A Remarkable Lesson in Resilience for Entrepreneurs

Destination-Kerala-Latha-Parameswaran

Born in a traditional Tamil Brahmin family in the late 1950s, it was not easy for her to come out of the socio-cultural barriers and lead a company and take responsibilities of a large business group.

Today, Latha Parameswaran is the director of Kottaram Group which has a diversified portfolio under it, which includes plantations (paddy, rubber, coffee), clearing and forwarding agency of many brands (Peter England, Titan, ITC etc.,)  and manufacturing of healthy foods, under the ‘Soulfull’ brand.

In 1982, she moved to Kochi with her husband M K Parameswaran after Kottaram Industries in Alappuzha, which manufactured tools for the automobile industry, was shut down. Latha, a graduate in Mathematics, recollects that it was a tough time as they had to start from scratch and, it was during the same period that she joined the business and started managing the accounts and finances of the estates. When the couple again faced a labour issue and was left with just four to five employees, Latha took charge and began seriously involving in the business, taking more responsibility.

“Work slowly became a passion for me and I began loving the responsibilities entrusted to me,” she recollects her transformation as an entrepreneur from a homemaker. She started at a time when there were not too many women who were into business, especially from Tamil Brahmin community. Latha feels that it is good to work with the spouse and take equal responsibility so that each of them will get to know the problems and the work load which, in turn, will help them understand each other better.

She consciously took a decision that she would not voice her disagreements in front of others, if there are any. This has helped them work together in a more efficient and mutually respectful manner, she says. For any establishment to be a success, you need to put in extra efforts and work hard towards your goals,” recalls Latha, who has been in the industry for the past 35 years.

“Keep yourself abreast of all the technological developments happening worldwide and do not hesitate to implement them wherever possible. Keep strengthening your support system and engage people to do things around home, too. This way you are supporting a set of people by providing them income-earning opportunities, and at the same time helping yourself by permitting you to freely involve in productive work in your specialised field,” says Latha.

Working women always face this question of balancing domestic and professional work. Upbringing of children can be divided into three stages and, once you plan it accordingly, it will be easier to manage both work and home, according to Latha. “Up to five years children need more attention of mothers; from five to 10 years mothers have to ensure that children are well behaved by imbibing value systems and discipline, and finally, in the third stage, between 10 and 15 years, a general guidance ensuring that they are on the right path with good academic support, should be in place. While none of the above can be ignored, definitely mothers should consider programming their timings accordingly with the help of trained support systems,” Latha says.

Latha also points out the need to have proper time-management skills to master the concept of work-life balance. “People always ask how to manage time. There are people who always have time for everything that they want to do and there are some who always rush from task to task, and never seem to finish anything. It does not mean that the first group of people have fewer things to do. It is much more likely that they are using their time more efficiently and practicing good time management skills. Prioritise and organise your tasks and once you start practicing it, things will become easier for you,” she adds.

A wanderlust by heart, Latha, along with her husband, finds time to visit places in far away lands despite her busy schedule. If today she is in Ushuaia in South America, often referred to as the ‘End of the World’, one will find her in Kochi the next week, and perhaps in Andaman after two days.

Her advise for young professionals is to take up every responsibility that comes their way, grab those opportunities and ensure that you are competent enough to deliver. She also feels that giving power and responsibility to employees will enhance their delivering capacity.

“Every woman should work. Women improve themselves by going out and choosing to work – whether it is entrepreneurship or a salaried job. Utilise the opportunities in front of us, work towards a goal and feel the difference,” she concludes.

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