International Women’s Day Interview: Arpita Mittal, CEO, HELEN O’GRADY INTERNATIONAL, INDIA


Name: Arpita Mittal

Age: 56

City: Mumbai, India

ST: Please tell us briefly about you.

Arpita: I
am a postgraduate in English literature. Worked as a lecturer of English in
various colleges in Madhya Pradesh and Mumbai. Followed by a stint at the
Canadian embassy and Swedish embassy in the language development divisions in
Delhi for a period of seven years. I also worked at the Walt Disney India,
Mumbai in their DCVI (Disney Character Voices International) as language
supervisor for four years. I, then, decided to launch the Helen O’ Grady
International in India in 2003 in partnership with a 100-year old business
group Govind Properties Pvt Ltd. Since then we have grown to be 75 franchisees
strong team in India with a students base of 50,000 + students pan India.

ST: Who is a woman that inspires you the most and why?

Arpita: In
the modern times, Maya Angelou, an American poet, author and a civil rights
activist, has especially inspired me. As we all know, for a woman, the toughest
part is to bare her traumatised soul in the public eye. Maya has done it with
élan. It takes courage to speak up for what is right and what is wrong in our
male dominated society and self-expression needs confidence and self-awareness.
As an educator, I am working at developing this much needed self-awareness,
self-confidence and art of self-expression in my students.

ST: How are you celebrating this year’s International Women’s Day?

Arpita: Ours
is a women dominated work force. We celebrate it by giving ourselves a pat in
the back for doing great work in education, which is making a difference to
millions of children. So we organize conferences, panel discussions, and get
togethers to discuss how to improve our offerings better and how to train our
resource people better. There are also lunch parties organized by the men
colleagues for their women counterparts in our offices.

ST: What is the most important message you want to send out to all the
women around the world on this occasion?

Arpita: “Never
ever to believe anyone who questions your ability to achieve what you wish to
achieve in life! To dream big and never be limited by self imposed limitations.
No one will ever respect you for not achieving your potential. Self sacrifice
is only for soppy movies and erodes all your self respect and leaves you lonely
at the last stage of your life.”

ST: What according to you is ‘women empowerment’?

Arpita: “To
allow a girl child to not feel less powered than a boyright from her birth. To
allow her to explore her potential at each stage of life. To allow her to
express her opinions in a free and fair manner. To allow her to make choices
based on her own perception of who she is and what she wants to be. To allow
her to dream and create a society which allows for each one of those dreams to
come true!”

ST: What would you say are the main challenges facing women at present
in India?

Arpita: Her
whole life is a challenge. She is fighting at every step to break all kinds of
taboos and prejudices she faces within her family; school; society at large.
The real challenge is to change the society she lives in. That will take
perseverance and consistent effort by everyone including women themselves.
Women are the biggest enemies of women. That has to change. All social ills
will start to recede if women decide to become friends of womanhood. 

ST: Where do you want to see yourself in next 5 years?

Arpita: We
are growing at a fast pace with more and more women entrepreneurs coming into
the fold as Franchisors, Franchisees, Trainers and teachers. We have 75
branches in 60 cities. We will double this number in the next three years. 

 Arpita Mittal,