for summer) , Hustle , Sweet Dreams , Tea Love , Heal, to name a few. The idea behind this was to simplify the gifting process for people who want to give meaningful and thoughtful gifts but don’t have a lot of time to spend or just don’t know what to put together. We launch beautiful new boxes seasonally and based on the upcoming festive season. 

Our Toss Up Your Own Section on the other hand features an evolving selection of products across various categories listed individually which gives our customers the luxury of curating a box on their own based on their budget and specific requirements. In case they need any help or are confused about what to put together, we are there to guide them on what we may think will work. Eg – If someone wants to gift something to a friend who has gotten home from the hospital or recovered from a long illness, we would recommend products like our turmeric lattes, immunity boosting teas or mukhwas, a relaxation eye pillow, a gentle smelling candle, a foot soak and a hand cream. A gift like this shows the recipient that the sender not only cares, but has really taken the time out to put together something specially for them. And rest assured that the recipient will love using these gifts!

We take feedback from our customers very seriously. So we’re constantly working on making our website as easy to navigate as possible so they can either pick up one of our pre-packed boxes or build one on their own, quickly and efficiently.

What really makes an impact is the individual products coming together to create a story in a beautiful box with a handwritten note. Whether it’s products that are being put together around a specific theme, or products across various categories that correlate to one another or even if they are just curated around a particular colour palette, we believe our boxes tell you a little story and that is what we would say sets The Style Salad apart.  

At the TSS HQ, we love hunting for new and unusual products for their quality, value and beautiful design. We also follow strict quality standards. All products are sampled and tested out before they are launched on our website to make sure that the quality is nothing short of 100%.

What are some of the biggest challenges of running an SMB? 

Like all startups we too have had our fair share of challenges. Right from choosing the right platform to launch our website, to setting up SOPs to manage inventory, recruiting the right people on our team, to finding the right vendors for our packaging and finding an accountable logistics partner. Setting up the website was a challenging task. We’ve been tweaking our website from the day we launched, based on our customer feedback to ensure our customers have a smooth shopping experience on the website.

Another challenge specifically relating to us being an e-commerce gifting boutique, would be ensuring that the shipments reach our customers on the specific dates they need their packages. This is not always possible but we try our best to have it get to them on time. Finding the right and reliable logistics partner was hard at first but after many trials & errors we succeeded at finding one. 

With digital marketing constantly evolving it is an everyday challenge to reach the right target audience and capture quality leads given the budget constraint with small businesses like ours. It gets difficult to compete with bigger brands with higher advertising budgets. 

Another major challenge that we face is with big corporates. While they are our biggest sources of income, most of them have unreasonable expectations from SMB’s like us where they expect us to fulfil a large order by blocking our stock and funds without any advance payment or contract. This puts us in a bind. As much as we are eager to take on every single order we get and not pass up any opportunity, there are times when we are forced to turn down the order because it is not always that banks are forthcoming with timely finances and minimalistic paperwork when it comes to timely support with small companies like ours.

As much as we are eager to take on every single order we get and not pass up any opportunity, there are times when we are forced to turn down the order because it is not always that banks are forthcoming with timely finances and minimalistic paperwork when it comes to timely support with small companies like ours.

Shweta & Saloni, The Style Salad

Why did you choose each other to be business partners? 

We are best friends from school and always dreamt of starting our own business together someday. After graduation, after we got our first jobs and our second jobs and even though we both worked in different workplaces we continued to dream the teenage dream and still constantly talked about how some day this dream will manifest into reality. And it did! We both come from a retail & fashion background. Coming from similar backgrounds and having the same vision lead us to starting our entrepreneurial journey together. Having had 2 years of work experience in retail merchandising, marketing for both a luxury retail store and an e-commerce fashion store we definitely were in a hurry to be our own bosses. We both decided this was a good enough experience for us to launch The Style Salad! And to our surprise the journey has been nothing short of exciting. We are learning everyday on the job. There have been times when we’ve locked horns with each other, disagreed on so many points, and have had countless discussions where we agreed to disagree, but the one thing that kept us going and growing is our common goal towards The Style Salad and sharing the same views and business values.

