Aakanksha Bhargava was born in Kolkata, India into a business family. When she was just 7 years old, her family relocated to Delhi where she graduated from the illustrious Hindu College.
At the Hindu college, she held 3 prestigious positions – President of Placement society, President of Choreography society and the Cultural Head for the College fest Mecca.
Moving ahead to gain deeper knowledge on managing a business, Aakanksha pursued and successfully completed her MBA from the world-renowned SP Jain School of Management (Singapore and Dubai). From here began her impressive journey to become one of India’s most successful women CEOs.
Aakanksha joined PM Relocations Pvt. Ltd. (PMR) when she was 21 years old. She always believed in making her own place and commanding respect because of her own achievements. She was the boss’s daughter hence the urge to prove herself was strong.
She began quickly changing things around and working towards scalability. She went on to handle PMR’s corporate sales, marketing and operations, among other departments. She travelled and lived in different parts of the country to understand the culture and pulse of the city establishing a good team and work process.
PMR is a Small-Medium Enterprise, a one stop solution for mobility needs, with respect to anybody relocating within India or overseas. It offers a complete solution for end to end relocation is available on a systematic online platform using technology.
Naaree interviewed Aakanksha Bhargava to understand her entrepreneurial aspirations, successes and challenges.
What inspired to become an entrepreneur? Did you always love it or was it something you got into?
Inspiration comes from the ability to be as creative as you want and as I grew up seeing my father working in this industry, I always knew what I wanted to become.
I wanted to make my career on my own, that’s why an entrepreneur. I have always believed that one should have confidence in themselves and show people something they potentially have never seen before.
If you are working for someone else, you help them with their vision. If you work towards your own defined vision and belief, you make your employees & colleagues breathe your vision and together work hard to make it a successful reality.
Right from childhood, I was always fascinated by my father’s professional commitment. He used to take me on the surveys scheduled on weekends. Hence, I was always curious to know how things are going to be handled and how passionately my father made sure that our customers are happy and stress-free while they moved with us.
I guess, that was the beginning of my interest in this industry. When I joined PMR in 2007 (then PM PACKERS), I realized that this was the place where my heart lies. I have always loved my place of working, I feel lucky to be a part of an industry that touches so many lives everyday.
I am grateful for the position I am at today which enables me to directly contribute to the lives of almost 550 employees and over 2 lakh customers who have moved with us till date.
When do you know that it is no longer just an idea in your mind, and that you can really turn it into a lucrative business?
Right from my childhood I knew I wanted to join my father in business. After completing my schooling from Tagore International School (Vasant Vihar), The Hindu College embraced me into their family and gave me the opportunity to complete my B.Com (H) with them.
Soon, I saw myself graduating and joining SP Jain School of Management, Singapore and Dubai to complete my management studies, ready to face the challenging world of service industry.
I worked as an International Sales Manager for a couple in years in PM Relocations and then worked in Corporate Sales and marketing. By the time I was getting involved in different sections of the company, I realized there is a broader way out to things.
When you work within a space your work might get restricted but when you work in different areas, you get too many ideas. I realized that this business has more potential than one can think and that was the day of success for the company.
The space we are in needs an in-depth introduction to anyone we meet hence I feel the need to tell people that moving can be made simpler with the right solutions and PMR can disrupt the space.
I think for me, Intent is important.
When I started, there were hardly any women in this industry. It was a male-dominated environment. I had to face a lot of criticism too. The only thing I believed in was the Intent to do a good job and give my best to the right cause.
It is just about the strength of one’s mind and having faith in the intent of your heart that makes you achieve higher in life I can bet when you really do decide for something your courage will kick-ass you fear!! Take the plunge and you will see the miracles of life.
What lessons can you share from your startup experience?
I always believed in doing things on my own. I knew I wanted to do something different than others and that’s what made me work in this industry. This was unconventional, unexplored and unknown hence the zeal.
A lot of people don’t take you seriously in the beginning. since I was very young by the time I joined the company, people didn’t took me that seriously, and this thing never demoralized me but gave me motivation to show what I can do and how well. Believe your vision and lead by example at each step.
Dealing with employees, partners and clients was difficult initially. One of the biggest challenges was to source people since we were stagnant for all those years, not many from the industry wanted to join us and fresh blood didn’t know about this industry.
