At BrilliantRead Media, we always strive to bring meaningful and powerful stories from India and around the world to empower and motivate our growing community. As part of this endeavour, we invited Shalini Mehta for an exclusive interview with us. Shalini is an Entrepreneur, Leader, Coach, Mentor, Trainer, Influencer and Change Enabler. She is the Founder of Courtesy and Carriage India. Let’s learn more about her incredible journey, her background, and her advice for our growing community!
Excerpts from our exclusive interview with Shalini:
We are aware of your contributions to the ecosystem; talk us through your background and your journey, please;
My professional journey started when I was 47 years of age. Before that I was a homemaker, accompanying my husband on his international postings and travelling the world.
However, I had a keen eye on picking up intricate details of the places that I lived in and visited – the local culture which included the way the locals dressed, their food habits, local cuisines, local economy and the way they lived, as well as understanding the nuances of cultural etiquette – the way they greeted others, the social and professional etiquette they followed, the gestures they used to express themselves and so on.
After having settled in Dehradun, I started writing for Doon Times, a supplement with the Doon edition of the Times of India. These were essentially Doon–centric topics that I had to churn out, five days a week.”
This led me to get acquainted with businessmen running small and big businesses in Doon as well as heads of educational institutions. Within a few months, I was lucky to get a break with a girl’s residential school in Doon as their Head of Boarding and was asked to initiate a Finishing School for the students.
This was challenging as it was something very new for me, but I took it on and there was no looking back from there. Gradually, I did a certification course in Image Consulting and Grooming, from Mumbai, trained aviation and hospitality industry students was a visiting faculty at a hospitality school in Dehradun and continued with my private consultations online.
I was also privileged to be invited to Banasthali Vidyapeeth, IMS Unison’s School of Hospitality Management and Servo Institutions to interact with their students on Grooming and Personality Development.”
Currently, I am working part-time with Servo Hospitality School, a division of Hotel Ramada, Dehradun. The arrangement is such that I am able to continue with my private consultations and training programs.
How did you discover your passion?
This is not something that I had planned. I was just lucky to be picked by the senior management of the school where I worked – they had obviously noticed something about me and wanted me to start a Finishing School for girls.
So I started from scratch where I did my research, curated the curriculum, and started teaching. Once I started teaching the subject, I started to observe that you may excel academically and land up a great job, but if you want to keep that job, your soft skills, your grooming, your communication, your body language must be on point.
And this is what pushed me to dive deeper into the subject and take up a certification course.
Every time I heard that a student had got into a college of her choice, or landed a job with a good airline, or received a letter of appreciation from a student, it motivated me and this is what helped me discover my passion.”
How do you manage to keep going despite the challenges? What drives you?
Anything you do, you will always have challenges to cope with… life is not easy for anyone. That is the belief that keeps me going.
Empowering young minds through teaching them self-awareness, seeing them become more self-confident as they learn how to groom themselves well, communicate effectively and confidently, practice good manners and etiquette and become the best versions of themselves is what drives me.
Unfortunately, this is something that is not taught at schools. Schools only stress on academic excellence and when a graduate steps out of college to look for a job, companies are looking for a well-groomed, well-finished product with a pleasing personality. This creates a huge void which needs to be filled.
My vision is for every person irrespective of their socio-economic background or whether they are from a big city or a small town, they must be equipped with the skills to develop a pleasing and confident personality and that is what drives me.
Who do you believe has been the biggest source of motivation in your daily life?
Undoubtedly my husband, Vikas and my daughter, Aarini. They have seen me through my highs and lows and stood by me, rock solid.
It wasn’t easy to restart my life at 47 years of age and three years later, walk away from a well-paying job to study further and then go through the struggle of setting up something single-handedly.”
Each time I would hit a low, there was no one who I could turn to but them because I was sure that they would not let me down.
And both Vikas and Aarini were there, encouraging me with their help, suggestions and ideas, and even today they take a lot of interest in my work, talk to me about how I can do things more effectively and efficiently and thus better my skill.
What are some of the strategies that you believe have helped you grow as a person?
There are a few:
> Always being resourceful
> Not being fearful of anything
> Being able to adapt
> Ability to take risks
In your opinion what are the keys to success?
I believe that there are many factors but these are the ones that work for me…
– Hardwork – There can be no substitute for hard work
– Positive thinking
– Facing challenges head-on, with no excuses
– Being a role model to my students
What advice would you give to our readers?
Etiquette, manners and soft-skills are not something that anyone is born with. These are skills that can be learnt. But one must internalize this learning, apply these skills in everyday life, not only when you are among people, for the fear of being judged. This will help build authenticity around your personal brand.
Also, these skills are not only meant for the rich and famous – each one of us can benefit from this learning.
And finally, it is not expensive to learn this, even if we are observant, there is a lot to learn from, just by observing people, being mindful and self-aware.
Last but not least, what about your journey makes it satisfying/exciting?
The great feedback I receive on my social media content, through my training programs, inspires me to improve myself daily.
Without sounding too full of myself, I’d like to share that my social media audience also sends in requests for etiquette tips on various topics that interest them.
More recently, I received the Exceptional Leaders of Excellence Award from the Women Economic Forum. Getting conferred with recognition for the work I do makes my journey exciting as well as satisfying.
This appreciation, to me, is an acknowledgement from the Universe that this is where I belong and this is what is meant for me!