For Schauna Chauhan, her work is her extended family. In a literal sense too as Chauhan joined her family-run company Parle Agro in 1999, and today with her sister, Nadia Chauhan as the joint managing director and CMO, Chauhan heads the company as the CEO. Also a mother to a young sneakerhead son, Jahaan, Chauhan speaks about handling different roles in her life and her company.
1. Do you feel that women-led companies have a different approach to business?
No, I don’t believe gender plays a role in the way you approach business. I believe if you have the skills and strengths of a leader, then your gender is irrelevant. You have to keep instilling change in the company, as with time, everything keeps changing. One needs to bring changes in technology, human resources, automation, etc— all this is a constant process or else one will stagnate and be left behind.
2. The pros and cons of working with your sisters? Is it a lot of fun?
Our conversations are always a blend of different subjects—we talk about work which each one of us is extremely passionate about, as well as about what’s happening in each other lives. It’s a great balance. Working with your sisters is the best thing that one can have because you’re always going to get an opinion that is honest and straightforward. Sharing opinions and solving problems together helps grow the business faster.
3. How do you strike a work-life balance?
Work-life balance is different for each individual. For me, I have a set routine. However, every time something new happens, my routine also tends to change but I adapt to the new routine. I spend a lot of my time scheduling and aiming to balance time between my work and family life. I also prioritize and compromise. For me, my work is always most important, and then comes everything else. However, I ensure that I give an equal amount of time to everything important to me.
4. Your tips for other young, working single mothers?
Planning is key. It always makes things a lot simpler. Always be prepared with a backup plan in case the original plan does not go as per your expectations to avoid chaos. Use technology to save time. Also, if you are a person who can’t say no to anything, you definitely will have to start learning to do so or else you will burn out.
5. How do you handle differences in opinion without letting them affect your bond as sisters?
We have clear-cut roles making it easier for us to make decisions in our own respective areas. We do help each other by brainstorming to find solutions; however, the final decision is always of the person responsible for that area. Keeping an open mind and listening always helps in reducing conflict.
6. What do you feel is the need of the hour to see more women take top-level positions?
Many women are already in top-level positions. However, what is challenging for women is that we need to handle many more responsibilities. So, it is important to understand and realize that you cannot have it all and must be willing to compromise. As a single mother, the volume of work and responsibilities is double. But I feel blessed since I have a lot of people I can depend on to help me out.
7. How to avoid the guilt factor, which many working women are often conditioned into feeling?
There are no tools. I believe that it is very important to make time, stick to your commitments and dedicate time to your children and family. Avoid distractions like your phone and iPad during family time. Only focus on family at that point and make good memories.
8. Your learnings from the pandemic?
The pandemic taught me that you can work from anywhere. However, it is not possible to do this forever. Meeting people physically in the office has a more personal effect. Additionally, your concentration levels and productivity is far higher. Also, interacting with people physically is a much healthier way of working.
9. How did you spend your time at home during the lockdown?
I didn’t pursue any hobbies. My time at home was between managing work virtually and motivating my son to attend school virtually.
10. What do you like to do in your free time?
Spend time with my family. For me, family is as important to me as my work.