At BrilliantRead Media, our aim is to bring to our community some of the finest stories from the startup ecosystem. As part of this endeavour, we invited a passionate women entrepreneur – Akta Sehgal for an exclusive interview with us. She is an Entrepreneur, Leader, Trainer, Consultant, Financial Mentor and the Founder of Manas Wealth. Let’s learn more about her exciting journey, her background and her advice for our growing community.
Excerpts from our exclusive interview with Akta:
We are aware of your contribution to the ecosystem, talk us through your background and your journey as a women entrepreneur, please;
Daughter of Late Col N K Sehgal, a retired army officer and Mrs Madhu Sehgal, a super talented, creative and determined lady. Born and brought up in an army family meant extensive travel and the chance to experience the diverse cultures, and cities and imbibe the concept of Diversity and Inclusion at a very young age. I have done my BBA in finance from IPS academy, affiliated to DAVV university and MBA in Marketing and finance from SIMS Pune.
Spent 8 years in Mumbai and worked with some prominent names like HDFC Bank, Indusind Bank, and Citi Wealth Advisors, to name a few, Moved to Delhi in 2007 and worked with Sanlam Investments, Barclays and finally decided to hang my corporate boots in 2011 December, Since then I have been an entrepreneur.
The life of an entrepreneur isn’t easy as many resources are managed in a corporate, you start managing all by yourself. All the organizations that I worked for gave me enough learning to start my own setup. They were all startups in some way. Either the team was new or the department was new or the company. I was lucky to have diverse experience across functions which helped me set my own.
Every organization fails not because they don’t have the resources, but their implementation capabilities, the zeal to succeed and above all being vulnerable to the target pressure.
I make sure that all that was a drag or a damper for the success of some of these organizations, I made sure I worked upon that and made a strong foundation for myself and my firm. I set processes, and realistic targets and my strategy was clear and did not succumb to the changing environment, that shall push me to change the core objective. We worked towards enhancing our skills and changed with time to adapt to the positive changes, enhanced our leadership skills and focused on our most important stakeholder, our clients.
Everyone who runs a business, do it to make money, and it shall be unfair to say that we don’t want to make money, of course we did, but we made it when our client made money and not the other way round.
We believed in building relationships and were in no rush to kill the cat. As a child, I always liked the character of the tortoise in the hare and the tortoise story. We made sure we did not join the rat race and kill our ethics and compromise on our value system so we can grow by many X’s. Our clients are family to us and we treat them like we would treat our family, with utmost love and care and be there always and not only when the times are good.
As a woman entrepreneur faced some cliché challenges, and more so when you are a part of an industry that is male-dominated. I carved a niche for myself, grew above the obvious conversations of the bottom line and top line and built a reputation as an ethical, process-driven and client-centric Financial distribution firm. Believed in networking and relationship building and creating a referral mechanism from committed and happy clients.
Who said to succeed you need to compromise and give away all your value system and ethics. We have always treated our clients as equal and with due regard. At the same time, we have maintained a two way street of communication so we are always in sync with each other.
I feel I am successful in my own eyes and that’s what matters to me, I may not be the who’s who of this industry but all I know is that I am doing something or many things right that I am featured here and have been revered with more than 30 awards as a Financial mentor, change-maker and women entrepreneur.
What attracts you towards entrepreneurship instead of a corporate career?
> To be able to work as per my ethics and value system.
> To be able to focus on the client, rather than succumb to the unwanted target pressure.
> To be able to maintain a work-life balance and pursue my passion and devote time to my family.
‘Manas Wealth’ is such a unique name; talk us through more about it, please. Our audience would also love to know what kind of problem you are solving?
Manas, in Sanskrit, alludes to the coordinating organ of intelligence, thought, understanding, perception, and will. We are a part of the industry where the human mind needs to be understood more than the information that is shared.
Also, M A N A S is the first letter of all my family members’ names – M- Madhu (my mom), N- Narinder( my dad) – A – Akta and Anuj (myself and my brother ) and S my family name Sehgal.
Hence the Name Manas Wealth, the wealth of the human mind enabling him or her to take decisions and the strength of my family who inspires me and motivates me.
What does your company specialize in?
I am the founder and Mentor of Manas Wealth, a financial distribution firm with a motto – Small is beautiful. We believe every individual should be financially independent and above all should be financially confident. Our focus is on making India Financially Literate, especially for women and kids.
