By Shilpi Madan
“I often travel 180 out of 365 days,” shares entrepreneur Aakanksha Bhargava as her 10-month-old daughter Samaira plays cheerfully with her mini piano. At 32, the mom leads her three decade-old family relocation business, seen as a labour-intensive industry that’s considered largely a male domain, headquartered in Gurgaon. Samaira travels with her everywhere, making Aakanksha one of the rare mothers who is able to strike a successful balance between work and kids, no guilt pangs attached.
“I run a global mobility company, with 10 offices in India, each to be visited twice a year. Add to that the business liaisons that we have in place all across the word, our relations with foreign counterparts that help us facilitate seamless relocations from one part of the world to another, for our clients: it is a big quantum of travel woven into my schedule,” says the CEO and President of PM Relocations Pvt Ltd Excerpts from a conversation with the mompreneur:
How old is Samaira now?
Ten months, she was born in August last year.
When did she take her first flight?
At two months. Honestly, I was very scared and apprehensive when I took her on the first flight. But it was all in my mind, I realised. Samaira has already made 26 flights so far. It has been a relatively seamless inclusion in her itinerary (laughs).
Where has she travelled with you?
Till now, she has travelled to over five countries, while I’ve travelled to over 35, including Australia, Scotland, USA, Canada, Maldives, Romania, UK, Scotland, Singapore, Malaysia, China, Hong Kong, Thailand, Phillipines, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Netherland, Switzerland, Belgium, Monte Carlo, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Hungary, Czech Republic…One of my parents or a team member always travels with us.
But some days are good, some bad, with children especially. Any occasion when you have been taken aback?
Of course. On the recent 10-hour flight from Amsterdam, she was wide awake throughout and simply refused to sleep a wink. That was a first. A big enlightenment. I had to engage her suitably. She ate, played with me, I kept talking to her (even though I desperately wanted to grab a nap!), I walked around a bit with her….we managed.
One thing that always moves with you?
Her pram. Samaira’s comfort zone is her pram. She is the happiest there. I have conducted board meetings with her playing in the pram in the same space. The other day I had to go to hospital to check on my father-in-law who was undergoing dialysis; there was incidentally no one to leave her with, so I left her at the reception in her pram, and she played peacefully till I came down again.
What is her routine like?
Well, both of us come to office at 10:30 am. We have breakfast, lunch, snack, sometimes even dinner here. I count my blessings every day. Ours being a family-run business, it is easier to manage things my way. There is a small room next to my cabin where Samaira eats, plays, sleeps, spends time…I have toys there. A nanny comes in from morning till evening. My parents come to work as well.
That makes you the object of envy for others…
I believe no situation is perfect. There are always pros and cons for every situation. The pro is that I can work my way as it is my company. The con is that there is no switching off, at any time. When Samaira sleeps at night, my laptop comes on as I have global clients and my team reporting to me. Samaira is always with me. She goes with me for coffee, lunch…on flights…everywhere. There is no chutti (laughs).
What about ‘me’ time?
There is no ‘me’ time! Actually, my ‘me time’ is when I am breastfeeding her. I shop online, catch up on movies on my phone on Netflix, handle my social media.
How long do you plan to breastfeed her?
Two years. I believe mother’s milk is the best health insurance for your child. Also, it is so quick, convenient and hassle free. I can feed her anywhere. Even when there is no time or place to prepare food.
What food do you carry with you always?
Samaira’s water, snack, fruit. Oats are quick to prepare. But I am not paranoid.
What must you pack always?
Toys. She has this cute alien that talks back when you converse with it. I do not let her get onto the screen at all right now.
How much does your husband chip in?
He is in a job that demands travel as well. He chips in as much as possible.
What is the key to being able to balance everything?
I feel it is vital to first figure out your child’s routine and temperament. Samaira is a happy child, giggles, laughs and gives a reaction when you talk to her. She is comfortable with my team members, has a great rapport with her grandmother. Earlier, I used to take the early morning and late night flight to maximise my work time. Now, my flight timings are chosen around her sleep schedule so that she mostly gets to nap on the flight as well for a little while, else crankiness sets in. Small changes go a long way.
Some pearls of wisdom?
Stay positive. Things have a way of falling into place if you are determined to make it work. Believe that you can do it and cultivate your support system. Like earlier I was very apprehensive about how I would be able to manage work after the baby’s arrival. Now things are in a sort of rhythm, I have people to spend time with her. Secondly, nurture your own body. Health is true wealth and each mother especially needs to value that. You can manage everything if your health is in place. Often, my back hurts. I have now got a personal yoga instructor to come into office. I perform the asanas, driven by the will that I do not want my back to hurt each time I pick up Samaira. Thirdly and most importantly, you must enjoy your work. What you do must fulfill you at an intrinsic level. That keeps you happy.
What is it that you wish to teach Samaira?
I want to teach her that you need to work hard for everything in life. Sincerity and honesty gets you everywhere.
Your biggest learning?
Be fearless. Your child understands you. Your baby connects with you. I have sensed and experienced this on so many occasions. Sometimes when my eyes are burning with sleep, Samaira nods off on her own. I can see, feel, read her love for me in her eyes.