Women Deserve An Equitable Home Environment To Flourish At Work: Tara Singh Vachani

In conversation with SheThePeople, Vice-Chairperson of Max India Limited Tara Singh Vachani says it is not the education or training where women are falling behind, but rather the inequitable caregiving responsibility.

Ragini Daliya
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Tara Singh Vachani | Image from Outlook Business

Tara Singh Vachani, Executive Chairperson of Antara Senior Care and Vice-Chairperson of Max India Limited, was in her 20s when she built Antara - a one-of-its-kind community for the elderly in Deharadun. As a founder, her vision was to give a new dimension to the senior care space in India. The youngest daughter of Analjit Singh, 62, founder of the Max Group, Tara travelled extensively, researched and brainstormed on various offerings that could cater to the evolving lifestyle and lifecare needs of the elderly. Today, Antara has expanded to encompass five verticals in its range. 


And to think of it, Tara did not really begin her endeavour intending to start an entrepreneurial venture. "It just all sort of developed quite intuitively and naturally because I had the support and umbrella of the Max Group. I had a wonderful board, mentor, guide and my father. And I think it stemmed from a desire to create something holistic and impactful. So the journey of exploration, understanding the sector and the ecosystem was quite wonderful as a learning opportunity," she said in an interview with SheThePeople.  

Beyond her exemplary capabilities and vision to drive change, Tara is not one to mince words. She acknowledges her privilege, and comfort of her upbringing and admits to carrying her father's learnings every day to stay grounded.   

"Growing up, I had very little exposure to the real world in terms of the hustle, the grit, the hard work and the tenacity it takes to build something of your own. Our parents had given us a wonderful, comfortable life but with a lot of boundary conditions. There was a way in which they lived, the decisions they made, the things they bought, and how they spent time and money. I think those few things have been a very positive reality check. Since then, starting my own business, understanding the power of hard work, discipline and diligence, and working for a higher sense of purpose have kept me rooted," the scion adds. 

'We need to remind young people of interconnectedness'

With 66 percent of its population (808 million) below the age of 35, India has the world’s largest youth population. Despite the estimated decline in the numbers, India will remain a relatively ‘young’ country in 2030, with 24 percent of its population (365 million) in the 15-29 age group. However, Tara believes the youth today needs to be exposed to far more reality checks to get involved in the social sector. 

She says, "I think there's too much instant gratification. There is too much self-centeredness, and a lack of understanding of how interdependent we all are and how our thoughts, actions and speech affect everybody around us. So I think it is up to the older generation to continue to remind the youth of this concept of interconnectedness. I think that in this fast-paced, almost inauthentic world people are attracted to a quality of life. And I understand when you realise the kind of compensation benefits and ecosystem that the profit sector can give you, you do get excited by that. Hence, till the social sector doesn't start matching its pay at least 

80-85% of the private sector, I think it's very hard to get the best talent in the social sector."


Equality begins at home

This interview was conducted virtually, and there was a slight delay in the beginning. When Tara joined the call, I saw she was at home, rushing to fix the internet and give us her undivided attention. When I asked her if she was doing fine, she politely recalled all was well except her younger one running a fever. Ask her how is she managing, and balancing work and home, Tara doesn't beat around the bush but quickly acknowledges her privilege. 

"I'm extremely privileged, I'm probably one of the few women in the world who has the benefits and the luxury that I do. And I am eternally and very deeply grateful. I have, you know, a full home environment that is safe and secure. I have multiple people who do caregiving alongside me whom I trust and respect very much. I am a huge exception, but yes, the polls and pushes are not lost on me, even with all the support and infrastructure. Frankly, I don't know how other women do it. And I'm always amazed and in awe of women who don't have the ecosystem and support, and they still have smiles on their face. They manage their duties and responsibilities so beautifully. I will always admire women like that," she adds. 

Tara also believes the unequal distribution of work at home is the biggest factor for women leaving the workforce. Data from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) states that the employability gender gap in India is 50.9%, with only 19.2% of women in the labour force compared to 70.1% of men. Tara says it is not the education or training where women are falling behind, but rather the inequitable caregiving responsibility. 

"When you deep dive into what is it that is causing them to leave the workforce, it's the fact that women take on the role of caregiver. They are usually the primary caregiver to their children, elderly parents and in-laws.

Till the men don't start playing a more equitable role in the home environment, in traditional family structures; women will always have to leave the workforce. 


Because, yes, while people are having fewer children, it's still a fundamental huge issue that women after having children find it very difficult to manage their home life and their work life. And ultimately, there's burnout and almost a surrender to say, "Listen, no one else can pick up the pieces for me in my home life. But the organization can hire someone to replace me. Why am I fighting this uphill task?" Hence, organizations need to compensate women better, so that can hire caregivers back at home, they need better insurance policies to take care of the medical expenses of children and elders. They need to have better environments to bring their children to work. They need to give men more paternity leave so that men can stay home and take care of their children. It's all about the caregiving. It is my personal belief that this is just a systemic process that needs change," says Tara.

To conclude on a lighter end, I asked Tara if she had any plans for Women's Day. There was laughter and there was scorn. "I think it's ridiculous," she playfully smirked. 

"I am not a fan of Women's Day. Today, it's your corporates, it's your upper middle, middle-income ecosystem that is celebrating Women's Day, we're not celebrating the women that are farming. We're not celebrating the women who are in the villages trying to make ends meet by finding odd jobs. We're not celebrating those women who are a huge part of our population. We're celebrating women, you know, in environments like yours and mine, frankly, I don't think we need celebration on one particular day of the year. I think the macro and micro level processes, changes, support, infrastructure, all of it that needs to come in, needs to happen quietly and needs to happen well," she concludes.

Tara Singh Vachani women changemakers Max Group