We are learning everyday on the job. There have been times when we’ve locked horns with each other, disagreed on so many points, and have had countless discussions where we agreed to disagree, but the one thing that kept us going and growing is our common goal towards The Style Salad and sharing the same views and business values.

Shweta & Saloni, The Style Salad

We define a ‘work wife’ as someone that you work with that’s turned a friend (or friends turned colleagues in your case) that has kept you sane, inspired you, seen you at your best and worst and continues to constantly cheer you on. What, in your opinion, is the best thing about having a work wife? 

In our case it’s friends turned colleagues. And it’s both great and nerve wracking when your work wife is your best friend! The best part is that you can confide in each other through personal issues as well as professional matters without having to think twice or being judged making us work wives safe sounding boards.

The best thing about having my best friend as my work wife is that she is someone I can trust a 100% . There is also flexibility and reliability. She is there to step in on days I can’t and vice versa. We also have no qualms about calling each other out if and when the need arises and we both choose to take it in the right spirit because only BFF’s can take the liberty to do that without the other getting too offended, because we both know its coming from a good place and that’s the only way we can uplift each other and grow together. I know I have a safety net not just at home but at my place of work too!

Featuring The Style Salad’s Chief Eating Officer, Flip!

We also have no qualms about calling each other out if and when the need arises and we both choose to take it in the right spirit because only BFF’s can take the liberty to do that without the other getting too offended, because we both know its coming from a good place and that’s the only way we can uplift each other and grow together.

Shweta & Saloni, The Style Salad

What are your future plans for style salad – exciting things that are coming up, your larger vision for the company? 

We are currently experimenting & exploring innovative packaging ideas, exploring more eco-friendly options, and curating limited edition box designs by collaborating with talented creators across India along with launching our own range of products. 

We are also hoping to launch a couple of new and exciting verticals on the website when things get better with the pandemic situation. You will just have to keep following us to find out the rest!

And that’s a wrap!

We are so grateful to Shweta & Saloni for sharing with us so many valuable insights on what it takes to run an eCommerce company. And we’re very excited to share that this is only the start! We’ve got a lot of exciting women entrepreneurs & industry leaders lined up for #StoriesbyTWW. If you know someone that you think should be featured here, send us a tip at: theworkwife[dot]in[at]gmail[dot]com.

#StoriesbyTWW: Pink Cheese Designs

Welcome to the very first edition of #StoriesbyTWW! The idea behind #StoriesByTWW was to feature a series of interviews on our website with women entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs. This is a series that we hope will inspire our community smart and ambitious women as well as share stories of  women that have taken risks, challenges and unexplored paths to get to where they are today.

Whether it’s someone just starting off their career or someone who’s looking to change paths, come back to work after a break, or simply learn, we feel these stories can do a lot in helping them get a more real perspective from people who’ve actually done it successfully. 

Today, we are featuring Pink Cheese Designs, a graphic design business set up by two incredibly talented and ambitious women with an eccentric eye for style. Here’s their story!

Riba and Simran, the founders of Pink Cheese

How did the idea for Pink Cheese Designs come about? What do you offer as part of your business? 

We started out as two best friends who happened upon a freelance design project. What started out as one freelance project that we decided to work on together snowballed into the now full-fledged design studio of our dreams – Pink Cheese Designs. At the time, the both of us had jobs of our own (both in design) and thought of this project as a fun way for us to work together. But before we knew it, we were getting projects on the side that paid us much more than our actual jobs. We knew then that it was time to quit our jobs and pursue our passion for design full-time. And who better to start a business with than your best friend? For everyone curious about how the name Pink Cheese came about – we LOVE the colour Pink and we LOVE anything with cheese, go figure! 

Pink Cheese Designs is a niche graphic design studio that offers branding, packaging and website design. We specialise in both print and digital media and work with a global clientele. We love creating brand identities that help businesses tell their story. Nothing sparks our joy as much as seeing a happy client. We aim to deliver an end result that they are 100% satisfied with. To describe us as design junkies would be an understatement – we eat, breathe, sleep design, and enjoy sharing the most absurd ideas with each other. 

