Navami founder Shweta Singh might wear the crown for Mrs. India Worldwide 2018 but she has donned many hats in her life to date. Coming from a humble background and ardently supported by her parents and now husband, Shweta has overcome obstacles of gender bias and societal prejudice to emerge as a winner each time. As the founder of Majestic by Shweta Singh and her welfare organization NAVAMI, this resilient CEO wants to give back and empower people from the grassroots level and create opportunities to succeed economically as well socially.
The first female recipient of a gold medal as a pilot from the state of Uttar Pradesh, Shweta is also a state-level winner of Boxing championships and an A-level certified mountaineer. She has also been individually vetted by the former president of India Dr. A.P.J Kalam and former Prime Minister of India Manmohan Singh. To know more about the illustrious career and inspirational life of Navami Founder Shweta Singh, read ahead.
1. Could you tell us more about your organization ‘Majestic Navami Founder Shweta Singh’?
My thumb rule in life is Ideas and courage are the currency of the present and I harnessed this to drive one of my passions and start my own venture. Majestic by Shweta Singh Is a multi-faceted consulting firm with a presence in New Delhi and London. One of the key reason behind it was to give me the opportunity to explore different economic markets and sectors.
Today, it has grown into a boutique consultancy, where my team and I, troubleshoot issues around service enhancement, HR, and product development. To date, we have carried out work in fashion, healthcare, hospitality, and technology and we have been successful in adding tangible value to our esteemed clients. This in turn has helped propel the success of my own firm. Starting your own business will give you independence but like anything new, it will require nurturing and guidance just like being a mother.
2. Your life’s journey to date has been no less than that of a movie: what has been your biggest turning point in life?
The most important turning point in any person’s life comes at the most unexpected time and manner. For me, it was when I lost my father at a very young age. But his presence loomed large in my life and I felt assured in any decision that I took in my life and has always been an integral part of my life. Growing up in a feudal part of North India with just my mother and younger sister, propelled me to be the eventual leader of my household. It made me think practically, be brave in the face of adversities, resilient in the face of exploitation and be contented by the simple pleasure of life.
I have always overcome every hurdle in life following my father’s teachings; whether it was to pursue my education, for which I had to travel a long distance by 3 means of transport including a boat ride. Or face social inertia when I joined the armed forces. When I went on to prove my worth as a pilot, I won the gold medal at the national level. To prove my mettle in contact sports, I won several awards at the state level. Each success that I had instilled a sense of self-belief. The answers and life lessons are all around and within us.
3. You are a licensed pilot, a profession where women are still in minority, does gender play a role in one’s capabilities?
When I started piloting, there were concerns about female cadet’s physical ability to pilot an aircraft. I dissipated these concerns by competing with my male counterparts in various competitions. A lot of these perceived concerns were there to satisfy the age-old prejudices in the mind of the decision-makers.
With the advancement in technology and safety procedures, professions that have traditionally been male-dominated like aviation and armed forces have made it more acceptable for females to be involved in high-risk scenarios. My advice to future pilots would be to train like there is no tomorrow and reach for the sky!
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4. There are certain misconceptions about beauty pageants, as Mrs. India Worldwide what do you have to say?
Beauty pageants across the world provide a platform for contestants to embark on a journey and opportunity to improve themselves. It affectively challenges contestants to look at aspects of their physical and mental strength and develop those areas wherein they feel vulnerable. As winner of Mrs. India Worldwide 2018, I felt uplifted and like a new person.
The misconception lies in the fact the people believe the beauty pageants are solely based on looks. But to clarify, there is a long process of selection and elimination which leads to what people see on stage. My journey on the pageant lasted for 9 months and it was a gruelling and challenging process.
5. Women are often sexualised and judged on the basis of their appearance: how do we break this stereotypical mentality?
I feel education, exposure, and upbringing with both family and friends, are critical in equal measures to change and improve people’s view of females. In many countries of the world, we are seeing females as being sexualised and judged on their looks.
I have seen that individuals who are not well educated, who have archaic views about females instilled upon them by their own family, and who have not had sufficient exposure to female companionship in the professional workplace, as having stereotypical looks based thinking towards females. As we are well aware there are examples of strong, intellectual and successful women all around us, however, what people see is contingent on their own experiences and their own instilled prejudices.
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6. Youngsters hailing from rural areas often lack self-confidence and it acts as an inhibitor for success, what do you want to say to them?
Well, I feel the threads of these concerns mirror and follow on from what I have already been alluding to, that the lack of confidence stems from family and societal figures imposing their pessimistic and dismissive views on the hopes and aspirations of young people. This lead to generational apathy and eventual cynicism in what any young person can achieve in their life. I do feel that the rural populations in India feel disillusioned with regards to what they can achieve because of the lack of ‘receipt’ of what has been ‘promised to them, and their interdependence on local futile government schemes which again have not delivered what the general masses have expected.
My strong advice to any young person who is facing confidence problems, is to the best of their ability, focus on the steps needed to achieve the goal they have set themselves and to be prepared for the mental resilience to put aside any negative views one may be on the receiving end of. As far as opportunity is concerned, we are now inundated with examples of success stories from the rural areas. Opportunities are all around us, we merely need to open our eyes.
I feel that I am uniquely qualified to comment on this matter as you well know, that I hail from a rural part of north India. I have seen first hand the indifference elders generally display to the younger generations. I can say hand on heart that each time I was told ‘no’, it only drove me further to prove people wrong about what was possible.
