By Sunita Sehmi, Walk The Talk
Pinky Lilani CBE DL was born in Calcutta and came to the UK after her marriage.
She is the founder and chairman of ’The Asian Women of Achievement Awards’, ‘The Women of the Future Award’, ‘The Ambassadors’ Programme’ and ‘The Global Empowerment Award’.
As the Founder and Chairman of the annual Asian Women of Achievement Awards, Pinky’s accolades have celebrated the tremendous contribution of Asian women to British business and public life for the past 18 years! Pinky is also the creator of the Women of the Future portfolio - Britain’s most exciting programme for successful young women. It is Pinky’s vision that through these initiatives, women can help each other through building relationships and nurturing the talents of the next generation.
Pinky’s other business, Spice Magic, involves cookery lessons as part of corporate team building. She discovered a passion and soon published a cookbook, Spice Magic, which endeavours to decipher the intricacy of Indian food. Furthermore, Pinky holds cookery classes, she has also consulted for brands such as Sharwood’s and contributes to the development of sauces for Tesco and other supermarkets. From her self-taught experience, the creation of her book and her much-loved cookery demos she built her company 'Spice Magic’.
And at the centre of everything Pinky'd life purpose is a compassion and a desire to set the world to rights. Pinky received an CBE in 2007 for her work to celebrate women's achievements and has been called one of Britain's most entrepreneurial women.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. Family/Childhood/etc.
I was born in Calcutta and was the middle child - I had an older sister and younger brother. My father was very much a man of his generation - did not really take part in childcare. We had the most devoted Ayah (nanny) who looked after us. My mom was very much the home maker and our house always overflowed with guests - from neighbours to family. I went to a fantastic Irish convent school. It was an idyllic childhood.
What is the Spice Magic experience?
Food is such a great way to bring people together - I incorporate teaching people how to cook Indian food with leadership and success strategies in my home.
Why and how did you create Women of the Future Awards?
The greatest human craving is the craving to be appreciated. I really wanted to profile the achievements of women under 35 and give them a platform. They can leverage the connections they make for many years.
Could you tell us more about your vision and mission?
The only thing that gets people involved is the warmth of someone, their energy and kindness. So I think if you can make them feel part of what you’re doing, that is the criteria of success. Kindness and warmth are not often words heard in the hard-headed business sphere but they should be. These are vital elements for a successful business life.
Kindness for me is all about opening doors for the people coming up behind and connecting people. The whole interconnectedness of people is so important.
I realised it’s something I do naturally. I presumed that connecting people was something everybody does, but then I saw that’s not always the case. One of the things I enjoy the most is inviting people I don’t know to my home and sharing a meal with them as for me it is the best way of building a relationship. I love introducing people so that when they meet each other, they can go on and build their own relationships. This is an integral part of my DNA.
I still don’t see myself as being successful. If the index of accomplishment is a massive amount of money – I haven’t done that. If you measure success as benevolence and feeling good about yourself, that you’ve added value – that is my measure of achievement.
Are company leaders and top management responsive to your work?
I talk a lot about collaboration, the need to build a good team and I am often invited to companies and business schools to give talks.
I focus on the 7 Q’s, to help people become more self-aware about their personal leadership style. When you look at yourself and want to be really successful, you have to look at your 7 Q’s:
IQ (which you can’t do much about),
EQ (emotional intelligence, which you can influence),
AQ (attitude quotient), what attitude you bring to any given situation
MQ (meaning quotient) – when there is meaning in your work, there is a flow
GQ (giving quotient)
CQ (communication quotient)
LQ (likeability quotient)
How do you see the corporate work life in the future?
Women need to put themselves forward. And we need to find people who are going to push us forward. Because a lot of women will tend to think 'I'm not good enough,' and we do need more self-belief. It's not about being arrogant, but about promoting yourself in a way that makes you appeal to others. I really feel that getting that acknowledgement is important because the greatest human craving is to be appreciated. By giving an award it gives people a platform. It was for women that I felt I could add the most value.
What is the best piece of advice you ever got?
Never give up, there’s nothing called failure. It’s about being dedicated, devoted and determined. If you know where you want to go, learn from your failures, the more you get out there, you will find the support systems you need. It’s not as lonely as people think it is.
Your advice for us…If things aren’t going well what can we do?
For me, when you start giving and doing things for people, they start making giving part of their agenda and help you then, because they can see you are giving. In order to be successful, it helps to be charismatic and it’s something you can develop. Charisma has 3 components to it: presence, warmth and power. You can work very hard on the presence and warmth; we all have different sorts of influence. But making people the centre of what you do pays vast dividends. I don’t think anything motivates people more than the fact that they are appreciated. People don’t care how much you know; they want to know how much you care.
That requires you to be aware of the 7 Q’s, then you can better judge the timing of things in your life and business.
What’s the next challenge for the us?
Be Passionate, Be Kind, Be Compassionate!
What's next for you?
The area I really want to develop moving forward, is to help younger women. I want to help make a pipeline of talent, to help make them part of the exchange, and be effective, for those coming up behind – the women of the future. I want to create a discourse among those who are successful now and with those who are coming up.
People say to me “When are you going to retire?’ and I say, “Are you mad, I haven’t even done what I’ve wanted to do yet.’”
Sunita is an Executive Coach, Trainer and Consultant. She is of Indian origin and was born in London before moving to Geneva in 1992. She has a Psychology background (specialising in Occupational Psychology) and a Post Graduate in the Development and Training of Adults. She also completed a Masters in Ressources Humaines, Coaching et Gestion des Carrières at the University of Geneva.
During her 25 years experience Sunita's drive has always been to help people to do their best and hence led her to create Walk The Talk.
In her free time Sunita is a Mentor for the Branson Center of Entrepreneurship and a proud member of the School in The Cloud Team.