Nikunj was a mentor on our Mentoring Women in Business Programme, taking part between November 2018 and November 2019. Here is an overview of his experiences as a mentor, and what sort of impact the programme had on his mentee and her business.
Nikunj is a Platform Engineering Manager at Mastercard, and based in the United Kingdom. He was interested in expanding on the mentoring work that he was already doing within his company. He hoped that the fact that the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women’s Mentoring Women in Business Programme involved remote participation and had an international focus would offer him an exciting new challenge.
The Foundation matched Nikunj with Poornima from India. She was planning to launch a social enterprise, Bhava Tv, that aimed to show people that you can succeed despite the barriers that surround you, by portraying the unsung, real-life stories of the ordinary person. Poornima was at the start of her entrepreneurial journey, and didn’t know how to take her idea forward. Nikunj’s previous experience in running his own business and his current role at Mastercard made him a great match for her to develop and launch her social enterprise.
As the business was in its early stages, the pair shaped the objectives that they would work on together. They made sure that they kept it flexible, as directions and focus areas changed often. Nikunj reflected: “The main thing was to get control over her idea, and not sprint before you can walk. We needed to make sure that Poornima had the right building blocks in place to take her idea forward.”
First, Nikunj supported his mentee to develop a vision and mission, in order to understand what she was planning to do. Then they progressed onto more concrete activities, like analysing business cases, models and plans. The latter part of their mentoring year was focused on Poornima herself and how she wanted to work as a woman entrepreneur. They looked at how she could use her time more efficiently, bring structure to her work and prioritise what she needed to do.
Poornima said that the business plan she developed with her mentor and the confidence she gained over the mentoring year has helped her to launch her business: her social enterprise is now running across multiple social media channels. After learning how to produce videos and setting up a team to support her, she has developed 80 episodes for her YouTube channel. The videos are watched by thousands of people, bringing to life the struggles and successes of ordinary people in India. She is also running a Facebook page, WhatsApp groups, an Instagram account, and is active on LinkedIn. Setting up these channels is the first phase of her initiative: raising awareness. She now hopes that she can use this content to find sustainable solutions to the problems people in India are facing, and engaging her viewers/followers in this process.
At the beginning of their time on the Mentoring programme, Poornima expected her mentor to simply provide her with the answers to her challenges. Nikunj was careful to make her find the solutions herself by posing his own questions and challenging her. He also made sure that it was Poornima who decided what they would discuss and when, making her the driver of their interactions.
Nikunj is proud to see that his mentee is now much better able to think things through: “Before she would just do. Now she first spends time thinking about what she wants and reflecting if something is the best action to take.” Poornima is also much more self-aware, according to her mentor: “She knows now that her time is her most valuable possession and that she need to be careful how to manage it.”
When asked about how he benefitted from the mentoring relationship, Nikunj reflects: “I really learned how to listen. When you’re not face to face, you don’t have those visual cues, so I had to listen much more to what Poornima was saying and trying to find the message underneath.” He now applies this in his work, where he tries to spend at least 50% of his time listening instead of talking.
While their formal mentoring relationship came to an end in November 2019, the pair still keep in touch monthly. “I could not commit to another full mentoring year, but wanted to keep supporting Poornima whilst she is working on her social enterprise”, Nikunj commented. The pair is excited to see where her business will go in the future.
Click here for more information on our Mentoring Women in Business programme. You can help empower over 100,000 more women like Poornima to create better futures for themselves, their families, their communities and the world by supporting our 100,000 Women Campaign.