Hi, and welcome to #TalkbackTuesday. This week’s interview is with Ms. Indhujah Somasundaram. See her interview below. Talkback Tuesday is a weekly interview with everyday people. It is always inspirational to look into the life of another person and realize it is just as complex and large and confusing as your own. Note: This interview with Indhujah is a transcription of a phone call. Full podcast below:

1. For the readers, who are you, what do you do, and what is your current side project?

Hi, I’m Indhujah, and I live in Bangalore, working for an MNC. In terms of what I’m doing, I don’t keep myself idle. I work regularly at my company and in my free time, I spend a lot of time at Toastmasters. Some of you might not be aware of what Toastmasters is. It’s a club where you will develop not only your communication skills, but your leadership and social skills as well. I do take other classes as well. As for side projects, I don’t have any yet, but I’m interested to start up something in the food and beverage industry. Maybe a fast food counter or a dessert counter or something like that.
In a Glance: Indhujah is a Bangalorean working in a multinational corporation. She enjoys toastmasters and other classes in her free time, and wants to start a food business someday.

2. Let’s talk about your dream of opening a Food and Beverage business. Why are you particularly interested in it and what gets you excited about it? Is your work with the MNC temporary?

For that, I need to take you into my past. During my education (8th standard), my family was not doing well financially. We sometimes had to struggle for 3 square meals. When my family went through that situation, my mom (she’s my inspiration) stepped up and said, “Okay, let me cook something at home” and my dad would go distribute it to shops. Those days, I used to support her completely. I don’t remember studying, even though I was somehow the topper of my class. I spent a lot of time with her.
During my education, my family was not doing well financially. We sometimes had to struggle for 3 square meals.
She used to make sugar-candy sweets, and biryani parcels, and various food items. I would do some of the work, from cutting vegetables to doing the prep work for the sweets and even weighing and packaging 100g packets. It was completely my family. We couldn’t afford to hire labor. I feel I was brought up in this environment, and that makes me very comfortable. That food and beverage business brought us up from no food to a place where we could manage our monthly expenditure. After my two sisters and I finished our studies and started working, we stopped that business. My parents were getting old as well.
I would do some of the work, from cutting vegetables to doing the prep work for the sweets and even weighing and packaging 100g packets.
Food and beverage is an 80% successful industry. Nowadays, quality isn’t found at too many places. So if we give quality food without adulteration and at a low expense, it will be successful. Yes, maybe 5-6 years down the line, I’d find investors and be out of the IT industry.

3. Let’s talk about Toastmasters. Why did you join, what do you get out of it, and how has your journey been so far?

I was going through politics at work, and there was one person who really got on my nerves. This was early on, and I thought I’d newly joined the company and I couldn’t leave so quickly, and Oracle is an excellent company that I don’t want to leave because of one person. So I felt very uncomfortable at office. At that time, someone who sat close to my seat came with ribbons every week. Ribbons are the way we get recognition at our club. I felt motivated looking at those ribbons, and thought, “Why not?”
Toastmasters | Indhujah Somasundaram #TalkbackTuesday
Indhujah is the current President of her Toastmasters club.
So that’s how I came to the Toastmasters meetings in the first place. I found a couple of people who kept me motivated, like my friend Ramsivakumar who was VP-education at that time. I was able to handpick friends like Vaibhav [A/N: me!] and Chaitra, and a few others who I hold a love for. I joined because I needed a diversion, but I got more than what I was expecting. All around me were good people. Secondly, I started becoming more confident without realizing it. I developed a “why not?” attitude, and I’m sure that will keep developing.

4. Let’s take your passion for the food and beverage industry and for Toastmasters. If you had to put them together and give 3 pieces of advice, what would they be?

  1. To anybody I meet, my first piece of advice is always to keep your environment happy. That will keep you happy without effort. Keep people around you happy and that energy will flow back to you.
  2. Don’t let your learning and your curiosity die. You will be alive as long as you keep innovating. If you stagnate, you will be stuck there. Keep trying things and keep your brain active.
  3. My last piece of advice is the retro-type: always have a passion. Always have a vision. Look at something and walk towards it. Decide what you want first, before you take action.
I used to have this problem when I started working. When you start working is when you start exploring yourself. While you’re studying, you will not know what you want. Start a task A, and feel, “Oh no I’m not interested here.” Then start a task B, and feel, “I find this better.” Do a task C and feel, “Hey, this is interesting!” Keep watching yourself and what is keeping you happy. That is your passion. For some people it may be makeup and beauty tips. For some people, it might be driving (for which you can even go for a part-time stint at Uber). Watch yourself and explore the first few years of your career.
In a Glance: Keep people around you happy. Don’t let your learning and your curiosity die. Always have a vision. Look at something and walk towards it.

5. Great. Finally, what can you leave the audience with? What should they explore next?

I want my audience to live with all their feelings. If you’re getting frustrated or offended or depressed or overwhelmed, don’t run away. Enjoy your life. If you’d like to visit our Toastmasters club, I’ll welcome you all. Lastly, budget 20% of your income for social activities. If you earn 100 rupees, donate 20. Even if you have nothing else, you will have an anchor that you’ve helped somebody else.
Thank you for reading Talkback Tuesday! Did you enjoy it? Next, check out the previous interview from two Tuesdays ago with Shraddha Radhakrishna by clicking on the image below.
Cover | Shraddha Radhakrishna #TalkbackTuesday
Click the image to see the interview.

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