The ‘Mentoring Walk’ celebrated International Women’s Day 2017 in Delhi and Jaipur in a way which justified the very essence of the occasion. Emerging women leaders and social entrepreneurs in both cities were identified, trained, and empowered by a group of highly experienced mentors. I participated in the event as a mentee and there are no words to describe the atmosphere that was filled with the sheer desire to give back to society. However, what struck me most was the story of its flag bearer, Archana Surana, who turned a one-room design training centre in Jaipur into one of the leading design training academies in the country, in a short span of a little over a decade.
I would want to discuss both but first things first.
Co-organized by the Vital Voices Global Leadership Network (an international NGO), FICCI Ladies Organization (FLO), and ARCH Academy of Design, the ‘Global Mentoring Walk’ saw the programme’s flag bearer Archana Surana, the Founder and Director of ARCH Academy of Design, galvanize the entrepreneurial and giving-back spirit of mentors and mentees in the event.
About 60 professional women from diverse fields, a great mix of entrepreneurs and professionals from corporate, art, culture, and social work backgrounds, walked together with a purpose of “Paying it Forward ” in the capital’s Lodhi Garden. The Jaipur Walk witnessed over 160 mentor-mentee walk together. Princess Diya Kumari, Brand Ambassador of the Save the Girl Child campaign, was the Chief Guest and Chairperson of State Commission for Women; and Suman Sharma was the guest of honour. All of this was done to demonstrate a belief in the importance of women’s leadership and participation in society and instil the values of mentoring in emerging leaders, who can contribute to the growth of future generations.
“This event gave us all an opportunity to gain from the experience of our respective mentors, and the mentors in turn got a chance to ‘unlearn’ and ‘learn’ from us,” quipped one of my co-mentees. I had the privilege of meeting and interacting with several prominent personalities. The former Ambassador in the Obama administration, Meera Narain, joined us as a mentor along with stalwarts like Padmashree awardee Meenakshi Gopinath. Other prominent faces I identified were Neha Kirpal of the India Art Festival, and vertical heads from Pepsi Co. and Ernst & Young. We were joined by Mathew from the Alumni Exchange Program of US Embassy along with Mandeep Kaur from the American Embassy. Falak and Aishwarya from Naz foundation walked as mentees along with many others including myself.
The second part of my story is about an inspiring lady called Archana Surana and her students from the ARCH Academy of Design who personify her dynamism, confidence, and leadership style.
I was inspired to know how Ms Surana started the ARCH Academy of Design as a one-room organization more than a decade ago and nurtured it into one of the leading design academies in the country over the years. Getting a little more curious, I learned how ARCH Academy of Design has emerged as a pioneer in promoting women leadership skills and in developing the women’s forum in the country. Be it design in fashion or product, interiors or jewellery design, ARCH academy of Design has created a niche and emerged as an authentic and thriving institution with two branches, one in Jaipur and the other in Gurgaon.
The most interesting bit of information I gathered from the students was that the Academy has come up with an Arch Design Business Incubator where one gets a chance to convert their creativity into an expandable business opportunity. Through this platform, the leaders of the industry continuously mentor students, and the students get multiple opportunities to showcase their work. They are also provided a platform wherein the gap between the students and the industry is bridged. The Incubator also gives financial assistance to set up Design Enterprise.
This experience was extremely valuable and fruitful for me. Indeed, the Vital Voices initiative of the Global Mentoring Walk is making a great difference to women and their participation in leadership roles. However, I wish someday, it fans out to the ‘small town’ India so that it takes more and more mentees who are not as fortunate in its fold. And yes, I wish the Archana Surana in me stirs up soon as well.