At BrilliantRead Media, we always strive to bring to our community some of the finest stories from the entrepreneurship world. As part of this endeavour, we invited yet another passionate women entrepreneur – Padmaja Duvvuri for an exclusive interview with us. She is a Business Coach, Image Consultant, Serial Entrepreneur and CEO of Arete Technologies. Let’s learn more about her inspiring journey, background and advice for our growing community!
Excerpts from our exclusive interview with Padmaja:
We are aware of your contribution to the ecosystem, talk us through your background and your journey as a women entrepreneur/business growth coach, please;
I am from Hyderabad, now Telangana, and did a major part of my education from DTEA School, Delhi. I aspired to be an Architectural Engineer and hence chose Mechanical drawings, Math and Sciences as my Majors in high school. But my parents shifted to Uganda and I was left with no choice but to shift to Hyderabad in the mid-term during my 12th.
As Mechanical Drawings was not a known subject at that time in Hyderabad, I had to drop the subject as well as my dream there. I belong to a family of Chartered Accountants and on my parent’s decision, opted to enrol for CA and completed my Articles. Finance is never my cup of tea and I struggled hard to cope with those subjects.
Marriage was my saviour, and I shifted to Mumbai and that’s when my learning journey began. I completed my MBA in IT from the Canadian School of Management and then MBA in HR, from ITM, Navi Mumbai. Then I was selected by ISB for the Goldman Sachs 10000 women entrepreneur’s empowerment program which became a turning point in my journey.
What started as a one-woman, one computer web development company in 2000, grew to a 35-member team IT company by 2013. I then ventured out with a couple of more businesses in partnership with close friends. The first one is Oye trenz, a fashion hub, which was started to empower the weavers from Andhra and promote Slow fashion and Sustainable clothing among urban women.
And the second one a training academy called Go Next level, for empowering leaders in the making, for stepping up in their ladder.
In 2015, due to the relocation of my family, I decided to scale down and concentrated only on offering consultation for Digital Media Marketing and Oyetrenz, the handloom fashion hub. My learning curve started again, and I chose to complete a minimum of 1 course per annum since then and never put a full stop to my learnings.
I completed an advanced Digital Media marketing program for Illinois University, Business Coaching from Ever Coach, Be Extraordinary – a mindful journey to entrepreneurship from Mind valley and BSTA Gold Certification as Master Facilitator from Blair Singer.
In my journey, I have served more than 750+ clients, mentored over 100+ entrepreneurs and offered Coaching on 1 to 1 basis to over 50 plus aspiring business owners. I have been fortunate to receive the International Quality crown award for my services in London in the year 2006.
I have also empowered more than 50 weavers from Andhra and Telangana and offered employment opportunities to master tailors and fashion designers in showcasing their weaves and talents at my Boutique studio in Seawoods grand central mall in Navi Mumbai
What attracts you towards entrepreneurship instead of a corporate career?
In my childhood, during the train journey’s, I was always eager to pick a book from the train librarian. I wanted to pick 3 to 4 books but there was a restriction on the number of books that I can borrow, so I had to pick up only one book and a magazine. It was then that I thought I would open a book rental business and never put a curb on the number of books to choose.
I guess, the most important factor that attracts me to being an entrepreneur is the option to set my own rules and regulations. To act my way. The freedom to decide my path and my expectations.
I am a person who cannot be controlled by time and energy. Like a typical mountain goat (I’m a hardcore Capricorn at heart), I am very ambitious. I don’t give up easily on what I want and love. I am a risk-taker and fast decision-maker.
I am good at planning, managing things, and often referred to as solutions visionary in my close circle. In the years 1998 – 2000, I tried my hand working with a stock exchange. But due to time constraints and personal responsibilities, I couldn’t continue for long. I then took up the career of the centre head for an IT training Institute. That’s when I realised my potential in managing teams and handling business. I tasted the freedom of being myself.
I was satisfied with the way I was able to create an impact in the lives of many. This ability to empower and build teams fueled my purpose in life. Since then there was no looking back.
‘Arete Technologies 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?
Arete is the word of Greek origin and it loosely translates to “excellence of any kind”. In the year 2000 when I started with the web development company, it was in partnership with a friend who was good in Technology. I was not a techie but good in Business Development.