Pink Cheese Designs for BurgerMan

What does a typical project entail? 

Here’s a quick lowdown on the Pink Cheese process

Step 1: Client servicing – We’re all about what clients want. That’s our key to nailing any project brief. The minute we have that initial meeting with the client, we pretty much get a sense of the brand and our head immediately starts reeling with ideas.

Step 2: Mood boarding – The start of any design process begins with tonnes of research. We typically spend a good day collecting references and creating a mood board that works with the client’s brand and aesthetic. Ideating – Once we’re done with our research, we start our brainstorming session. The biggest perk of having a work wife is that you constantly have a sounding board to bounce ideas off of.

Step 3: Design – We step into our artboard and let the creative juices flow. Tweaking and honing along the way to get to a design product that we are happy with. And voila! A Pink Cheese design is created.

The biggest perk of having a work wife is that you constantly have a sounding board to bounce ideas off of.

Riba & Simran, founders of Pink Cheese Designs

We also have to manage client updates, rounds of feedback, adjustments, negotiations, accounting and all the other administrative aspects that come with running our own business. It’s not fun, but it is essential.

What are some of the biggest challenges of running your own design firm? 

We strongly believe that designers are a ‘work in progress’. In the design field, things are constantly evolving, changing and progressing. We’ve watched the industry move from print to digital media, maximalism to minimalism, Facebook to Instagram, posts to reels. The biggest challenge is always keeping up with the times and making sure you remain relevant. We have to constantly challenge ourselves to do better and keep learning while staying consistent. Designers are their biggest critics and we get sucked into the vortex of perfection. Self-belief and knowing when to stop have been huge learning curves for us. Living in a patriarchal society, we’ve had our fair share of being pushed around as two young female entrepreneurs to work unreasonable hours at unreasonable prices. It has taken us many years of slow progress to understand the value of our work and put our foot down when it comes to work timings and pricing negotiations. Like they say ‘If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you’, and you bet we’re here for the change.

Pink Cheese for Classmate Notebooks

Why did you decide to get into business together and what makes this an ideal partnership? 

When you know each other for as long as we have (15+ years), you’re starting out with a pretty solid foundation. We were so in sync to begin with that people would joke of us as being an old married couple – no wonder we were destined to be work wives! The biggest advantage of working with your best friend is that you know each other’s personalities in and out and have all that prior knowledge to deal with any tricky situation. You’ve already navigated through numerous awkward and upfront conversations that it comes very naturally to you without causing offence. People management and communication is key to the success of any business, and when you already have that sorted, you know everything else comes easy. But more importantly, our love for all things designs, similar sense of aesthetics and work ethic was the driving force to get into the design business together.

In terms of our working partnership, we truly complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses. We each bring a certain skill set to the equation which balances out the other. Like yin to the yang, like Monica Geller to Rachel Greene, like Serena van der Woodsen to Blair Waldorf, like Pink to Cheese. What can we say, we’re a match made in heaven!

What’s the one thing you’d tell new designers starting out today – whether they’re working in companies or starting their own businesses? 

When you are starting out, it’s about gaining the right experience. Go where your gut takes you and work with agencies, individuals or entrepreneurs that inspire you to do the best possible work. When you hone your craft, the money will come. It’s the result of putting in all your sweat and hard work into projects you’re passionate about.

We always believe in looking at an applicants quality over their quantity. For example, when we hire, we value their aesthetic sense more than the number of years of job experience. 

For designers starting out on their own, a word of advice would be not to fret! There’s enough work out there for everyone. Positivity attracts positivity and vice versa. 

Pink Cheese for Olivanna

What would you say are some of your best projects and why? 

