March 8, 2016
Vaishali Sarwankar, a visionary in commodity trading, speaks about what inspired her step up into a male dominated industry and carve her niche
Ms Vaishali Sarwankar is the visionary and moving force behind the success of Atlantic Group which deals in commodity trading. Extending herself beyond her profession, she wears her various hats with aplomb. In a candid chat, she speaks about her profession, inspiration and women empowerment and more…
How would you describe yourself?
I am just a next door Marathi mulgi.
Was this profession your conscious choice?
Yes, this profession was my conscious choice. I have always challenged those things that was told or considered as no woman’s business. I began my career in the field of trading as an executive. I was keen on learning the nuances of the business and started taking initiatives of learning things. Though I knew the plunge I am taking in.
Who inspired you to take up this profession?
My early influencer was my dad, from whom I have learnt what being a man takes. I always wanted to be like him, on whom the whole family depended. His energy and knowledge fascinated me. He leads a very much disciplined life. And then I would credit my bosses in early days of my career who stood rock solid and supported me in this male dominated sector. Last but not the least, rejections in the society that came to me only because of being a girl has been the driving force in every aspect of my life that kept forcing me to prove my potentials to the society.
How does it feel to carve a niche for yourself in an industry where most men dread to tread?
The whole ideological, societal and cultural friction begins to surface against you, when as a woman you try to make it in an all-boys club. There were many challenges that came my way at the beginning and it is still part and parcel of my life. We do not have a well organised business as far as trading of commodities and traders are concerned. The language is rough and aggressive and verbal abusing is part of it. That’s how the conversation goes. People are stressed about the porting, procurements and things like that we do not operate on mails. Mannerism and etiquettes are left far behind in trading industry. I did not have to face too many difficulties on work front as such, as trading business ran in my blood. But yes, I had to travel the world for it, meet the traders, brokers etc. I remember days when I travelled with all male clad trips and be the only female for business across countries. My family supported me greatly!
Tell us something about your social initiatives? If any?
There are boundless opportunities to make a mark in this world, by giving and serving others and the rewards are magnified. I am where I am now because others pioneered the route for me. Whatever little I have I believe in giving back to the society. As a part of social initiatives, we as an organisation have supported few of the causes that are of utmost concern in society for women and we strive hard to keep doing that throughout. I motivate my female employees to bring inspiration and mindfulness into their lives. And as an organisation and individual, we accomplish this through creative retreats to ourselves by engaging in activities in office and in our personal life too. I believe education is very vital for children and to support and bridge the gap I have adopted 40 girls in my native.
Do you think more and more women should explore opportunities in the field of trading?
Trading is traditionally male dominated and unorganised business sector. It is a challenging field but for people who enjoy versatility, it’s an excellent field. I do not find anything which woman cannot do. I took over Atlantic which is into international commodity trading and since inception we have seen major growth. Earlier, women had to face gender bias in corporate sector; as women were termed to be fit to do only clerical jobs. I realised I had to work doubly hard to change this perception and was prepared to grind it out. The initial period of finding my footing in the industry was quite unnerving, but things only got better with time. With respect to the supportive government policies, access to capital and technological infrastructure in today’s time is making women more potential to make it big not only in trading but in any field that they chose. Do not be effected by your critics there will be many, stay focused! Be guided by passion and work with purpose success will follow.
What is your advice to the people wanting to make their foray in this ever growing industry?
For me it was a bit challenging to enter the male dominated field, but gradually the time has changed. It is really pleasure to see women today is breaking the stereotype and proving themselves across the field. In trading business, we have not seen that exponential change as yet.
Tell us something about your family.
We are a typical Maharashtrian family from Konkan. My father has been a man of principles. I, despite of my international exposure and being the only Maharsahtrian lady in the field of trading business and from India, for them, I am only Vaishu. For instance, if my own driver (Baban da) comes home, I get him the glass of water and if I don’t, my father would do that. We are people who follow traditional values and simultaneously support the modern society wherever required. I have always been taught to be grounded in every facet of life and that helps. We are four sisters. My mom is a homemaker still calls me every evening when I am India to check what time I will be home and what is the menu for dinner.
Apart from being an entrepreneur on the work front, what does Vaishali love to do in her spare time?
When I am not chained to my work I love being at home and with my family. Something that gives me immense pleasure is spending time with my niece and nephew.
On this International Women’s Day, what is your message to the women of the world?
It doesn’t matter how you start, but only how you finish. Keep moving, aiming towards the finishing line. I always believed nothing is impossible for a woman in the world. Take a leap and challenge yourself everyday fervently and passionately you will reap the benefits of it. Let your spirits emerge in spite of the dire circumstances around you. You are not a drop in the ocean; you are the ocean in a drop.