While there are many reductionist reasons ascribed to a woman’s success––she is good-looking to she is sleeping around––one way to bring down a successful woman is to presume that she is born with a silver spoon in her mouth. In July’s edition of Feminist Rani we discussed the success of women who carved out a niche for themselves, with and without inheriting a famous parent’s name. We got two contrasting opinions with our stellar panelists––The Leela Palaces Group scion Amruda Nair and the self-made RJ Malishka Mendonsa from Red FM 93.5, in conversation with me.
As the eldest granddaughter of the late CP Krishnan Nair, The Leela Group founder, Amruda is a third generation hotelier. While she served as the Head of Asset Management of her family business, Amruda started her own lifestyle brand Aiana. This is a brand of lifestyle hotels focussed on the young traveller in partnership with Al Faisal Holding in Qatar.
“Being an entrepreneur and taking risks has always been a part of the family. I am a third-generation entrepreneur. My grandfather too was quite a bit of a maverick and setup Leela only at the age of 65,” she said.
I asked Amruda if being born into a legacy was exhausting or exhilarating? I assume she is expected to possess the Midas touch and scale her business to the Leela level. Amruda said, “While having a legacy gives you access, a platform and credibility, the onus on taking it forward depends on you. Leela will always be a part of my legacy but investors will not bank on my last name. It’s a double-edged sword.”
When asked how she responds to presumptions that she was handed success on a silver platter, Amruda said, “I took a pay cut when I joined Leela, so I’ve always felt compelled to prove myself.”
Malishka had a diametrically opposite journey. She lost her father at an early age and as the elder of two sisters being raised by a single mother she had to take responsibility at a young age. She joined media out of the necessity to eke out a living before it turned her into a roaring success, affording her a house, a lifestyle and, of course, fame.
“It would have been different, but I also feel I would have then lacked the drive to prove myself. I am grateful for my own journey.”
Would her success be different if she were a man? Has anyone ever told her that her success was defined by her gender; that it would be easier or tougher if she were a man?
“I don’t think I would’ve been as successful,” she jokes. “I have not seen discrimination in my industry. But I do see that earlier people said I was talented, now, after my weight loss, they say I’m beautiful.”
Malishka has also used her fame to raise funds for social causes. She calls up politicians and local municipal corporation leaders to demand accountability. She helped raise Rs 50 lakhs for the National Association of Blind and Rs 30 lakhs to sponsor education for children going to local government schools.
“I want to convey a serious message with mirth for which radio is a great medium. I know I can make a difference every day.”
The conversation proved that no matter what you’re born into what you make of yourself depends entirely on you.