Having worked with brands across the globe, we can happily say that some of our favorite projects have been right here in Namma Chennai. We love giving local brands a global voice. Speaking of which, the rebranding of Burgerman, beautifully embodies all that we love to bring to the table. Giving an old homegrown brand a cool, new avatar for its millennial customers really got our creative juices flowing. Burgerman was a brand that we interacted with at the school culturals and enjoyed our first bite of the 50 Rupees burger. When they decided to make a comeback a couple of years ago, we were super psyched that they chose us rather than a conventional big agency. With a mélange of nostalgia and modern day design language, we successfully made Burgerman a truly “Glocal” brand.

Another project that spoke to us personally was our very first design project when we started Pink Cheese Designs back in 2012. In a serendipitous stroke of luck, ITC Classmate came to us for the design of their then new range of notebooks “Pulse”. Pulse was set to be targeted towards the hip, college-going kids that seemed a world and generation apart from the suit wearing corporate world of ITC. So, they decided to give the project to two fresh-faced young entrepreneurs right out of college themselves. That was the year memes started trending on the internet as well and I’m not sure how many of you remember this but there was this really popular meme at the time “Sh*t people say”: where people would just troll Sh*t their moms said, their teachers said etc. We decided to take this Internet sensation and translate it onto the notebook covers, which went on to be printed and distributed across the country. It was the first time we realized that something that once only existed on our computer artboard could physically touch people across the country and boy, was that a good feeling!

For designers starting out on their own, a word of advice would be not to fret! There’s enough work out there for everyone. Positivity attracts positivity and vice versa. 

Simran & Riba, Pink Cheese Designs

What are some of the things you practice when the going gets tough? 

We have an unfair advantage – we are two best friends, going on 15 years of friendship, turned business partners. When the going gets tough, we get to vent to each other, ride all the highs and tide through all the lows together. Quoting Rudyard Kipling from his famous poem “If” (which by the way was part of our English I curriculum in 10th standard that we ended up mugging up together) – If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two impostors just the same; One thing that really works for us is that we don’t let the highs excite us too much and so the lows don’t drag us down that much either. 

Learning to say “No” has been one of the most liberating practices we’ve learnt in the process of becoming entrepreneurs. “Less is more” is not only our design mantra but also our business mantra now. We don’t need to give up our weekends; holidays and me time to please the client. Instead using that time to recharge our creative cells serves our practice and projects more. The process to get here from being the people pleasing twenty-somethings to self-assured thirty-somethings has been a hard but rewarding one.

Talk to us about the pros (and cons if any) of being workwives. 

As with any good marriage, the biggest perk of having a #workwife by your side is you have someone with you in sickness and in health, through good times and bad, for better or for worse. When one of us falls sick, the other naturally assumes charge. When one of us has a life crisis, the other assumes the role of a pseudo therapist. Having a good support system at work is as important as having a supportive partner at home. We divide our chores (client servicing, accounts, social media etc.) and help run the house (business) smoothly. Especially when you are in the creative space and creative blocks come without warning, you need your “nagging” #workwife to help get you out of the slump.

Learning to say “No” has been one of the most liberating practices we’ve learnt in the process of becoming entrepreneurs. “Less is more” is not only our design mantra but also our business mantra now

Simran & Riba, Pink Cheese Designs

The biggest con is when you fight with your #workwife and you have no one to vent to about irritating work events or grab a hot chocolate with to hit pause on the day and remember to breathe. Your biggest support system at work fails and you are suddenly stranded in the field without your workplace warrior. And as with making up with your partner, the make up hot chocolate tastes even sweeter when you make up with your #workwife.

We hope you enjoyed reading this interview and we can’t thank Simran and Riba enough for being a part of #StoriesbyTWW. If you know a female owned business that you think should be featured here, please don’t hesitate to email us! We are at: theworkwife[dot]in[at]gmail[dot]com

I Went Off Instagram For 6 Weeks. Here’s What Happened

I’ve been toying with the idea of weaning off social media completely for a while now. I’ve realised that while it’s a very useful platform for things like this community, small business owners and even brands, it’s also a distracting black hole that can spiral out of control if you don’t know when to stop using it. During this pandemic, we’ve all been victims of doomscrolling. With that in mind, I’ve been contemplating how I can use these apps in a measured, meaningful way and stay off for the most part. Unfortunately, the nature of my job (god bless marketing) and our TWW community doesn’t allow me to do that completely, so I decided that I’d just take a short break and see how I felt. 

