(Mint)
(Mint)

Money and the millennial woman

Ahead of International Women’s Day on March 8, we talk to five millennial women who have tasted success in their respective careers early on about how they manage their money and lives

Life is unfair for the fairer sex. This is what most believe to be true and not without good reason. However, slowly but steadily, women are re-scripting this notion. Women leaders are succeeding in male-dominated corporate bastions, women entrepreneurs are giving wings to their dreams, and even the entertainment industry is focusing on women-centric roles. Women are no longer in the back seat, but it is still a long road ahead for things to be truly equitable. A small but significant beginning happens when women decide to be in charge of their well-being and this means taking care of their health and wealth. Ahead of International Women’s Day on March 8, we talk to five millennial women who have tasted success in their respective careers early on about how they manage their money and lives.

‘I am conscious of the fact that I wasn’t born with a silver spoon’

Mithila Palkar, Actor
Mithila Palkar, Actor

With a ton of web series, short films, TV series and three successful films to her credit, Mithila Palkar is millennial India’s rising star. But none of this came easy.

Born and raised in Mumbai, 26-year-old Palkar lives with her grandparents. “I think my biggest hurdle was getting my grandfather on my side. He wasn’t very approving of what I wanted to do because I come from a middle-class Marathi family. Once I managed to convince him, I didn’t fear anything else," said Palkar.

While growing up, Palkar and her sister never really got a lecture about money management. They learnt a lot by just observing others. “We heard stories of how our grandfather struggled to make a living after working really hard. We understood this struggle," said Palkar.

She got her first job with a theatre company in 2013 while it was organising a festival and Palkar was entrusted with the job of handling all the money. Since the festival was crowdfunded, she suddenly found there was a lot of money to manage. “I was not comfortable with numbers. I wrote everything in a notebook initially. Later, the festival director explained to me how I’d suffer if I lost the book and asked me to have it all on an Excel sheet," said Palkar.

In the following year, Palkar auditioned for almost everything that came her way. She ended up bagging a few television commercials and a Hindi film, titled Katti Batti, in which she played the lead actor’s sister. The film released in 2015 but it didn’t become her big ticket to mainstream Bollywood. She went on to do a web series and a couple of sketches with digital content channel FilterCopy that has attracted over 7 million views on YouTube. However, she rose to fame —with her rendition of the Marathi song Hi Chal Turu Turu on the cup—which has garnered 4.6 million views on her YouTube channel.

With changing fortunes in her career, her earnings have gone up, but her money mantras remain the same. “Even when I got 500 a month as pocket money, I would never spend all of it. It’s the same now. I am just conscious of the fact that I wasn’t born with a silver spoon," said Palkar.

Despite the brush with money management in her first job, Palkar never grew comfortable with numbers. Her father and a chartered accountant now takes care of her finances. “My dad and the CA explain everything to me very patiently and I try to understand as much as I can. I write my own cheques and know how much tax I pay," said Palkar. She invests in mutual funds and fixed deposits. “I totally trust my father and my CA with the investment decisions," said Palkar.

Palkar said she indulges in online shopping because it is convenient, but she never splurges unnecessarily. “I shop once in six months. My friends often point at my shoes to tell me that they’ve worn out. It’s embarrassing but it doesn’t affect me too much. I shop when I have to," she said.

Mithila Palkar

Actor

Age: 26 years

What do you love splurging on?

Food

One purchase you regret

A dress I bought but didn’t need

One thing you’ll never compromise on

Anything my family needs

What did you do with your first pay cheque?

I got 1,000 for an internship. I gave 500 each to my grandfather and grandmother

What is your money mantra?

Think before spending. Save wisely

--Disha Sanghvi

***********************************************************

‘Important to spend within your means’

Suchita Salwan, Founder and CEO, Little Black Book
Suchita Salwan, Founder and CEO, Little Black Book (Pradeep Gaur/Mint)

Suchita Salwan grew up in Delhi, but somehow she felt she didn’t know the city at all. This sparked the idea of launching Little Black Book or LBB, a cross-category platform that features local places, products and experiences. “I started LBB as a weekend passion project of sorts in 2012, and quit my job in 2013 to work on this full time," she said. An economics graduate from Delhi University, Salwan worked in event management and digital marketing before she started LBB.

What started as an exploration of Delhi, and its sights, sounds and experiences, has now become a go-to guide to find the best destinations for dining, shopping and experiences in nine cities across India.“Through LBB, I found and shared unique local businesses, across categories, like food, fashion, design and events," she said.

When it comes to money, Salwan’s foundations were built early in her life. “My parents were radically transparent about their finances, and really drilled the value of money into me. My mom always encouraged us to spend money on things we enjoyed or wanted, but mindfully," she said. Her parents taught her the importance of living within one’s means and set the tone by showing her what was worth investing in. “My brother and I weren’t given things on our whims and fancies. For instance, I loved sports, but my parents made it clear that they’d only invest in my interests if I was willing to see them through. This shaped my framework for how and when to make financial commitments," she said.