Having been televised, the inhabitants of my village watched me marching on Rajpath during Republic Day, and later in disbelief saw me in national newspapers sipping tea with Dr. A.P.J Abdul Kalam, the late President of India and our former commander-in- chief. I have never met a more humble man in my life, and he personified the struggle that many from the rural sector live with. For all my younger readers and viewers, I would want to tell them that confidence is the key to get ahead in life because perception is reality.
7. Who has been your biggest inspiration and why?
I look back on my life and recount those specific instances which I subconsciously committed to memory;- in every one of those moments there was an individual holding everything together and that was my beloved Mother. It is not merely the decisive actions that I saw my mother take in the face of great difficulty… but…. rather the feeling of safety, security and vision that she diffused into all that was around her. A simple lady with a heart of gold and the ability to always cheer you up.
One of the greatest moments of my life was when my strong idol, my mother, watched me on TV and she was in tears of joy. I had been specially selected to fly in front of the Honorable Prime Minister of India, and then disembark and present to him. Whilst I was approaching the leader of our nation, the Prime Minister of India, the only thought that came to my mind was, “ Thank you MAA for believing in me”. At a very young age, I experienced a glaring disparity between boys and girls in society, however, my sister and I were fortunate and privileged to have parents who always supported and protected us.
They gave us the basic necessity of every child’s life i.e. ’Education’, the biggest tool which always guided me to develop the right perspective of looking at life. The most unfortunate time in my life was when I lost my father. People who were within my family advised my mother to pull me out of school as according to them I was ready to be married at the age of 16.My strong mother took a step forward, fought against the unethical norms of society and persuaded me and my sister to never ever feel different from a man.
I always remember her saying, “The reign of all the girls present and future in our country is now on us and we have to remove this unlawful discrimination between a boy and a girl and prove them wrong. We are the pillars of change now”. From then onwards we never stopped!
8. If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?
Despite such a broad choice that comes to mind it is only oneself whom you can change in life. Many of us look to the stars every night and we think about all the things we would like to change in this world. However, many of us don’t start by bettering ourselves. It is our physical presence in this world that has an impact on those around us…..if we want that to be as positive as possible let us start by enhancing the energy that our bodies emit to others and improve what we choose to say to one another.
At a grassroots level, the improvement and betterment of humanity start with us as individuals. For myself, I began my transformation whilst still holding on to my roots, firstly by expanding my mindset and mental horizons. After leaving my home and setting my sights on the metropolitan areas of our country I realized I could not remain the same however I had to adapt and enhance my mindset to succeed in the fast-paced life of the city. I had realized early on that education does not end when you leave school or college, but continues on with the lessons of life.
As I set my eyes on an international career I began educating myself in different cultures and focused on my written and spoken English. Furthermore, I have always felt that it is important to pick up new skills in life whilst enhancing and sharpening those that you already have. My work as a global ambassador with the village adoption programme under the ‘Swachta initiative’ developed by the IIT Delhi alumni association, allowed me to help create a platform to affect change directly in the rural sector.
This initiative formed an integral part of my mission to identify what could be done to help the villages of our country. Another passion for me was to lend my voice to the LGBTQ community in India, a sect of society that has been discriminated against for decades. At times we are drawn to the vulnerable, and there is more joy and satisfaction in helping those who stand for humanity, equality and diversity. In the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “Let’s be the change we want to see in the world”
9. You are doing a wonderful job with your organization NAVAMI, could tell us what made you start this venture?
Our vision, “Self Reliant Rural India”.
As a proud Indian my team and I with endless hard work and zeal have curated :
“NAVAMI” : – National Ambassador for villages and aspiration for mission India.
An initiative to work as a bridge between rural India and the wider world for the advancement and to realize the physical and intellectual potential of our people in villages and create job opportunities within the rural areas. It is the order of the day now to bring a halt to the humanitarian crisis that India has witnessed in the past few months; so that the foundation of our country, the migrant labourers of India who are our brothers, sisters and children should never go through the pain and suffering of travelling long distances and enduring intolerable circumstances in order make a living for want of a better life and having to leave their rural homes far behind.
These issues have personal resonance for me as the founder as I grew up in rural India and struggled to build a better life for my family and me. It’s given me an instinctive recognition for the potential of rural India. NAVAMI develops policy positions and implements ideas that directly impact investments in, and development of, rural society in India—and capitalizes on their physical and intellectual capital. We work directly with both rural stakeholders and the Government of India. Some of the issues we address include job creation; exodus and brain drain due to lack of employment; lack of investment due to a lack of infrastructure; and societal prejudices. Our focus is on the analytical as well as the social—identifying strengths and weaknesses and recommending types of cottage industries that can be incubated in a village setting.
10. Please share a message for the readers of The Voice Of Woman
Women have a vital role in the building of a nation. I feel that female in this day and age have equal opportunities as men in society. Being successful while being gracious in defeat is equally important and will help women go further in all their endeavours. I take myself as an example. Growing up in a rural and economically challenged part of India and born into a traditional family, whilst, I had the complete support of my loving parents, I feel that it is one’s self who truly makes a difference. No matter how many inputs are provided by family and the social environment, where there is a will there is a way!
During World War II, the overwhelming industrial base compromised a workforce that was 30% of women. The jobs that they were allocated were exactly the same as their male counterparts. So, it is incredulous to think that 80 years on, women cannot be equal to men in the social environment. I have a caring life partner who believes that my work is as important as his own and this made all the difference for me. We will only have true equality when men share with us the responsibility of bringing up the next generation.
“This world is built not only by men but by strong, inspiring, fearless and resilient women”