Six weeks ago, I decided to take a break from my personal instagram. I went in with zero expectations. To be honest, I went into it expecting to fail and log back in within a week or two, but I surprised myself by staying off for six. I set a few ground rules – that I’d only login to the app only to post on @theworkwife.in few times a week, respond to our DMs and comments and log out. I deactivated Facebook and I removed the Twitter and Linkedin apps from my phone. I only logged in and logged out through the browser if I needed to post for work. None of those things affected me at all because I’ve never doomscrolled on any of them – Instagram was my only weakness! I knew that going off of it was only going to be temporary (and possibly hard) but I decided to give it an honest shot. 

Here’s what happened in the last six weeks.

I regained focus

I know it sounds like I’m exaggerating but my god, I’m still appalled at the amount of content I consumed in a day on instagram. Suddenly I was not seeing people post their travel pictures, vaccine shots and opinions on every single thing, influencers marketing products that I might end up buying, creator accounts telling me how I should be inspired in the middle of a pandemic and random accounts that did nothing for me on my explore feed. It gave me SO much free headspace. I was also not consuming news that was causing me daily anxiety. I checked covid news on google only when I voluntarily wanted to know how things were, but I didn’t track numbers or cases in my city on a daily basis. We have a covid helpline at work and there was already a lot going on there that was upsetting. Having one less channel to consume helped in preserving my sanity. With all this content out of the way, I was able to focus on just a few things – I prioritized nutrition, immunity and survival. I focused on those three things and cut out all other noise. Which brings me to my next point.

I was able to re-prioritize and reset health issues I’d been struggling with for years 

I was diagnosed with PCOS 13 years ago. I know what most people are thinking, “oh, PCOS, everyone has it”. Sure, they probably do. But it’s a silent killer if you don’t pay attention to it. It disrupts the quality of your life more than you can imagine and as you age, new symptoms and newer related health issues crop up. For me, it was fluctuating weight and high levels of work-related stress, leading to irregular menstrual cycles, which then led to insulin resistance meaning pre-diabetes, a serious comorbidity for Covid-19. My aunt passed away in January from covid and my cousins were inconsolable because of how suddenly it all happened. Diabetes was one of her co-morbidities. I knew she was much older, but it still terrified me. I knew that if I didn’t work extra hard on my health now, I could go through some severe risks too in the off chance I got it. So I put this new lockdown to good use. No instagram means no cherry picking a thousand pieces of advice from ten different accounts. It means you create a focused plan for yourself, your needs and requirements and simply practice it day after day. I didn’t get distracted by others’ diets, workouts, lifestyles and opinions because I knew I had different issues that they were not addressing. If you have specific goals, you need more focus and fewer distractions. A detox helps!

I allowed myself to feel what I felt in entirety

The boon of social is that it gives you other perspectives outside of your own, and the bane of it is that too. On some days, I did wake up pretty ok. On other days I woke up feeling like shit and not “blessed” even though, on paper, I knew I was more blessed than people who are in far worse situations right now. But I let myself feel all my emotions and just went with the day instead of trying to change how I felt. We all have different coping mechanisms and we all have bad days. It’s okay. Being off instagram allowed me to feel how I wanted to because I wasn’t constantly seeing people’s opinions and changing my own feelings based on them. This definitely helped me keep it together a little better than I would’ve if I was checking social media everyday.  

I used my scrolling time to sharpen up other skills

Going off instagram didn’t mean I went off screens entirely. That seemed impossible. But I swapped my browsing time with things that would benefit me personally. I started reading and painting more, something I hadn’t done consistently in the past year. I now play quick word puzzles, sudoku, sentence or memory games – basically any easy 5 min game a few times a day that helps me improve my cognitive skills.

I stopped keeping up with everyone’s lives 

I only kept in touch with close family and friends on whatsapp or through video calls. I stopped browsing and looking at every instagram follower’s life and what they were upto, if they had it easier or harder, where they were going etc. This stuff really affects you subconsciously and at some point, for your own good, you have to proactively stop. And I did. 