Prudent as she is about her spending, Salwan also likes to indulge herself sometimes. “Like any young professional, I do enjoy occasional extravagances, but on a day-to-day basis, I’m conscious of where and what I spend on. But the one general value I’ve always observed is to live and spend within my means," she said.

So did entrepreneurial success change the way she views money? It has brought in more perspective about the importance of risk capital, she said. “But I’ve also learnt that while it is important to take risks to reap rewards, it’s equally important to make sure you’re running a sustainable business. It’s all about balance, and that comes back to spending within your means."

Salwan manages her own finances, with a little help from her friends and family. She invests in mutual funds, but also believes in rewarding herself for hard work. “I think it is really important to enjoy what you earn," she said.

Suchita Salwan

Founder and CEO, Little Black Book

Age: 28 years

What do you love splurging on?

Home decor. It’s my favourite creative outlet

One purchase you regret

None as such! My instinct has got better with time

One thing you’ll never compromise on

Wellness, fitness and self care

What did you do with your first pay cheque?

Spent it on something frivolous

What is your money mantra?

Spend within your means, but work hard to make your means grow

--Nilanjana Chakraborty

************************************************************

'Earlier, it was about earning, now it’s about ease of spending’

Ridhi Mehra, Fashion designer
Ridhi Mehra, Fashion designer (Priyanka Parashar/Mint)

Delhi-based fashion designer Ridhi Mehra’s work is quite popular among the Hindi film industry’s leading ladies—from Sonam Kapoor to Shilpa Shetty. Mehra’s label, which focuses on contemporary Indian wear, has launched nine collections till date.

Mehra studied business management in the UK. After graduation, she started working with fashion label Rakhi & Vandana, founded by her mother Vandana and aunt, for a salary of 15,000 a month.

“The designs and the whole process just pulled me in, so I decided to do a course in fashion from National Institute of Fashion Technology, Delhi," said Mehra. After completing the course, Mehra launched her own label and there’s been no stopping since then. “I am totally in love with my work," she added.

Now that she runs her own business, her perspective towards money has changed dramatically. “When I was on a student budget, I wouldn’t get my hair blow dried in order to save money, but now, I don’t mind entering a salon and spending 500 as it is convenient," said Mehra.

Mehra’s designs are priced in the range of 15,000 to 2 lakh and mostly cater to high net-worth individuals (HNIs). “Our business market is the domestic market but HNIs are essentially who we work with. Internationally as well, we have a few clients," said Mehra.

Over the years, Mehra’s biggest challenge has been creating better and new designs because fashion is a fast moving industry. “This industry requires you to be on your toes at all times. It’s not easy to come up with different ideas all the time," she said.

Money decisions are typically taken by her husband now, though she is part of the discussions, and the investments are mostly directed towards fixed deposits and mutual funds. “I invest in mutual funds as they give better returns and liquidity and fixed deposits because they’re safer," said Mehra. She usually invests a lump sum every few months.

She said she’s not up to the mark when it comes to understanding investments. “I definitely need some advice with understanding financial products. But when it comes to my business finances, I am pretty much savvy," said Mehra. A money rule she abides by is paying off the credit and ensuring she has a good credit history. “No matter what, money is very important. It’s necessary to be transparent in your monetary transactions," said Mehra. She believes being honest and transparent with finances helps improve business relationships as well.

Also, there is a sense of ease in terms of how and when she spends her money. “Earlier, it was a lot more about earning, but now it’s become more about spending for ease. Also, nobody is going to question me on my spends," said Mehra.

Ridhi Mehra

Fashion designer

Age: 28 years

What do you love splurging on?

Make-up products

One purchase you regret

A pair of shoes

One thing you’ll never compromise on

Investing in my work

What did you do with your first pay cheque?

It was 15,000 and I saved the whole of it

What is your money mantra?

Spend some and save some

--Disha Sanghvi

***********************************************************

‘You can spend and save the way you like only if you earn’

Anahita Dhondy, Chef partner, SodaBottleOpenerWala at Cyber Hub Gurgaon
Anahita Dhondy, Chef partner, SodaBottleOpenerWala at Cyber Hub Gurgaon

For Anahita Dhondy, chef partner, SodaBottleOpenerWala at Cyber Hub, Gurgaon, her first lessons in cooking came pretty early and from within her Delhi-based Parsi family. Her mother Nilufer, an aspiring chef, experimented with her culinary skills and catered Parsi and continental food locally. “About 25 years ago, at a time when there were not many experiments happening with food, my mother would create her own sauces and dips," said Dhondy, 28. More than a decade later, the childhood lessons became the stepping stone for a teenaged Dhondy, who decided to become a professional chef.

Family was a huge influence for Dhondy not just when it came to her career choice but also her way of life, whether it was about being financially independent or about striking a balance between spending and saving. “My parents always wanted me to be financially independent. My parents always told me you must enjoy your life but you also need to understand the importance of saving," she said.