We have an open architect and offer all financial products and are certified by AMFI for mutual fund distribution. We also undertake financial awareness programs to break the myth – money matters in a man’s world and finance is complicated
We are an 8 years old company and I have over 20 years of experience across regions and clients.
During this COVID-19 crisis, what are the measures you have undertaken to continue your business without disruption?
As one would say if you are process-oriented, disciplined and plan ahead in life, you may experience many challenges and variables, but you shall always overcome them. Would you believe if I said COVID -19 crisis did not disrupt my business, my business is not such about executing the plans of clients, my business involves mentoring them, hand holding them and getting them up the curve with any changes that happen.
We had already transited to the digital platform for transaction execution and hence we were able to support our clients. Further, our business is used to the volatility of the financial markets and has spent more than two decades, we are mentally and emotionally geared up.
In difficult times, what is most important is to follow your process, be with your client and don’t shy away from the situation, rather face it on the front foot.
While I was on my family way in the year 2016, I was prescribed bed rest and we used that time to gradually move our clients to transact digitally and engage with them virtually. Hence our past experience came in handy and I would say, we were ahead of time.
Sometimes what you see as the end, may just be a bend and the road ahead may make your journey more interesting and, exactly what made us stand tall all through the tough times. While the markets did correct by 40 to 50% but our mentoring approach and constant touch with our clients, helped our business stay afloat. As regards post the difficult times, we still focus on our process and believe in a mentoring approach
How do you manage to keep going despite the challenges? What drives you?
Aha, this is an interesting question to answer. What keeps me going:
It’s my passion along with my perseverance that gets me going. For me, my work is my passion and my passion is my work. I have been brought up in a very diverse environment, as mentioned earlier my father was in the Army. We were so accustomed to change and restart and reboots that every time a challenge comes, I am able to identify opportunities
When Covid 19 hit us, I started my weekly financial mentoring sessions, I became a talk show host and started a community to support mothers, women and kids keeping in mind the 3 E’s – Educate Empower Enlighten. We started Motherhood Club, Mcube, Kiddomentoring and Vanya’s Craft and I honed my skills and knowledge. Over the last two years have done more than 200 Talk shows and more than 200 financial awareness programs.
I have been a big fan of the game snakes and ladder and with many life experiences, the decision of life and death at a young age, made me go deeper in life philosophy to understand you either flourish or perish in challenges. I choose to FAIL (Forward action inward learning) to RISE ( Respect, Introspect, Empathies and Smile). I also went thru my own SAIL ( Suffering, Acceptance, inhibitions and Learning) to be me, me today who stands tall on her values
Who do you believe has been the biggest source of motivation in your daily life?
My parents, I seek motivation from them. My father an army officer, taught me discipline, honesty and integrity and my mother taught me how to be courageous, determined and think out of the box.
These virtues I adapted from them and help me in my day to day life. Motivation is always inward, those who look for external motivation to my mind are never motivated. Building your character, your skills and your value system, are great motivators.
What are the three most important lessons you have learned while building your startup?
(i) Focus on the process
(ii) FAIL – Financially Aware in life ( make sure you have enough to last, so you don’t give up )
(iii) Learn, Unlearn and Relearn
What are some of the strategies that you believe have helped you grow as a person?
(a) Acceptance of failure and my shortcomings
(b) Working on my weakness and playing to my strength
(c) Adaptive leadership skills
(d) Relationship Skills
(g) Passion with perseverance and Panache
In your opinion, what are the keys to success?
Well – the key to Success, I wish someone had it, there isn’t one key as we all have different locks to open. Many run after that key which opened someone else’s lock without realizing we are all different and unique. If we are unique then how can my key be yours.
Well, we can derive inspiration from a successful person, but the moot point is What is a success, is your success defined as the same as someone else’s. Success is not in relative terms to someone else. Success is in your own self, are you better than what you were yesterday.
When we start benchmarking our success with someone else who the world through publicity has made to be successful, we are headed for a disaster. I am the key to my success; many may say this is a loser’s answer or of someone fearful. I beg to differ. When I won’t compare my failure with someone, why would I compare my success.
I am I and I am only to be compared with myself. This mantra if all investors understand perhaps, we will be able to overcome all the mental biases that we are a victim of.
What advice would you give students and young professionals who want to have a successful career?
– Be yourself
– Follow your passion
– Learn the art of Networking and relationship management
– There are no shortcuts in life, follow the process
– Last but not the least focus on the 3 Ps, 3 Es and 3 cs – Passion, Perseverance and Panache, Educate Empower Enlighten and Communicate, Consistency and Commitment