Over the years, the business did well, and in the year 2005, I decided to convert the partnership firm to a private limited company. Just before the conversion, my partner decided to opt-out due to a better offer at hand. I had two options to choose. Either shut the business as I had no technical expertise or go ahead and fulfil my dream of running an excellent IT company. I opted for the second and overnight, built a team. I was determined to EXCEL. That was the only word I used to literally meditate on.
That’s when I remembered reading this word ARETE which translates to the excellence of any kind. So named the company Arete Technologies. My main focus is to offer unmatched quality in my services.
Give more value for money and time invested by my clients. Standing to the name, my exceptional service quality received International recognition and I was awarded the Quality Crown Award. Over a period of time, Arete, evolved into a Digital Agency.
We offer Digital Media Marketing Consultation and Solutions and Business Growth Consultation for Branding on Digital Platform.
During this COVID-19 crisis, what are the measures you have undertaken to continue your business without disruption?
I have more or less automated my process and systems and being a consultant myself for Business Growth using Digital Platform, the transition from working at the office to the virtual environment during COVID times did not take much time or effort.
We have standard measures to monitor productivity, and necessary steps are taken to ensure that our practices align with the challenges of the pandemic. Every aspect of the business is online and tech-enabled to ensure automation as much as possible.
How do you manage yourself and keep on going despite the challenges? What drives you?
I always try to make sure that I empower the right people for the right work. This way I do not feel overburdened with work that leads to stress. In my free time, I travel a lot, click the picture and spend time with my family, and try to maintain my work-life balance as much as possible.
Travelling helps me clear my mind and focus on issues that need my attention. When highly stressed, I do binge-watching of shows and movies on Netflix or Prime and also play a lot of candy crush.
When in the year 2005, I was left with two options – to continue or shut, My husband advised me, give yourself one more day and try your best. Put your best foot forward without worrying about outcomes. And if you feel to give up even after that, then do so without any regrets. This is the mantra I follow till date.
I always give myself one more day to fight my challenges and I have always been lucky so far. I also associate myself with the HIT ME toy.
The inflated toy, which bounces back and stands tall no matter how much you try to hit it. I mastered the skill of bouncing back every time life throws challenges at me.
Given the rapid pace at which the world is changing, what are the leadership traits that are necessary for success?
The ability to effectively lead is a crucial factor in the success, or lack thereof, in entrepreneurial ventures. By understanding and embodying what it takes to lead effectively, entrepreneurs can maximize their chances of success.
Discipline, consistency, continuous learning, innovation persistence are some of the important qualities a leader should exhibit.
In your opinion, what is more necessary: An idea or a good team for a successful startup?
In my opinion, it should be a mix of both. You just cannot go ahead with an idea jotted down on a piece of paper without like-minded people working on it. And in addition to the idea and a good team, two more important factors to success are Consistency and implementation.
To be successful, you can team up with co-founders who share your vision behind the idea and you also need to hire the right people for the right position so that it gets implemented in a proper consistent way.
What are the three most important lessons you have learned building your startup?
Each business is unique, and each person is unique. Work on your niche area and how you deliver is unique to you. I’ve learned not to compare myself to other successful women who seem to have it all together. Invariably, things are not always as they seem, and no one has it all together.
I have also learned how important it is to embrace change because, at any given time, you will need to shift strategies due to circumstances beyond your control.
I have also learned the importance of spiritual connection. It is very important to be a mindful entrepreneur and not mind full. I have learnt the importance of living in gratitude, the importance of letting go and the importance of giving.
You are always positive and motivated, what keeps you going?
I love my work. Anything you do in life you have to have a passion for and should not feel like work. I am a people’s person and very empathizing at heart. It comes naturally to me to offer support and strength.
Hence, the field that I chose, to Mentor and Coach entrepreneurs to reach their highest potential, to overcome their challenges and grow their businesses, especially in the digital space during these covid times, resonates and satisfies my soul.
For this reason alone, I am coming up with a training hub of my own very soon, where the ‘lonely’ entrepreneurs are at the top with getting a coach buddy of their own. I’m launching this training hub in June, which will complement my Digital Consultation and services offered at Arete.
We would love to know your advice for all those starting out as an aspiring women entrepreneur?
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and see them as an opportunity to learn. Never limit yourself. Every time you fail, if you ever, give yourself one more chance to try harder.