I cut off channels of temptation

By not browsing, I stopped seeing brands and their new drops, I didn’t feel the need to order from Instagram’s newest baker or local shop. In general, I’m not much of a crazy shopper anymore but I’ve been able to keep an even tighter wallet, thanks to this. With the current situation, any amount of extra savings can be incredibly useful. 

These last few weeks, in spite of how bad it’s been news wise, has helped me cope personally. It’s been SO much better than the way I coped with the pandemic last year. If anything, I did the opposite in 2020 but I didn’t want to go down that road again this time. I want to conclude by saying that in no way am I trashing Instagram or saying it sucks. I get it, it’s a way to “relax” and unwind for a lot of us. All I’m saying is, using it more intentionally can be more beneficial to you and your mental health. I’m still off my personal instagram and haven’t found a need to come back yet. If I do, I’ll continue to exercise some restraint so that I can keep points 1-6 going, because I know that in the long run that’s the only thing that will really make a difference to my life.

Have you ever tried an Instagram detox? Did it help and if so, how? Tell us in the comments!

The Burnt Out Mom’s Survival Guide

This last year has not been easy on parents and it’s been especially hard on moms. There have been so many surveys done across the world that have stated what we see right before our eyes and feel to our bones every day – mothers are overwhelmed. We are tired. We are burnt out. And our mental health, which went for a toss last year, is yet to make a return. Most of us are hanging by a thread.

To be honest, I don’t have advice to share, simply because all I’m doing is trying to survive. And much like our paleolithic ancestors who came up with tools to make their survival just that much easier, I thought I’d share the things that I’ve been doing and buying that have made this incredibly stressful time slightly less horrible (all privilege disclaimers apply).

So here’s my survival guide – and for what it’s worth, it doesn’t matter if you’re a working mom, working, or a mom – I hope it helps you too.

Go with the flow

I used to be anal about routine and my habits, but I’m currently facing something that has thrown everything up in the air for both me and my child. It’s frustrating to break well settled routines, but it’s also the times that we are in right now. The second wave of covid has been cruel to all of us and our families and we must count ourselves as blessed if we are safe with our families. I know I can’t go back to old routines immediately, but instead, I’m trying to accept the situation for what it is. We’re in the middle of a raging pandemic and living a structured and predictable life is a luxury. Now is not the time to “hustle” (really hate that word) or double down on your ambitions. Survival is good enough, so be kind to yourself. It’s not easy, but it’s something that I consciously try everyday. I can’t go for my morning classes like I used to. It’s ok. I’ll find something on YouTube. I’m not able to workout at home in the mornings. It’s ok. I’ll find time after work. I’m too tired after work. It’s ok. I’ll do it at night. I’m exhausted. It’s ok. We will try again tomorrow.

Get toys you can also play with

We were never really toy-buying parents, but this pandemic has ensured that my partner and I now actively scout for toys that we know will not only keep him occupied, but also impart some kind of learning. The other condition that we had for us to pull the trigger on a toy was that it should also be something that we could also participate in. Not many toys check these conditions but the ones that do have been absolute lifesavers for us. Here’s what’s held our child’s attention (and our sanity) this year:

MagnaTiles, in particular have been a huge hit in our household. They’re very pricey, and we constantly went back and forth on them, but after we pulled the trigger on one set, we ended up buying an expansion set. It keeps my son occupied for more than half hour (which is like 12 hours in his world) and when I play with him, he sits down for an hour. These colourful tiles are also very calming for adults and building with them helps me unwind, too.

Once again, these are not inexpensive by any means. Try to find them on preloved marketplaces if you can, but even if you do end up buying them, look at them as an investment because they’re truly a toy for all ages. The other toys/play-things that we’ve found very useful at this time are:

A mini trampoline from decathlon is great for active kids who evade bed time. It also doubles up as a workout/warmup tool for the grownups, which is always appreciated.

