In this episode, I spoke to Padmaja Vaswani from Bangalore, India who manages 3 businesses focusing on learning and development, organisational development in addition to diversity and inclusion.
Padmaja is the founder & CEO of Siksha Group, which offers learning and development for companies across India and globally.
The word Siksha represents “instruction, learning and study of skill” of the Sanskrit word, Shiksha.
Siksha has offices in India and in the UK, partnering with more than 300 clients across diverse industries. Siksha is also the authorized representative of Celemi International (Sweden) offering board-based business simulations.
She is also the CEO of NEWS Navigation that specializes in executive coaching and organizational transformation solutions.
Finally, she is the co-founder of WeMantra with Dr Abha Bhartia which enables individuals and organizations to identify and break barriers to co-create a diverse and inclusive ecosystem that unleashes human capital and growth.
Padmaja has more than 25 years of experience in India and the global learning and development scene and is recognised for her expertise in organisational development, organization strategy mapping, women leadership development, executive and performance coaching for leaders and teams with leading clients across industries not only in India but also in Europe, Asia and US.
Padmaja received a national award in 2011 for educational excellence. Prior to that, she received the National Talented Ladies Award in 2006 recognizing her contribution in learning and communication.
Our conversation centred around navigation. She spoke about navigating her own life and figuring out what she wanted to do when her sports career as a hurdler was halted by an injury.
She also helps corporations and organizations navigate better with her learning and development solutions. Her own success as a woman entrepreneur also meant that she was asked by the very same corporations to share with other women leaders. This was how she created WeMantra where she and her partner, Dr Abha, offer women empowerment development solutions for corporate women leaders.
Padmaja also established the Siksha Mehak Foundation in 2006, a trust that supports children with cancer, autistic children who are orphaned and education for talented children from lower economic strata. To date, the foundation has helped more than 8,000 children.
She loves this quote by Helen Keller: “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much” which to me, sums up her philosophy for life, and her love and desire to grow people.
Padmaja says that she looks up to Helen Keller and Mother Teresa. Her favourite music is by the late M.S. Subbulakshmi who is an Indian classical Carnatic musician.
In this episode, she talks about:
- How she had her life mapped out as an athlete but it was not to be!
- The breakthrough she had when she discovered a Scandinavian organisation early in her corporate life
- Two powerful questions that her husband asked her that made her take the first step towards entrepreneurship
- The gap that she saw in the industry that forced her to look beyond functional and technical skills training (even though these were highly popular among Indian and overseas clients)
- How she keeps her companies relevant despite the constant changes in the learning and development field
- The pros and cons of focusing on one single industry
- That one transformational question she used with her team that led to risk diversification of her business
- Taking a path that opened more opportunities and more win-win instead of constantly creating newer programmes to meet clients’ needs
- The need for a comprehensive framework for gender, diversity and inclusion that helped her start a spin-off company, WeMantra
- Two words that women need to always remember each time they get stuck