Over this period, I had to lead by example at all levels right from selling to building the brand, to keep upgrading the processes and systems with increasing work and manpower, setting up a professional culture and most importantly all of this had to be done in budget since we have not been funded by anyone.
The business demands a lot of working capital whereas we work on credit; hence balancing the same was a challenge. It was difficult to work in the industry but as long as you have the courage and are ready to take up the challenges, you can get it all done!
What are some challenges that you faced initially when you started out? Do you have some examples to share and advice to women entrepreneurs on overcoming them?
Working in the male dominant, packing and moving industry was really a tough job. It was actually very difficult to deal with the employees, clients and partners in the initial years.
However as the time passed, I learnt how to handle tricky situations and deal with everyone around. I strongly believe that working in this industry needs a lot of determination, potential and most importantly patience. Have strength and you can conquer it all!
It was not really easy starting my career in the relocation industry, particularly when it comes to an industry that has dominance towards men. There were times when it was considered to be a ‘Man’s Job’ but the time changes and things got changed too.
The advice I have for ladies would be follow your heart, be true to your work, don’t let criticism weaken you and the rest will make you successful in everything you do. As long as you have faith and determination, Entrepreneurship is happy to welcome you all!
What are all the things that a woman entrepreneur needs to keep in mind? Apart from your great idea, what do you need to be armed with?
The most important thing for a woman entrepreneur is to have critics in her life. I strongly feel that “If you have no critics, you’ll likely have no success”.
One needs to have a high level of commitment and patience to breathe your vision into your employees. Also, I am thankful that I am blessed to have an extremely supportive family. Most women don’t have supportive families because of which they fail to realize their dreams.
Indian women also tend to downplay their own potential. I feel women should do what is best for them. Even if that means, entering a male-dominated industry like ours.
Times have changed, although the challenges are still there, but you need to keep the spirit alive. It is important to learn from past mistakes and move on.
Do women entrepreneurs find it tougher to get funding for businesses? If yes, why do you think that is?
I agree it becomes difficult sometimes. Many people in the country think that women cannot work and handle the business and that’s the only reason and more importantly once you get married, how would the work life balance happen. Unfortunately, these questions are never put across to men.
Is it beneficial to have a mentor when you’re starting out on your own? What does a mentor bring to the table?
It is very important to have strong mentors in life. They give you a strong inspiration to set goals and then direction and understanding to achieve the goals. I have grown up seeing my father (Mr. Rajeev Bhargava, MD) working and he has been my greatest mentor till date.
He keeps encouraging me to keep raising the bar. His faith and belief in my vision has kept me going. And most importantly, the belief of your team (PMR Family) in you is the biggest strength.
Apart from him, from our industry, I also admire the work and life of Mr. Eric Lim the head of Asian Tigers Mobility. He has groomed, mentored and guided me all these years.
How did you recruit your first team? How difficult was it to get people on board during the initial stages?
I was keen to take people on my time who were passionate about their career. When you are taking an interview, you can really know it in the first go, who is taking the job for working and who is passionate towards it. I did the same. That is the only reason that most of my team members have been associated with PMR from many years.
Also, it is essential to breathe one’s vision in their employees to help them stay focused and visualize the same dream as yours. It was difficult to bring together people initially but with strong leadership and understanding in inculcated in each of your employee’s DNA’s then people tend to join hands and work with you to grow the company.
What are 3 key things that you have learned as an entrepreneur?
This is something I have always believed in, is that its important to have goals, desires and ambitions, however challenging they seem to be …. And you have got to enjoy the ride to these.
Sometimes on that learning curve we explore ourselves and what we can achieve. It is important to dream and keep yourself always engaged into something that you enjoy and feel passionate about.
There is no formula and no set route to success …just listen to the heart …Sometimes the right ways and answers are found there.
Another major learning for me is that when you really ride on something your courage will eventually kick start your fear. Take the plunge… and you will see the miracles of life.
Also, the most difficult thing is to manage people especially when one is in a service industry. Here we deal with a niche service which is ’emotions’. Hence, we need to be very careful while working with people.
Be it our clients or our employees. Another key take away is that “No success is possible without sacrifices and beliefs, sometimes not yours, but that of the people around you.”
What would you describe as your biggest moments of success in your business?
Every moment was a success to me in my business. Whether it was my failures, it also made me learn new things and is constantly helping me in building up my company.
There have been many moments I felt proud of; pointing out one would be little unfair to the rest of them.