The saving habit took root much before she started working. Dhondy opened her first savings bank account when she went to college to do her undergraduate degree in culinary arts at the Institute of Hotel Management, Aurangabad. She would put aside some money from the monthly expenses her parents sent to her. “As a college student, it was a great feeling to realise that you had a few thousands saved at the end of the year, which you could spend the way you like," she said. She remembers treating herself at the Taj with her year-end savings once. “I was 19 or 20, and wanted to experience a fine dining restaurant," said Dhondy, who constantly looked for opportunities to feed into her passion for food.

The little rewards on the way strengthened her resolve to remain steady on her career path and the road to savings, of course with the support of her family. After her under-graduation, she went to Le Cordon Bleu, London, for her Grande Diplome in French cuisine and pastry and started working at SodaBottleOpenerWala in 2013. “I lived with my parents back then and was able to save a substantial part of my salary," said Dhondy.

The hospitality industry comes with its own challenges. Initially, the money is short but the work hours are long. That’s why family support is crucial for women in this field. “Often, the husband ends up calling the shots in the household as the money earned by a woman who works in the hospitality industry is much lower. As you move up the ladder, things get better, but that only happens with time," said the young chef. In the end, it’s all worthwhile, she said. “You can have that freedom to spend and save only when you can earn your own money, and with hard work, the salary is bound to grow," said Dhondy.

Culinary investment is as important now as it was years ago. “Even now when I go on a holiday, I ensure I go to a fine dining restaurant. I stick to local cuisines though," said Dhondy. She loves to collect food-related items like pottery and crockery that are specific to places she travels to.

She and her husband Arush Bhandari share the financial responsibilities equally, and the family is their guide on investments.

The young chef acquired the saving habit at a very young age and continues to stick to it. “If you work hard, spend according to your financial capacity and try to lead a simple life, you can go a long way," she said.

Anahita Dhondy

Chef partner, SodaBottleOpenerWala at Cyber Hub Gurgaon

Age: 28 years

What do you love splurging on?

Local cuisines and food souvenirs

One purchase you regret

Nothing really

One thing you’ll never compromise on

Quality food and experiences

What did you do with your first pay cheque?

I took my entire family out for dinner

What is your money mantra?

Cut your cloth according to what you have

--Nidhi Sinha

************************************************************

‘I often put my business before my personal finances’

Swati Bhargava, Co-founder, CashKaro.com
Swati Bhargava, Co-founder, CashKaro.com

From small town Ambala in Haryana to London, Swati Bhargava, co-founder and chief executive officer of CashKaro.com, a cashback site, made quite the journey before she took the entrepreneurial plunge. “I knew education was my ticket to a brighter future so I studied hard and was fortunate enough to win a scholarship from the Government of Singapore," said Bhargava. After she finished her schooling in Singapore, she went to the London School of Economics (LSE) on another scholarship.

Fresh out of LSE, Bhargava started working with Goldman Sachs, London. “I learnt how big corporations function and was able to put academic learnings to practice. I worked there for five years before starting my entrepreneurial journey," she said. After five years of making her way up the corporate ladder, Bhargava wanted to try something different. “My husband and now business partner, Rohan, and I stumbled upon the concept of cashback sites. We realised that while it was a great idea, not enough people knew about it. This is what prompted us to start Pouring Pounds (a UK-based cashback website)," said Bhargava.

They soon realised that a business venture like that would work well in India, given that Indians have a penchant for deals and bargains. “After two years of successfully running Pouring Pounds, we decided to expand to India and founded CashKaro in 2013," said Bhargava.

While entrepreneurship comes with its own challenges, it also taught Bhargava that money matters are not to be taken lightly. “It’s better to take time and ensure that our hard-earned money is well invested and is earning dividends, rather than incurring any fines later or missing out on good opportunities," she said.

The fact that the couple started from scratch meant that the stakes were always high. “We started Pouring Pounds and CashKaro from our savings and have been prudent about using the money we’ve raised," said Bhargava.

But just because she has made a career in the fintech space does not mean managing her own finances comes easy. “Ironically, while at some level, the main reason why entrepreneurs start their business is to earn more money, I think we are the worst when it comes to managing our own finances. I constantly prioritise CashKaro work over anything that has to do with my personal finances," said Bhargava. This tendency sometimes causes her to delay making financial decisions, but once she does make them, she sticks to her guns. The couple are also lucky to have a wealth manager in the family. “Rohan’s brother Rajat Bhargava is an experienced wealth manager and he advises us on our savings. He strikes a balance between aggressive and risk-free strategies so it works out very well," said Bhargava.

A part of Bhargava’s financial mindset comes from what she learnt early on. “My father always advised us to be sensible about money. He taught us to strike a balance between not feeling that we don’t have enough, but at the same time building a savings pot," she said. Bhargava is diligent about saving and investing regularly, but she also believes in diversifying her investments.

Swati Bhargava

Co-founder, CashKaro.com

Age: 35 years

What do you love splurging on?

Travel and donations

One purchase you regret

A white and gold Versace bag. It’s so big that I hardly use it

One thing you’ll never compromise on

Health

What did you do with your first pay cheque?

I shopped for business clothes at Massimo Dutti in London

What is your money mantra?

Money does not come easy. Respect it

--Nilanjana Chakraborty

Close