Aparna Piramal Raje - Author of a New Chapter
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Switching careers halfway and making things work for good is not everyone’s cup of tea but as they say, not everyone strives just to exist, some belief in living their life, to the fullest. Being born in a household with influential parents, there was bound to be societal pressure for taking up a family business but Aparna Piramal Raje had dreams of penning her own destiny, which she did.
Growing up, Piramal had not one but two role models in the form of her parents who introduced her to the world of business in their respective ways. Gita Piramal, a noted business historian and the author would tell her stories of successful business people to gauge her interest whereas Dilip Piramal would take her and Radhika Piramal, now the Vice Chairperson of VIP Industries, to visit their manufacturing plants.
Her upbringing played a huge role in her decision to pursue graduation at Harvard Business School. Upon her return to India, her father asked her to lead their office furniture business, BP Ergo. Then started her tryst with design. “I realized that a solid understanding of design was critical to being successful in this business,” she shared with Entrepreneur India.
Seeing Between the Lines
While running the business, she came to the realization that CEOs and designers were speaking different languages and thought of connecting the two via design writing. “I partnered with a close friend and very talented interior architect Radhika Desai and we started compiling case studies on exceptional workplace design, which were eventually published.”
What started as a way to help her business endeavours ended up bringing her love for writing to fore. It has been over a decade since she’s writing the column. “When I had my first son 11 years ago – I realized it gave me the flexibility to work on my time and schedule, was both intellectually and creatively satisfying.”
Thinking Out of the Box
Changing professions is always a challenge but the identity shift has led her to evaluate the true meaning of success. It has taught her how to deal with other people’s perception of the switch from being the CEO of a family business to being a columnist and journalist. “Most people can’t understand it, many don’t value the pivot and quite a few were quite vocal in sharing their opinions with me!”
Writing comes as a natural process to Piramal. While some people are incredibly good at generating ideas and others are great storytellers, she likes to believe that she cross-pollinates through reading, trying to be multi-disciplinary, trying to look for patterns and draw conclusions. Connecting the rights dots landed her with ‘Working Out of the Box’, a book that explores the connections between workspaces and work styles.
Piramal wrote the book after contributing 50-some columns to a renowned publication upon visualizing the patterns in leadership and design emerging. Her ability to see and connect dots to form coherent pictures and build a framework of thoughts is what her mother admires about her the most. Her “intellectual curiosity and willingness to deep dive into a subject for a fuller understanding,” is what keeps her going.
The Gift of Pen
Amidst the worldly chaos, she finds peace in serving as a visiting faculty at universities and speaking about philanthropy. Having earned the gift of writing from her mother, or so she likes to believe, Piramal has learned so many great lessons from her mother. “She always gives me very valuable tips on all aspects related to communication.”
“She also has very insightful perspectives on management and business. And she has incredible stamina and discipline as a writer and researcher,” she provided, adding that her father has taught her how to create a culture of autonomy and accountability, which is often hard to come by in India and to be accessible to the team as a person and as a leader. He taught her to take risks on new ideas and she did.
(This article was first published in the July 2019 issue of Entrepreneur Magazine. To subscribe, click here)