An easel/chalkboard from IKEA. We got the slightly overpriced one from Amazon, but it’s still worth it. If IKEA delivers to your city, don’t even give this a second thought. It’s great for learning and we play a very basic version of pictionary where my 4 year old has to guess what I draw, which leads to a lot of laughs. If you don’t have the space for this, you can consider getting this big roll of drawing paper instead, which is just as fun.

The screen is your friend

The iPad is the most valuable object in our household. Regulating screen time took a lot of trial and error but we’ve finally managed to arrive at a solution with the proportion of cartoons/shows to educational content that has worked for us. I’m not sharing it here because everyone’s mileage is different and if your child is getting some extra screen time right now – IT’S OKAY. If the screen is keeping your child safe and indoors, the screen is your friend. Embrace it! The most loved apps in our household are LingoKids, MarcoPolo, Fruit Ninja and Paper. LingoKids and MarcoPolo are both educational, Paper is great for some iPad doodling while Fruit Ninja is just…fun.

Find five minute hobbies

We’re at a point where even hobbies are becoming stressful. All of summer 2020 I tried learning how to paint, only to find out that I just didn’t have the time to sit in one place and give it the time it deserves. Today, I’ve a skillshare membership (it’s a referral link, if you’re interested!), but instead of trying to attempt everything in one go, I sketch or paint between breaks at work. It’s only for about five minutes and I don’t have any grand ideas for becoming an artist. Instead, it’s about having some outlet for myself. Instead of finding 30 minute periods in an already crazy day, I find 5 minutes of escape, 5 to 6 times a day. And you might think it doesn’t add up, but it does! Other five minute hobbies: Reading a few pages of my latest read on the kindle, Learning french on Duolingo, learning how to apply nail polish on my right hand and watering plants.

Make time for people

I’ve always been the type who’s secretly thrilled at cancelled plans. And the pandemic makes it really easy to be out of touch. When the pandemic ebbed briefly a few months ago in India, I did meet a few friends and colleagues (safely, of course) in person and it was only then when I realized how much I missed human contact. Even now, it’s an effort to be a part of ‘wassup!’ type zoom calls. But it’s only when I’m a part of them do I realize how much I’ve missed people outside of my family and talking about things that aren’t a part of my daily chores. Find your tribe of mom-friends, non-mom friends, work friends, ex-colleagues you love to hang out with….talk, share memes, watch shows together, whatever. The pandemic makes it very easy for all of us to get into our own shells and do bare minimum maintenance for our friendships. But even ten or fifteen minutes with friends, talking about trivial things, makes a huge difference to my day. Bonus: Take the time to talk to your partner about random things, too. It really does matter.

I hope you found this survival guide useful – and please do share your own survival techniques in the comments! We could use as many tools, tips and tricks we can get. Happy Mother’s Day!

Here’s How I Rediscovered Reading

Do you miss reading? I certainly do. Reading was such a vital part of my being growing up, but the habit slowly ceased to exist. Between the general anxiety that adulthood imposes upon us and the Netflix bingeing, a lot of us haven’t been able to the time to read. And that’s unfortunate, because reading is immensely pleasurable and be a source of great comfort during harder times, like right now.
I recently tried a couple of things to find my way back to reading, and I’m so happy to tell you that I made it happen. I now read 2-3 books a week and it gives me so much peace and quiet. And it’s helped me focus better at work too!

Here’s what I did:

Start with a thriller / chick lit

Don’t overthink. Read anything. There’s really no judgement here – remember the good old times when Nancy Drew was a big part of our lives? Start off with something light, perhaps a Nora Roberts or Danielle Steele to begin with, and you can work your way to a Ken Follett or Kazuo Ishiguro.

Carry it around everywhere

Wallet? Keys? Phone? Mask? Book? Check. When you can keep your book with you at all times, you never have an excuse to not read. Given that we all have to stay at home now anyway, there’s no reason you can’t be without your book! Even if you’re at your desk, download the kindle app on your phone or on your browser so you can catch up with your book during your work breaks instead of doomscrolling on social.

Join book clubs and follow book bloggers on social

If there’s one thing we learned from the pandemic, it’s that virtual communities are a great support system. Perhaps you can delete apps like Netflix and instead log on to Goodreads to read reviews, or join book clubs on Instagram for new book recommendations. Let’s not forget, bookworms make for great conversations! If that’s not a perk, then I don’t what is. Knowing you have company – even if it’s virtual – when you’re doing something is a great motivator to keep at it.

Schedule some time off your smartphone

We’re constantly taking our phones everywhere with us, we’re constantly connected – no wonder we’re constantly anxious. Scheduling some time off from your phone could give you the push that you need to pick up that book again. Consider giving yourself a time out from your phone from time to time. Maybe half an hour during lunch time, or 2 hours before you sleep so that you can clock in some time with your current read?

Don’t post your current read on social

Well, at least not until you’ve finished it. But I’ve found sharing what I’m reading on social to be counter intuitive – it’s akin to reading for others instead of reading for myself. While it is great to share books that you think others should read (or if the book cover is totally in line with your instagram aesthetic!), posting what you’re reading on social makes the very act of reading, a performance. And once you’ve finished performing, you might not feel compelled to pick the book back up again.

If you’re ready to try these hacks, or if you want to share hacks of your own, don’t hesitate to drop a note in the comments below. Happy reading!

Stuck In A Rut? Here’s How You Can Break The Cycle

A quarter of 2021 is now past us. And yet, it still feels very much like an extension of April last year. We’re still at home. Travelling is still not advisable. And your ‘temporary’ routine has become the only routine you remember. If you can relate, know that you are not alone! The rut is very much real. I was in a funk a few weeks ago and I’m still figuring my way out of the cycle. I thought I’d share what I’m doing so if you’ve been feeling the same way, I hope you find this useful!

Embrace the funk

The funk is your friend. Instead of fighting it, pause a minute and try to understand where it’s coming from. For me, it’s when I lose control of my plans and ideas. Some others slip into a rut when they’re feeling listless or overwhelmed by everything going on around them. And given the news cycle that we read everyday, it’s hard to not be overwhelmed. So it’s okay. I’ve been taking a few minutes everyday just to breathe deeply [I’ve an app that sends me reminders, you can also just set an alarm every couple of hours] and to tell myself that although the world we live in continues to be a shitshow, things will get better. They really will.

Plan for something fun

I find planning to be a great little escape for me to the point where my vacation board on pinterest is now my happy place. Apart from distracting me from my present, it also gives me something to look forward to and something to plan for. It’s easy to believe that there’s absolutely nothing that’s happening for us when we’re in the middle of a rut. But planning for a future event – whether it’s a holiday, meeting family and friends, the art project you want to get started on or even just a recipe you want to try – helps you keep a more positive frame of mind for your present.

Physical Movement

This is such a cliche, but i truly don’t believe that anything works as well as physical movement does. By movement I don’t necessarily mean exercise (although I love myself a good workout), but I mean actually heading out of your house/workstation for a little walk outside, maybe a cafe (if you’re up for it) or even just a stroll around your terrace. I’ve been noticing that sitting around only makes my mood worse and whenever I sense a cloud over my head, I just get up and go to the terrace, water my plants and just spend a few minutes soaking up the green! Fresh air really does a world of good to my mood.

Break Out Of Your Routine

I love routine and cannot function without it. But every time I feel like I’m in a rut, I try to make small changes to my routine, consciously. This way, I get to evaluate if this change makes me feel better or worse after which I can decide to add it to my routine or cut it out. Usually these are low commitment, like a single workout class or a free trial of Skill Share (super fun!). Whatever it is, consciously breaking out of routine helps me reorient myself while adding something new to my life.

Know That You’re Not Alone

Finally, know that you’re not alone! It’s been a hard year and it feels like its never-ending. We get it! And we feel it too. Know that while things feel bleak, there will be light that eventually comes out of the tunnel. I know that it’s easy to say ‘be positive’, because it’s just. so. hard. But we can do our best to accept the situation and find ways to cope. Things are hard. But we can do hard things.